As a merchant in the Magnolia Park District and resident of Burbank it was with great sadness that I read Anthony Clark Carpio’s article about the city of Burbank’s five-year economic plan. I could not believe how far out of touch with the merchants and local residents City Hall has become.
When city economic development manager Mary Hamzoian was asked by Councilman Bob Frutos about the increasing rents by Magnolia Park area landlords that were causing the unique small stores comprising this one-of-a-kind shopping district to leave, her response was filled with a complete lack of understanding of the problem. It was as if she wasn’t aware of what was going on with the dissolving community that has been developed there, despite the fact there have been two town hall meetings, and a much-viewed Save Magnolia Park video.
Her obtuse suggestion was that the city can bring in consultants (despite the city’s constant alarm of already being over-budget) who can work with those specific businesses to help them with marketing, integrating technology to their stores and lease negotiations. Hamzoian needs to wake up and learn about the problem in her own city.
The businesses are not having problems with either technology or marketing. They are not having problems with sales. The problem is and has been that the landlords think they have a cash cow because of all the foot traffic created by these hard-working merchants. So they are yanking up the rents, sometimes two- and three-fold, on the merchants. This, in turn, is driving the mom and pop stores out of the area and leaving behind a commercial wasteland.
Hamzoian should at least watch the six-minute video (available online) to get a handle on the problem before she speaks and displays her lack of knowledge about it.