Affordable housing, the budget deficit, establishing parking fees and the future of the Central Library were just some of the topics Burbank City Council candidates tackled on Friday during a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Glendale/Burbank.
Seven of the eight candidates gathered inside the Burbank City Council chambers to field questions from Rita Zwern, a member of the League of Women Voters. Candidate Richard Carr was unable to attend due to illness.
There were eight questions asked during the forum, with one of the questions presented to all candidates. The other seven questions were staggered, in which three candidates had an opportunity to answer a specific question.
The question asked to all candidates was in regards to affordable housing, specifically what types of programs the candidates would implement to address the issue.
Sharon Springer, a nonprofit administrator, said she would try to raise the city’s average income, work with developers to include affordable housing units to their projects and look at possibly reducing construction costs.
Additionally, Springer said she would consider reducing the parking requirement, stating that there are people who would rather be without a vehicle.
“We must put our heads together and embrace this challenge,” she said.
Burbank Mayor Jess Talamantes, a retired firefighter, said Burbank residents spend a majority of their income on housing and that only a small number of housing units were built during the past five years.
He suggested working with county, state and federal representatives as well as developers to come up with a solution to the housing shortfall.
“I want to work with developers that have that in mind when designing projects for our community,” Talamantes said.
Greg Sousa, a studio transportation driver, said he would use city zoning and planning to “encourage developments that stabilize housing.”
He added the housing program should not be forced onto residents and instead should help future homeowners build equity.
“It’s very promising that we have a plan that doesn’t use a blunt instrument, that we have a plan that would actually allow people to start out in a home and build some equity in it without encouraging speculation,” Sousa said.
Councilman Bob Frutos, a retired police officer, said his plan is to open up a dialogue between the residents, developers, city planners and others to come up with the right solution to address the affordable-housing shortage.
Additionally, Frutos said that he likes what state officials are proposing, which is to invest a portion of the state’s surplus to address housing needs.
“We only have 46,000 places to live in our city,” he said. “We need to do much better for affordable housing.”
Juan Guillen, a business owner, said that the city needs to stop selling its properties at a discount to developers, especially those that have projects that push out lower-income residents into a tighter housing market.
One of his ways to tackle the housing shortfall is to create condominiums to sublease with the right for the renter to purchase the property.
“We need to come up with solutions that address the concerns of the community and not put the profits of the developers [first],” Guillen said. “The residents and the communities have to come first.”
Konstantine Anthony, a social media manager, said his plan is to create a new type of rent control that gives more power to renters instead of property owners.
He added that he is targeting multiunit apartment owners and not those who own duplexes or apartment buildings with fewer than 50 units.
“If we do not do something now, if we do not get all of the 50% of residents who can’t afford to live here, if they do not come out en mass and vote to put an ordinance in place to protect their own assets, they will be forced out,” Anthony said.
Councilman David Gordon, an optometrist, said that he is focused on bringing in high-density, low-cost housing that fits in with the neighborhoods in Burbank.
Gordon said that he is currently looking at the Golden State Specific Plan, which is about a 600-acre site east of Hollywood Burbank Airport that aims to boost the economy in that area.
“We are hoping to designate at least 100 acres for new types of to-own and rental affordable housing in an affordable-housing zone,” he said. “This will begin to address the question of housing affordability and to be designed to preserve affordability and encourage long-term residency.”
To watch the entire candidate forum, visit the city of Burbank’s website at burbankca.gov.
Anthony Clark Carpio, firstname.lastname@example.org