In the documentation provided to citizens for this project, the city downplayed the impacts on business and represented that there were a few properties that impinged on the City’s right of way. In fact, nine properties were targeted for “condemnation”; in all. eighteen targeted for right-of-way abatemet and enforced easements in the April 1, 2016 City Ordnance. No property owner we spoke to had heard of this. Even on the easement side the City’s easment claim came as a surprise to at least one property owner. The project’s City real estate chief told the owner, in writing, that their property would not be affected, and then, in the middle of a Pandemic, the City’s Planning department dropped citations on blocks of property owners for right-of-way infractions requiring the abatement of fences and improvements that have been a part of these businesses for decades. Some question the City’s good faith in their representation of the stated goal of this project.
In the Environmental Impact Report project, written in 2009, there were several misstatements. In addition, the report is a decade old and certainly didn’t anticipate the damage to this business neighborhood from Covid.
The City states in the Negative Declaration that the construction noise will not be an issue because the boulevard is light-industrial when in fact, in 2021, there are five recording studios along this roadway, two hotels, several restaurants, and upscale condos. The City states in the EIR declaration that widening this stretch of Burbank will bring it into compliance with Burbank Bl. to the east and west when to the east it is two lanes, not four. We’ll look more closely at the EIR in the coming days, but the environmental impact in 2021 is not equal to 2009, and an updated EIR should have been considered.
Covid has many small businesses on life-support. Can they withstand years of chaos and construction, or will this roadway project finish the job Covid started for some of these businesses? Many businesses are angry that the City is diminishing their property, forcing substantial investments in their infrastructure on the heels of Covid and making life difficult for the dubious goal of lessening traffic by adding traffic lanes; a questionable thesis at best. Many experts dispute this claim and point to induced demand as the likely outcome.
What do the business and property owners get for enduring a loss of property value, expensive abatement and relocation projects, restricted access to businesses, a loss of income and customers? That’s the question the Burbank Widening Citizen Group is asking, and it’s a question the City of Los Angeles needs to answer. Why is this unpopular street project even being considered? Developers of future luxury condos will get a nice wide street to front their high-rises after the small businesses that have been the lifeblood of North Hollywood are driven out. What is the City’s vision for this neighborhood? Mr. Krekorian, why this impractical, and undesirable project. Crime, graffiti, and homelessness are this neighborhood’s focus. And it should be the City’s.
We think it’s time to challenge this project’s validity, legality, and soundness. The property owners have to navigate a fog of City Planning incompetence. Alice Kim, the project’s boss, recently told property owners to reference the spray-painted symbols on their sidewalks to infer their responsibilities in relocating their assets. No one in the neighborhood remembers any invitation for public comment or input on this project before it became a fait accompli – a requirement under state law. The Environmental Impact has not been assessed since 2009. The 2002 basis of this project was found to be irrelevant in the decision to end 2020 Magnolia Ave Widening. There are no architectural drawings to be seen that address the specifics of this project, such as the actual width of the sidewalks in front of each business and the parking that will be eliminated to enable the five lanes. And this is important, the property and business owners most affected by this project don’t want it. We haven’t heard a single word of support.
The one neighborhood not shown in the City’s examples of the project scope is the Magnolia Ave widening project that was suspended last year after citizens objected. In that case, upon further review, it was determined that the basis of the project was an outdated “roadway standard.” As is the Burbank project? This project also runs afoul of Mayor Garcetti’s promise of no street projects that increase traffic. When challenged on this point, a City Official responded that this project was in the works before Garcetti changed the rules. It didn’t count. Apparently, City Planning play by their own rules. The Planning Officials carefully avoid this conflict by pitching this as a traffic-reduction project. On Burbank Boulevard, nobody is buying the city line.
We propose that the City do the right and rational thing and scuttle this road widening as they did on Magnolia and embark instead on a beautification project as is being done on Magnolia. Yes, this stretch of Burbank needs some love. New sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, trees, and landscaping. So let’s clean up the boulevard, not blow it up.
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