Despite a city staff recommendation and the pleas of dozens of citizens and community leaders, the Burbank City Council has again refused to impose a building moratorium on the Media District and the adjacent Rancho residential area.
The council's refusal to adopt a moratorium after a five-hour hearing Wednesday night almost certainly means the measure is dead, council members said.
The council voted, however, to form a committee of developers, real estate agents, city officials and residents to work up "an understanding" about development within the community.
No vote was taken on the proposed moratorium, but it drew the support of only two council members, even after more than 50 residents spoke before an audience of about 1,000 at the auditorium at John Burroughs High School. The other three council members said they believe that the city already has mechanisms to prevent apartment buildings and high-rise offices from infringing upon residential neighborhoods.
"There is no need to take such a drastic step like having a moratorium," Councilman Bob Bowne said. "It violates the concepts of the free enterprise system."
Bowne criticized the city's community development staff for recommending the moratorium. "This was a divisive thing and could have been handled better," he said. "This should not have been brought before the public in this manner."
The council's failure to adopt the moratorium angered Councilman Michael Hastings, who accused the council majority of favoring developers over the community's residents.
'Haven't Won Me Over'
"The victory was sweet for the developers," Hastings said Thursday. "They seem to have won over three-fifths of the council, but they haven't won me over."
Mayor Mary Lou Howard, who also supported the moratorium, had predicted that a capacity audience of 1,500 would attend the hearing. At least half of the 1,000 who showed up left after two hours.
"I think a lot of people felt that they had already made their feeling known, while others just stayed away because they're so frustrated with the council," Hastings said.
Hastings complained that the council had voted down the moratorium earlier, partly on the grounds that more public comment was needed, but then had ignored the comment. "This council should display good decisive leadership and listen to the citizens in preliminary stages so they wouldn't have to run to a meeting every week to give their input," he said. "The feeling of the community all along has been pro-moratorium." But audience reaction to speakers reflected division on the issue, with slightly more applause greeting speakers who favored the moratorium.
The proposed 90-day moratorium would have stopped the issuance of building permits for office buildings and apartments with three units or more. Supporters said it was designed to freeze projects while Burbank officials revise the city's General Plan and a specific plan for development of the Media District, an area that is home to several motion picture studios.
Four votes were required for approval, but Bowne and council members Mary E. Kelsey and Al Dossin opposed the moratorium ever since it was proposed several weeks ago by Howard and Hastings.
Several developers told the council during the hearing that a recently adopted ordinance for review of site plans would enable the city to keep commercial development from invading residential neighborhoods. The council members who opposed the moratorium agreed that the review procedures would be adequate to protect residential neighborhoods.