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Developments Peril Rancho Life : Horse Owners Join Fight for Survival

December 24, 1987|GREG BRAXTON | Times Staff Writer

Dick Jones believes that nothing should come between a man and his horse--especially not industrial buildings or city zoning laws.

"What we've got is too precious to let it get away from us," said Jones, 65, a Burbank real estate agent who lives with his wife in the Rancho area of Burbank-Glendale, a residential community where people appear to walk their horses more often than their dogs. Like Jones, many of the area's 4,000 residents have backyard stables for their horses.

"When people who don't live here drive down the street, they stop with these amazed looks on their faces when they see horses next to them," said Jones, who owns two horses. "There's nothing like this place anywhere else. We're not going to let it get away without a fight."

Jones and other horse lovers have mounted a determined campaign against developers who want to build industrial projects in their neighborhood, projects that have nothing to do with horses. The residents fear that their life style will vanish in the path of such developments.

Officials in Middle

Because Burbank's zoning laws allow light industry development in some parts of the Rancho community, officials there say they are caught in the middle.

The light industry zones were established by a previous Burbank administration specifically to accommodate commercial stables, which are not allowed in residential zones. Apparently, no one anticipated the problems the designation would bring.

Although the Burbank City Council voted against one proposed project--a public storage facility--last month, other developers are moving forward with plans for light industry complexes that also are permitted under the zoning, officials said.

Most of the projects are planned for an 11-acre parcel known as the Mariposa Triangle, along narrow Mariposa Street in Burbank, one of the main access routes for horses into Griffith Park.

Evaluating Plans

Burbank city officials are evaluating plans to build several concrete buildings for a 13,400-square-foot industrial park in the triangle. Residents say another developer wants to erect a manufacturing building at the end of Mariposa. And John Bell, the developer who unsuccessfully sought city approval for his three-building, 147,700-square-foot public storage facility, is considering alternate plans.

The Burbank council has delayed a session to consider allowing only residential or planned industrial development in the triangle until its Jan. 26 meeting. Each proposal for a planned industrial development would have to have be the subject of a public hearing before the council would consider approving it.

Each time an issue affecting the area comes before the City Council, hundreds of residents turn out in force.

Sharon Reed, 44, a Rancho resident for 14 years, is usually among them, even though she does not own a horse.

"Hearing the horses coming down the street, you would swear you were out in the country and not in Burbank," Reed said. "There are drawbacks, of course. You can't walk outside barefoot in the middle of the night. But it is so nice to have this kind of atmosphere."

Reed said she cannot imagine living anywhere else.

Nor can Jones, who heads the Rancho area's homeowners' group.

Despite pleas from residents who want to restrict the area to horses and single-family homes, most members of the Burbank City Council are reluctant to go that far. They said restricting the usage could open the city to legal action by developers who own property there.

Would Reduce Values

"Because of a zoning glitch, these types of projects would bring down the property values in one of the most desirable communities in Burbank," said Mayor Michael R. Hastings, who lives in the Rancho area and favors limiting industrial development.

Except for the horses, the Rancho area resembles any other suburban neighborhood of single-family homes. Most of the well-kept, single-story houses date back to the 1930s and 1940s. Stables are in the backyards and, in most cases, are not visible from the street.

Burbank City Atty. Douglas C. Holland has told the council that zoning in the area can be changed from industrial to residential use as long as the developers do not lose money on their properties.

"Although a property owner may not get a profit at all, that is not the controlling factor," Holland said. "But, apparently, it offends the sense of fairness of the council to downzone property."

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