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Burbank Touts Itself a World 'Media Capital' on Heels of Disney OK

October 15, 1992|JIM HERRON ZAMORA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Burbank officials touted the city as "the Media Capital of the World" in Hollywood trade papers Wednesday, capitalizing on the City Council's approval of a $600-million expansion of the Walt Disney Studios.

The city purchased full-page advertisements in The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety following Tuesday night's unanimous City Council vote to approve Disney's 25-year growth plan.

The vote exemplifies Burbank's decision to turn to the entertainment industry to save the city's economic future after the recent loss of several big aerospace companies.

At a Wednesday luncheon of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Robert Bowne and council members and business leaders also described the Disney expansion as a key element in revitalizing Burbank.

"In my judgment, this may be the most historic and important decision a City Council has made in Burbank in the past 20 to 25 years," Bowne said.

"It's a vote of confidence in the future of Burbank and Southern California," Councilman Thomas Flavin said.

Film studios are an increasingly important part of the city's economy since several thousand aerospace jobs have been lost in the past two years. After Lockheed Aerospace Corp. closed most of its Burbank facilities, and Zero Corp., Weber Aircraft and several other employers left, city officials said they simply could not afford to lose Disney, which earned $6.2 billion in revenues last fiscal year.

The city, which is also considering a much smaller expansion proposal by Warner Bros. Studios, recently invited executives of 20th Century Fox to consider relocating their West Los Angeles and Hollywood facilities to Burbank.

Burbank officials stepped up that campaign Wednesday with the advertisements in trade publications that urge Fox and other entertainment firms to "join the Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros. and NBC in the Media Capital of the World." The advertisement goes on to say companies such as Fox "would be a natural addition to our entertainment family."

On Wednesday, a Disney executive also praised Burbank's efforts to retain and woo entertainment firms.

"It validates everything we've been trying to do for the past two years," said Alan Epstein, vice president of Disney Development Corp. "We think Burbank is a good place to do business. It's large enough to offer a wide range of services, but small enough so that you can get to know people and you can have an impact."

The approval of Disney's expansion plan came about 11 p.m. Tuesday after four hours of deliberations and testimony.

The only changes came when the generally pro-development council and Disney struck a compromise to limit construction hours and use of a heliport at the request of some neighbors. Under the agreement, construction at Disney is limited to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The company also agreed to use the heliport no more than four times a week.

The 44-acre Disney property is next to the Rancho, a neighborhood of single-family homes where residents are allowed to stable horses.

Rancho residents fear increased traffic on nearby streets, especially Riverside Drive. Disney agreed to pay $125,000 of the cost of proposed traffic improvements on Riverside Drive, which eventually may include horse trails alongside the street.

Many of the residents, including some former critics, praised Disney for offering to work together to solve problems. Out of about 35 speakers, only a few were critical of the plan. But some Rancho residents remained opposed.

"The council utterly failed to honor their commitment to protect neighborhoods," said Ted McConkey, president of Burbank Rancho Homeowners.

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