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Burbank Leader

Council approves general plan, while critics say it's too costly

By Alene Tchekmedyian, alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com

4:01 PM PST, February 22, 2013

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After more than a decade in the making, the Burbank City Council on Tuesday approved its updated general plan, which could lead to construction of roughly 6,000 additional residential units and generate 140,000 more daily car trips on local streets in the next 22 years — and some residents complain it could cost Burbank its a “quaint character and special charm.”

Dubbed Burbank 2035, the 164-page document lists policies and goals regarding land use and conservation, transportation, air quality, climate change, noise and safety.

“It tells developers what we will and will not tolerate in Burbank,” said Community Development Director Joy Forbes.

Ideas promoted in the plan include beefing up the city’s bike network, requiring large employers to incentivize carpooling or public transit and encouraging the retrofitting of older, energy-inefficient buildings.

In addition, the plan sets a goal of a 30% reduction in community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2035 and promotes compact, mixed-use development that’s pedestrian-friendly and transit-oriented.

“There have been some very innovative efforts as part of this plan,” Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy said during the meeting. “It’s well conceived.”

The plan also encourages allowing more condominium and apartment buildings in commercial areas, such as downtown and the Media District.

Traffic mitigation efforts contained in the plan would cost $6.1 million over 25 years and would be funded by transportation development impact fees and other regional transportation funding sources, according to a city staff report.

The plan was approved 4-1, with Councilman David Gordon casting the lone “no” vote.

“This whole document is about being forced to do things that don’t make sense,” Gordon said, adding that he felt the cost of implementation was not well-defined.

Gordon was particularly irked by the idea of building an extensive bike network — especially at the expense of parking spots — which he felt would be underused.

He wasn’t alone among residents who spoke at the meeting.

“Burbank residents are not lab rats, and this city is not the council’s personal play toy,” said Rancho resident Louis Altobelli. “High-density, mixed-use developments that require grants and subsidies do not serve this city’s best interest.”

The plan is “a huge and very costly undertaking,” said Rancho resident Cecilia Wagers. “As far getting people out of their cars? Please, that’s been tried for decades, with no success.”

But city officials said the council would have discretion, moving forward, on changing or developing city codes to implement the plan.

“Adopting the general plan is kind of the start of it,” Forbes said Wednesday. “There’s a lot of implementation that needs to happen.”

Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.