The San Fernando Boulevard corridor is slated for a major revamp that city planners say will make it more attractive to pedestrians and boost real estate values.
The City Council on Tuesday approved a conceptual plan to revamp the corridor to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists with sidewalk furniture, larger street trees and bike lanes.
Councilman David Gordon was the sole dissenting vote.
The plan maps out a 25-year vision for the corridor — nestled between the Golden State (5) Freeway, Burbank Boulevard, Third Street and Andover Drive — inspired by the freeway interchange project that will connect the city’s downtown area, Bob Hope Airport, the Empire Center and the Burbank Town Center Mall.
“We want to think ahead for what we think will be a new demand for development on that corridor,” said Principal Planner Patrick Prescott, adding that the area is home to 50-year-old buildings and minimal landscaping. “When developers come to us, we can say, ‘This is what the community wants to see here.’”
Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy, who commended planners for thinking ahead, noted that the improvements would drive up real estate values in the area.
Planners estimate that the improvements will cost between $8.2 million and $9.6 million. City officials have already started applying for grants to fund priority improvements, which include street lights, trees, furniture, bike lanes, improved crosswalks and pedestrian islands on the nearly mile-long stretch of San Fernando Boulevard between Interstate 5 and Burbank Boulevard.
“As money becomes available, those improvements can be made,” Prescott said, adding that no city funds were allocated for the project in approving the master plan. “Council can pick and choose what they want to pay for.”
In addition to the master plan, the City Council adopted a new zoning ordinance that would require developers to comply with modern design principles when constructing new buildings. For example, new buildings along San Fernando Boulevard must be built closer to the sidewalk, with parking lots in the back, creating a more aesthetically pleasing pedestrian experience, Prescott said.
In community meetings, residents said they hoped shops along the corridor would remain neighborhood-oriented, like grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies and dry cleaners, Prescott said.
“They don’t necessarily want it to be like downtown Burbank or like Empire Center, but they did express a need for some more options,” he said.
Perhaps the most contentious aspect of the plan was the idea of replacing the crape myrtle trees along San Fernando Boulevard with larger varieties.
“People are paying to have crape myrtle trees planted in their parkways,” Gordon said, adding that spending money to remove the city tree from anywhere is “crazy.”
Another option would be to plant trees in between the existing crape myrtles to provide shade, Prescott said.
Residents also spoke out against the proposed parking system that would allow businesses with different peak parking demands to share parking.
Resident David Piroli said Burbank is already rife with traffic jams due to insufficient parking.
“People end up parking in places that create more problems, be it in alleys or anywhere else, or businesses start to falter because people can’t get to them,” he said.
Gordon argued the pedestrian- and cyclist-centered vision of the proposal is harmful to senior citizens, who lose mobility as they age.
“Elderly folks cannot ride bikes in 100-degree temperatures,” he said.
But Councilman Jess Talamantes, who supported the plan, noted that change is difficult for people to accept.
“When a vision is proposed, it’s hard to imagine,” he said.