The Myth of Neighborhood in the R4 Areas of Burbank
By Mike McDaniel, Burbank Resident,
to the Burbank City Council, January 2004
Madame Mayor and honorable Council Members,
I come to you with this e-mail by way of my failure to attend your Council Session Tuesday night. I had intended to speak to you, but family responsibilities took me away. This is a blessing as I could not have limited my important comments to the few brief moments of public comment allowed to each citizen wishing to address you.
Being an expert on the multifamily development problem in Burbank, I have a few issues to bring to your attention. First, I have lived in an R4 neighborhood in the same house for 47 years, now surrounded by a large apartment to the left of my house and another that hovers over my back patio and yard. There are condos to the front of me across the street. There are two more new projects to be built within 100 yards of my home. Even the place I was born is now an apartment complex (Burbank Community Hospital.)
I was able to catch the council rebuttal to open communications on TV and I agree with Mr. Campbell, "The city is changing." Multifamily dwellings are the blame in my area - you can put whatever spin you want on it. It does not change the truth; no one can get to know anyone when they drive into their gate-guarded building or walk in the gate-guarded front entrance and only come out to go elsewhere to work or play. These people do not associate with others outside the building (or, in it very much). When I was young I knew every person by name on the block from top to bottom, both sides of the street, and still remember every one of them by name. We had birthday parties and visiting - an old tradition of going for a walk and stopping by to see how people up and down the block are doing. I helped paint houses, mow lawns, rake leaves, fix cars, and the list goes on. All of it was done out of genuine concern for the people. I was roofing my house one time and I heard a voice of my long-time neighbor across the street, Mr. Dewey. He had climbed up the ladder and was offering his help... he was 89 years old at the time! When his wife passed away, I was attending the funeral representing my family. They needed one more person to assist with carrying the casket with his sons. He had grandsons he could have asked, but he asked me be the last pall barer because we were good neighbors and we looked out for each other. No one talks or knows anyone any more in the large, cold multifamily structures. I do not call this progress.
Prevent future conflicts between the developers and the community, please! Where homes are torn down and apartments are built there will always be conflict from true community-minded people! Very little, if any, community spirit exists in these structures at all. It’s a spirit of "What has this community got for me?" with no thought of giving back to this city or, for lack of a better word, neighborhood. I have seen these people crash into other people’s cars and leave, throw wild parties and leave trash in other’s yards. You don't dare say anything to them because you will be told where to stick it. Pornography is thrown deliberately out of windows down to where children play, chemicals washed down alleys dumped from company vans of people who live in the apartments, filling up other’s trash cans because its too far to walk to your apartments trash can, gardener blow leaves and clippings from the front of the apartment to the front of your house. Dog droppings - you do not realize how many dogs live in one square block and if you have a lawn and the apartments don't, you save on fertilizer. Shopping carts are left on your parkway so the apartment looks good, fast food bags - thrown out of your car when you hit the alley so you don't have to carry it to the trash, or, worse, up to your apartment.
People steal things out of your yard and people on the street see nothing. Dents and scratches appear on your car, hubcaps are stolen, newspapers are taken off your lawn in the morning before you get up (especially on a coupon day), gang spray-painting festivals in the alleys, on buildings, trash cans, walls etc., property egged, loud music being played in parking structures (they are like caves). Gates opening and closing with loud metal clanging at night, the “Fast and the Furious” race up and down the street, hundreds of kids have no place to play or play safely, more bicycles, skateboards , scooters etc., with nowhere but the street or alley to ride with the increased traffic from all the cars. You can call the police, but they would get tired of hearing from you. You can report them to the city, but that has its problems also.
Speaking of cars, you take a block which originally had 10 houses and, say, two cars each, then tear them down, build apartments, condos and townhouses which total about 80+ units at two cars each. 10 houses x 2 cars = 20 cars. 80 units x 2 cars = 160 cars on just one block. At what point did “the staff” not think this would have a negative impact on the streets and immediate area? Parking? You don't want to go there! But we must. You would think that when you build a building with two spaces per unit that renters would take advantage of having a place reserved just for them. Wrong! I lost count of how many times I have had to walk home from the 700 block of my street to the 500 block, where I live, all because I got home after 6 PM. If you need to go out after 6 PM it is a given that you will have no place to park near your house. Would any of you like to carry your groceries for a block and a half to your house?
To be fair, I have options: 1. Turn on my car’s flashers in the street in front of my house, jump out and put the food on the lawn, and have the kids truck it in while I take the car on safari to find a place to park. 2. Park on the edge of the alley for a few moments with the flashers on again while unloading. But wait. Why is that parking control lady walking toward me with a paper in her hand? Back to the safari. Yup, I got a ticket. Where is parking control when the kids park in the mouth of the alley and talks with their girlfriends for two hours at 2 AM? The leader said that, "Continued development, they contend, is leading to more traffic, less parking space and increased incompatibility with adjacent single-family properties." They “contend?” I am there! It is FACT and has been for over ten years.
Another thing I get a kick out of hearing is that "We have a housing crisis in Burbank." Why does Burbank have to be the housing supplier for the area? Burbank is ten square miles or so. Not everyone can live here. Even if you tear down the whole city and fill it with multifamily dwellings there would be people who could not live here, so you will still have a “housing crisis.” Get over it! Mr. Rondinella said, "The value of property will be greatly decreased." As a Realtor I would think he should know that; it has already happened. My house is $200,000 less than a similar house with similar utility above Kenneth Road. It was also quoted in the council’s time to respond to the public comment that one developer said that he could have by code built so many units but built two less out of concern for the density. If there is only thing you understand from this e-mail, please remember that it’s “MONEY.” That's what it’s all about for the developer, it is a business. A 24 unit building of 2 bedroom apartments which rent for $1500 each =$36,000 a month. I will be kind and say that the mortgage is half $18,000 - how many of you get that from your house? This is why it is called income property - because it brings the owner income. (Very good income or they would not do it!) The City of Burbank will not allow me to have a business in my home because of city code section 31 - 672 which the says no excess pedestrian and vehicle traffic increase. But my neighbor the apartment can! My home can’t have signs or advertising for my business but my neighbor the apartment can. I could site code for pages but you get the idea. The home can’t but the apartment can!
The developer’s business is not to help the housing crisis but to profit from it. It has nothing to do with helping a neighborhood or the City of Burbank a better place in which to live; it is a business with one goal: making a buck! Who are these people? Do they live in the apartment area? Do they even live in Burbank? Because if they do, they have no concern at all for what this town was or is, or what the quality of life should be in those areas they have destroyed by their over-building (which city councils have allowed to be done in the name of “progress”). School overcrowding is a direct result of this over-building. Is the city willing to pay for this? More teachers, new buildings, school supplies? Past Councils’ short-sightedness has created your current problem for you, the current city council. If the apartments and multifamily dwellings are not curtailed, what problems are this Council going to cause for future councils? More police are needed to handle increase in crime and gang issues in the apartment zones - will city funds increase to handle this? With departments looking at scenarios for 2% cuts and 4% cuts for FY 2004-2005, future staff increases are not likely. Multifamily dwellings decay after the current owners/developers sell off holdings and the differed maintenance eats up any profits from rents. (The building behind me has had many problems to this effect already and is not even twenty years old yet).
In summary, do not fool yourselves by thinking that a project, because it is within code, is a quality project. No multifamily project brings quality to Burbank, as was indicated by the developers and their supporters. Their motives are in question. All such projects will have a negative impact on the city, if not now, in the future. That future will be better for everyone with less, not more, overbuilding. I have seen and lived through the destruction of my neighborhood. It was a warm, neighborly place. Now it’s a cold, tall, heartless, profit-driven business area where the term "neighborhood" simply does not apply anymore. If anyone says different they were not there. I was and am still there, and history is on my side for 47 years.
I love this city. I was born here and went through all Burbank schools, as have my children. I have been in the same house for all my life. I have given back to this city many times over and would gladly do it again. My best friend maintains two websites that cover what it was like in the 1960's and 1970's here in Burbank. It’s a celebration of what Burbank was. The other is about little known Burbank facts; the things are what we as a city are known for and why people wanted to live here back then. Take a look and enjoy: Burbankia and Wes Clark's Avocado Memories
I thank you for taking the time to read this. End the overbuilding. I close in memory of all of the good neighbors of my youth who taught me the values of community, neighbors, caring and concern for others and that Burbank was a great place and still can be: Mr. & Mrs. Felton, Mr. & Mrs. Tewalt, Mrs. Stoker, Mr. & Mrs. Johnson, Mr. & Mrs. Prectile, Mrs. Green, Mrs. Velma White, Mr. & Mrs. Ivo Dewey, Mr. & Mrs. Coffman, and Captain and Mrs. Muller of the Burbank Fire Department. Our Neighborhood. As it was then, not now.
Michael B. McDaniel