UPDATE: The Mayor just announced he has stage 4 liver cancer but curiously, will not step down as a member of the council. This news was leaked already and it’s been a poorly kept secret around town for months. None of us really knew for sure though. I’m sure the Mayor feels a bit better now that he’s revealed his illness. I sincerely wish him and his family the best but that will not change anything I have to post here on the blog regarding the 50k.
If you’ve been following this story you know I’ve always contended that the architects of this illegal donation were the “buddies” of the City Council. Burbank luminaries, mostly from the Chamber of Commerce. But I was wrong about who the City Council have been protecting this whole time. Public records I received last April suggest that City Manager Ron Davis,Community Development Director Patrick Prescott and Vice-Mayor (at the time) Will Rogers all knew about and discussed this illegal activity BEFORE the November Election.On December 6th when i brought our team’s research to the Council, Will Rogers was insulting and dismissive about the whole affair and confirmed he had known about this and was “disappointed” in the donation. He wasn’t sorry in the slightest. The following week he apologized for “missing” the violation of the Brown Act when reviewing the BHA’s minutes. You have to assume someone (the City Attorney?) told him to change his tone and he certainly did.
Why didn’t the Mayor call out this illegal activity ahead of the election? He clearly knew a violation of the Brown Act had occurred from the very beginning. (see #1 below)
The Semichorus blog broke part of the story back in June but I’ve been patiently waiting for the Fair Political Practices Commission and the Los Angeles District Attorney to rule on the case. At this point, I’m deeply concerned the Los Angeles District Attorney will not take legal action against a sitting city government, even though they did find the BHA had violated the Brown Act. (See #5 below) The FPPC investigation is still ongoing but I have no idea when a ruling will be made.
I wonder what Patrick told Will in order to calm him down? (see #5 below) For now, I want the public to know what’s going on in City Hall. That’s my motivation. There’s much more to the story and I hope to do a complete video that explains where we are and how we got here. People need to know this stuff or it will just continue. If you or I broke the law we’d have to pay for our actions. You can use the contact page and I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have in the meantime. Or just post a comment below.
You can read more about this illegal use of public funds here and here. Here are additional videos:
I wish I could have made this event at the old Ikea. I didn’t get home from work until 7:15 that evening. So hopeful they will do something similar again. But here’s an interesting viewpoint from Burbankmom.com. This is the blog that always seems to be in lockstep with the development class in our city. This time she’s a bit “sad.” Which is telling. I’m neutral on this project but very concerned for the congestion it WILL bring. I already avoid the Empire Center and downtown is already pretty bad. You can justify this massive development any way you want but the fact remains: I HEART BURBANK will further transform the downtown area into the congested, zoo-like atmosphere of the Santa Monica 3rd Street promenade when it’s completed. No one can argue against that. But of course Burbank Mom makes it sound like any dissent would be akin to “panic”. Do we want all this for a measly one-time 2.5 million increase to the city’s coffers? Remember the sales taxes go to the region not directly to our city. And the idea that Macy’s “owns” San Fernando Blvd. That one sounds pretty fishy to me. Will have to check that out and report back. The best course is to pay attention to the project and keep getting the word out so the people who live in the area can weigh in.
At Tuesday night’s marathon City Council meeting — where the behemoth housing project First Street Village was up for discussion — Councilwoman Sharon Springer asked an excellent question about the cancer risk posed to residents of the 5 Freeway adjacent property. Unfortunately, she didn’t get a straight answer.
In fact, a “scientific” study of how highway pollution might affect future residents of the proposed multi-used development on the corner of First and Magnolia (which was paid for by the developer) was presented to the council in a manner which can only be described as disingenuous at best.
Ms. Springer asked the consultant presenting the study to provide some context so the public might better understand the study’s finding that set the cancer risk posed by exposure to freeway pollution at “60.85.”
Well, the consultant explained, if you said 40 percent of Americans will get cancer in their lifetime you’re talking about 400,000 out of a million people. This number is much smaller — only 60.85 people out of a million.
And while this is true — 60.85 out of a million is a smaller percentage than 400, 000 out of a million — it is equally truethat60.85 isalmostdoublethecancerriskfaced by Americans who don’t live next to freeways.
Here are some other points the applicant failed to bring to the city council’s attention:
Their study did not measure Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM); it used Particulate Matter as a surrogate. This ignores the fact that Diesel Particulate Matter (emissions from diesel trucks) is more hazardous to human health than the same mass of other particulate matters.
The EPA sets the acceptable cancer risk level at 1 in 1 million. The cancer risk predicted in this study is more than 60 times greater.
A Harvard study showed that the relationship to DPM exposure and health is linear. Any increase in exposure to DPM causes an equal increase in health risks.
The US average for air pollution-related cancer deaths is 36 per million. In freeway adjacent parts of LA County where air pollution is most intense that number climbs to 70 per million.
According to the study’s own findings, the cancer risk to a child between the ages of 2 and 16, living in First Street Village, will be more than twice that of an adult resident. (A cancer risk of 27.62 compared to 13.74)
This study did not look at the impact of exposure to other toxic gases caused by proximity to the highway which, unlike particulate matter, can not be filtered out.
In a letter to Burbank’s Planning Department the South Coast Air Quality Management District warned, “Cancer risk still remains a significant impact,” despite assurances from the developer that residents could minimize their risk by keeping their windows shut, staying inside and relying on top-of-the-line filtration systems.
That residents will chose to do so — and will instead refrain from using the pool, their balconies and any outdoor building facilities (including the temporary park proposed as an offset to the city granting the development a code variance) — seems, as Ms. Springer pointed out, highly unlikely.
Why it Matters
When it comes to Diesel Particulate Matter (DPMs), cancer risk is only part of the story. Studies indicate it is a genotoxin and suspect it might alter DNA and cause changes at the cellular level. It has been linked to endocrine disruption, decreased fertility and birth defects.
As part of the development agreement, residents of First Street Village will have to sign a waiver acknowledging they’ve been informed of the health implications of their decision to live in the complex and advising them to keep their windows closed and stay indoors as much as possible. This is presumably intended to shield the developer and the city from liability should the predicted health consequences occur.
What might be harder to shield themselves against are the ethical implications of targeting young professionals — the much-desired millennials — with promises of housing that seems appealing on its surface (bike paths, public green spaces, modern conveniences) fully cognizant of the fact that it has the potential to make them — and any children they might decide to have — very sick.
Knowing what we know about the health risks, is building homes for young professionals on this site the right thing to do? Maybe that’s the question we should be asking.
[Editor’s note: This article doesn’t even mention the history of the site where this development sits. Currently there is automotive repair shop that has been there for years and previously there were aircraft related industrial uses. The developer will have to take soil smaples at the site prior to grading to ensure there are no longer any toxins released during construction. More info on pages 60 of this PDF.]
This was originally posted on the No on Measure B blog last year. Now that Will Rogers is Mayor and there are more people following Burbank Viewpoints I wanted to share this little examination of how the Mayor casually changes his story as it suites him. (Sound familiar?) How ironic is it that Rogers said voters who dared speak out against Measure B were from Trump-land. It’s a cautionary tale. He’ll continue to protect City Staff and mislead people about us “nutballs” who dare to ask questions — but all one has to do is pay attention over time. Eventually he’ll slip up. Restraint isn’t his strong suite. Someone in City Hall or their pals wanted to name the ballot Measure B to invoke the feeling and spirit of the original ballot measure that was designed to protect residents.
New information on how the new Measure B (2016) got it’s unfortunate and misleading name. Councilman Will Rogers, who is very active on Facebook stated:
“I believe the city clerk – who was not here through the earlier battles – simply heard so many references to “Measure B” that she either believed or came to think that would be the best name for the current Measure, too. To my knowledge, there was never any discussion among supporters or opponents about what the title could or should be. We all simply did as Burbank’s election official (the City Clerk) directed us. Those of us who were writing arguments on the measures were told that, on the form where it calls for the measure’s title, we should write ‘Measure B (TBD.)’ “
Let’s parse this out:
“I believe the city clerk – who was not here through the earlier battles – simply heard so many references to “Measure B” that she either believed or came to think that would be the best name for the current Measure, too.”
It looks like it was city staff who arrived at this “in anticipation of the City Council’s direction” per this July 26th Staff Report:
More from Rogers:
“To my knowledge, there was never any discussion among supporters or opponents about what the title could or should be.”
“Personally, I said at the time that I thought “Measure C” would be most appropriate, but who listens to me? But, yes, I’m aware that yet another nutball conspiracy theory has bubbled up around who branded it “Measure B,” and why.”
Ignoring the insult, it’s all confusing and feels a bit deceptive. While it makes sense with all the references to Measure B (2000) there might be a little carelessness involved here but this is A NEW MEASURE. City staff clearly wanted to name this Measure B for a reason but why not name it Measure C (comes AFTER B – get it?) or Measure T (for Terminal or maybe Traffic.) Someone wanted this new Measure B to invoke the familiar, feel-good measure from 2000. It was one of the most successful votes in Burbank’s history. The fact is the city can submit any name and do so strategically as you’ll see below from this Leader article on Measure S:
Here are images of the original FB posts mentioned above. The posts were made in a closed group so the links above may not work.
The Burbank City Council’s decision to extend the Verdugo Avenue bike path to Victory Boulevard and add some safety enhancements earlier this week was hailed as a victory for Burbank bike enthusiasts and those who envision a less car dependent future for our city. Indeed, since its inception the painted bike lane that hugs Verdugo’s curb in both directions has — like virtually all the bike lanes, paths and routes in Burbank – been little more than a road to nowhere.
Now — if the map of Burbank’s bike routes posted on the city’s web site is accurate (linked below) — the Verdugo bike lane will narrow to a bike route (this is a biking area alongside cars without a designated lane — marked in green) before connecting to another proposed bike path on Victory Blvd (a designated path like the one on Chandler Blvd shown with a blue dotted line). Riders would presumably then be able to reach downtown Burbank via another proposed bike route on Olive (designated by the green dotted line).
The problem with this plan should be immediately apparent to anyone who has actually attempted to ride a bicycle on the streets of Burbank — either on its bike routes or even the Verdugo bike path (as this author has).
It doesn’t feel safe. At all.
And that, transportation experts say, is the number one obstacle to creating communities where residents choose to commute by bike.
To see a spike in bike riding a city must be willing to make a commitment to protected bike lanes. Protected bike lanes are on-street lanes that are physically separated from automobile traffic by curbs, planters, parked cars or posts. They look like this:
A 2014 study by researchers at Portland State University, which was partially funded by the Department of Transportation, looked at eight cities and found that when protected bike lanes are added to a street, bike traffic rises by an average of 75 percent in the first year alone. Ninety-six percent of respondents in the study said protected bike lanes made them feels safer — even in areas where they’d previously had unprotected painted lanes (like the one on Verdugo).
Cities around the country are getting the message that unprotected bike lanes are insufficient. For example, in response to an increase in bike-related accidents New York City is in the process of converting some of its bike lanes to protected lanes. If Burbank is serious about encouraging biking it needs to make a similar commitment. Half measures — like extending the painted lanes along Verdugo and adding a green bike route sign where that road narrows — will do little to address the fundamental problem and can, in fact, instill a false sense of security among those who do decide to bike in this city.
Likewise, if Burbank wants to make a commitment to car-free transportation, it needs to adopt a sensible overall plan instead of greenlighting individual projects in a haphazard manner. (There is a City of Burbank Bike Master Plan but, after eight years, it seems hopelessly out-of-date). Bicycle safety experts say that having huge gaps in cycling networks — and bike lanes that abruptly end, as Burbank does now — are particularly dangerous as they unexpectedly dump riders onto busy streets. There is little point in approving bike lanes for individual streets without addressing the overall connectivity issue.
For example, last year the city added a painted bike lane along Edison Blvd from Burbank Blvd to the North Hollywood border in response to resident complaints about speeding and limited visibility when drivers attempted to enter or exit from neighboring side streets (including the author’s). While the stop signs were a welcome addition, the new bike lanes create a baffling situation for the journeyman cyclist.
Setting aside the fact that having cars park along the curb to the right of the bike lane increases the likelihood that one riding past will be hit or at the very least “door-ed” — or the fact that the city bus is apt to careen thoughtlessly through the bike lane to the bus stop at the corner of Maple Street without warning — the worst thing about the new bike lane is that it abruptly ends where Burbank Blvd. meets Hollywood Way. As a result, the rider is suddenly left with no choice but to join the busy stream of traffic along that artery (again, dodging parked cars and weaving buses) — or to ride on sidewalks to access the bike path at Chandler.
This same lack of regard for connectivity was apparent when the city greenlighted a new bike path on Leland Way earlier this month (although, in this case, planners did seem to recognize that a protected lane — in this case by plastic barriers — was preferable to the unprotected lanes proposed in the past). Like the bike lane on Edison, the proposed path on Leland also ends abruptly without providing a connection to any other bike routes, lanes or paths.
All of which begs the much larger question: as much as “sustainability” has become a buzzword in Burbank as of late, do we actually want our city to values bikes over cars? Indeed, the very question of whether creating a car-free Burbank is possible or even desirable is up for debate.
Even if cost is not the primary issue — since much of the cost of creating a bike-friendly infrastructure will be born by outside funds (like, for example, the Measure R funds provided by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority) — there can be no denying that making Burbank more bike-friendly by replacing car lanes with bike lanes will have a significant impact on those who live and work in the city by adding to an already significant traffic burden. And, tensions will only worsen with the upcoming boom in mega-development and endless construction projects. Blocked roads, slowed traffic and the sudden population surge will make the city’s streets more congested than ever.
So why aren’t we having this politically-contentious conversation?
Perhaps it is because Burbank’s elected officials believe taking half-measures, like extending the fundamentally-flawed Verdugo bike lane — which allow them to appear environmentally conscious without making an actual commitment to wholesale change. — is enough to satisfy most of the city’s residents. And if this seems like the political equivalent to calling yourself an environmentalist while driving an SUV, well, it is. But when only sixteen percent of residents even bother to vote maybe our representatives are not wrong in believing they can get away with it.
Unfortunately, this approach is likely to create a lose-lose situation for everyone — making day-to day life that much harder for those of us who need to get to work and school and get our kids to practices and games and dentist appointments — and endangering those intrepid enough to attempt to ride their bikes by failing to make the kinds of upgrades that could make cycling a safe and practical choice.
Tonight will be Dr. Gordon’s final meeting as a member of the City Council. Please drop him a line or even better come to the meeting tonight to express your thanks for his years of service. I’d like to personally thank David for his unflinching dedication to our community and for oftentimes being the lone voice of reason “up there.” Dr. Gordon’s a pretty tough guy and he’s had to endure personal attacks and political attacks from every side for the entire time he’s served on the Council. He was passed over as Mayor each year by spiteful members of Council until finally in 2014 they gave him his due. I’ve watched hours of videos of council meetings over the past few years and if you weren’t aware already, Dr. Gordon is literally the only person on the dias who is looking out for residents 100% of the time. The other council members are clearly serving the interests of big developers first, voters next and then residents as they are able. Not so with Dr. Gordon. He’s made unpopular decisions, endured withering attacks and asked tough questions. I do not agree with the man on every issue but we share the same love for Burbank and I’m extremely concerned for our city now. However, I’m hoping and betting you haven’t heard the last of Dr. Gordon. At the very least, he’ll advise the next generation of activists and with any luck he will continue to serve in some other capacity in the coming years. He’s earned our gratitude and I certainly hope you’ll let him know. Here’s his contact page on the city’s website.
This endorsement (of sorts) on the Semichorus blog is spot on. I agree with everything said here about Gordon, Guillen and Springer. If you want REAL change in this city, Juan Guillen alongside Dr. Gordon would help keep this town fiscally sane, which in the years to come is going to be our top priority. They will also demand proper parking and neighborhood compatibility of large developments. Here’s a snippet:
[Gordon’s] also a good guy who likes to ask challenging questions and talk and think things out. That makes many people bored or uncomfortable yes, especially in places like mediocrityville Burbank, but who cares. We need more of that here, not less.
While you’re voting for Gordon, go for Guillen as well. They’ll work well together. Gordon’s only problem really is that he’s never had an actual ally up there, just some pretty nasty enemies who are often up to no good. So let’s rid ourselves of as many of them as we can, ok? It’ll make for a better Burbank.
If you believe what Sharon Springer tells you, she is an environmentalist — a promoter of bike paths, recycling and community gardens. But her City Council campaign in being funded by a pro-development political group that’s been at the center of efforts to roll back regulations on big polluters for the last decade.
Strange bedfellows indeed.
According to public records, BizFed, a self-described “pro-business” PAC, which helped defeat a ballot measure aimed at curbing development in Los Angeles last month — and whose efforts to block clean air and water protections have been widely-criticized by environmental groups — gave Sharon Springer’s campaign the maximum donation allowed by law on March 15th.
Ms. Springer, a member of the Sustainable Burbank Commission, claimed in a recent interview that “improving our air quality, managing scarce water, using energy responsibly, enhancing public and diverse transportation options and moving forward on our zero waste goal” are among her central concerns.
Judging from its efforts to block clean air and water protections, BizFed does not share those concerns.
According to the LA Times, environmentalists “expressed outrage” over the group’s successful campaign to keep the Southern California Air Quality Management Board from tightening restrictions on trucks and other “mobile polluters” in February of this year. The PAC lobbied to make compliance by polluters voluntary instead of mandatory.
Environmentalists told the Times, the rollback on proposed anti-pollution laws would “hurt millions of people, including many suffering from asthma, lung, and heart disease and other pollution-related illnesses.”
The PAC also lobbied the LA County Board of Supervisors to reject the “Clean Water, Clean Beaches” parcel tax measure in 2013. “This is a big victory for the business community,” its website declares.
The wave of proposals for mega-development — not just in Burbank but around Southern California –have increasingly put environmentalists and developers (and their supporters in city government) at odds.
For example, according to a report by the LA Times, which was released just last week, city officials throughout Southern California have “flouted” warnings from health experts and allowed “a surge in home building near traffic pollution with little regard to the health implications for future residents.
According to the Times, “for more than a decade, California air quality officials have warned against building homes within 500 feet of freeways. And with good reason: People there suffer higher rates of asthma, heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and pre-term births. Recent research has added more health risks to the list, including childhood obesity, autism and dementia.”
And yet, in Los Angeles alone, the Times found that “thousands” of projects within the pollution zone have been green-lighted recently, The newspaper based its analysis on census data, building permits and other government records.
In Burbank, all of the mega-developments awaiting approval, and many projects like the Talaria, which have already earned the City Council’s approval, are within the “pollution zone.”
Springer, whose campaign has spent lavishly on multiple campaign mailers, has yet to address or disavow the donation from Biz Fed, despite the obvious inconsistencies between the positions she’s taken to win the support of voters and this organization’s aggressive efforts to uproot environmental regulation and forward a pro-development agenda.