Faced with an expiring lease at its Woodland Hills location, and in
need of more space, Health Net is looking at 10 locations in the region.
The company is not saying where those sites are, but city officials have
indicated they've spoken to Health Net about Zelman Development Corp.'s
planned Empire Center at the Lockheed B-1 site, Santa Monica developer M.
David Paul's Media Studios North on Ontario Street and the former Menasco
manufacturing site off San Fernando Boulevard. Of the three major retail
and office projects, only Media Studios North has been given the green
light and started construction.
By selling Health Net on projects yet to receive the approval of the
Planning Board and City Council, city officials are setting themselves up
for charges that those developments are as good as approved, even before
the public review period has ended. The Empire Center project in
particular demands close scrutiny because of toxic contamination on the
former Lockheed Martin Corp. manufacturing site. In this regard, city
officials would be wise to tread cautiously.
Still, it is hard to fault the city for its aggressiveness in trying
to attract Health Net to Burbank. The local economy has been humming
along but it's no secret that Burbank relies heavily on media jobs. A
sharp downturn in the entertainment and communication industries could be
disastrous for Burbank. The lesson's learned in the wake of Burbank's
one-time reliance on Lockheed should not be forgotten. Attracting
hundreds or even thousands of new jobs in the health care industry would
be a major coup.
Burbank should continue to woo Health Net, selling company officials
on the many advantages the city offers. But let's not count our
developments before they pass.