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Change needed, candidate says

City's development standards and the way the city spends money need a fresh look, this council hopeful says.

January 20, 2007|By Chris Wiebe

BURBANK — The desire to protect Burbank neighborhoods from overdevelopment was what first spurred City Council candidate Carolyn Berlin to become involved in civic affairs more than 20 years ago.

She teamed up with homeowner groups, co-founded another group with her husband, Philip Berlin — who is also seeking a council seat in the upcoming election — and co-authored an ultimately unsuccessful 1991 ballot initiative aimed at controlling commercial development to preserve residential areas.

The initiative came during a time when there was talk about constructing buildings as tall as 25 stories in the Media District along Olive Avenue, Carolyn Berlin said. Though voters did not approve the ballot initiative, some goals of the legislation were indirectly achieved in the aftermath of the vote.

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"The initiative, while it failed with the voters, did have an impact in terms of density," she said. "And unless special circumstances exist, the [allowable] height is 15 stories in the Media District."

Berlin's work with regard to land-use issues caught the attention of then-Mayor George Battey, who appointed her Burbank's representative to the Southern California Assn. of Governments.

"At that time, [the Southern California Assn. of Governments] was trying to shove incredible growth numbers down our throats in terms of development and density," she said. "And I think my appointment was probably an idea to see how I would handle it."

Within a year, she was appointed to the Planning Board.

"George felt that there needed to be more of a neighborhood representative because what had always been the make up of the Planning Board had been a Realtor, an attorney, an architect," she said. "The development community was very well represented, but there had never been a person who was truly considered a neighborhood representative. And I became that person."

But once on the board, Berlin scaled back her work with homeowner and neighborhood groups in order to not compromise her role as part of a decision-making body.

Her tenure on the board came in the midst of formation of master plans for NBC and Warner Bros., a process she looks back on as an important learning experience.

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