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Avenue is born again

Agreement with development agency helped transform the neighborhood.

June 27, 2009|By Christopher Cadelago

Richie Collins pressed his nose against the window screen of his Peyton-Grismer apartment and peered out onto a crowd gathered outside.

When his family first moved into the area 10 years ago — blighted by the remnants of gang activity — squad cars and circling helicopters were a fixture in a neighborhood city officials referred to as among Burbank’s worst.

“I had never seen such a horrible place and mess in my life,” said Peter McGrath, president of the Burbank Housing Corporation’s board of trustees. “This was the most crime-ridden street in Burbank.”

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The same could be said for dilapidated residential complexes that lined the densely populated district situated between Glenoaks Boulevard and the Golden State (5) Freeway.

Richie, standing in his newly minted apartment Wednesday, joined his family and the crowd to celebrate the revitalization of 1801 to 1815 Grismer Avenue.

“People looked at this place and thought that it couldn’t be rehabbed,” said Richie’s mother, Leslie. “The difference is night and day. We’ve gone from living in a ghetto to living in Beverly Hills.”

To replace ramshackle residences, reduce crime, improve traffic circulation and foster a sense of community, the 6-year-old development agreement between the Burbank Redevelopment Agency and Burbank Housing Corp. called for the acquisition and rehabilitation of distressed properties in the Peyton-Grismer Focus Neighborhood and then to operate the site as a mixed-income development and construct a family resource center.

The agency spent more than $16 million in low- and moderate-income housing funds — $9.6 in site assemblage and $6.5 million in rehabilitation costs — on the 2.4-acre site that includes 70 units and 117 parking spaces.

“We understand that it’s not inexpensive,” said Judith Arandes, executive director of Burbank Housing Corp. “But the beauty is we keep this in perpetuity. We’re not going to sell it, flip it.”

Under the agreement, the agency assembled and conveyed the properties to the housing corporation through a 55-year lease at $1 per year. Of the 70 affordable housing units, 33 are dedicated for very low- and low-income households and 37 are for moderate-income families.

“I think this project in every aspect exemplifies our commitment to affecting housing in Burbank,” said Community Development Director Sue Georgino.

Focus neighborhoods created throughout the city over the last decade include Elmwood, Verdugo-Lake, Golden State and Lake-Alameda with projects to improve streets, sidewalks and gutters, lighting and community education.

The City Council last week approved the development of eight affordable-housing units through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity, adding to the city’s inventory of 2,600 affordable rental and ownership units and securing the elimination of a long-standing eyesore in the Peyton-Grismer neighborhood.

People throughout the afternoon toured the newly built apartments, many of them complete with multiple bedrooms to accommodate large families and large common areas in the form of courtyards and walkways.

Two boys played on a second-floor balcony as their father looked on.

“If you drive around here you can see the people benefiting,” said Councilman Dave Golonski, checking out a one-bedroom apartment. “The difference is dramatic.”


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