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Meeting draws project opposition

Aimed at discussing master plan, gathering instead focuses on condo development.

December 02, 2011|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com
  • Residents discuss the possibility of a 120-unit residential complex in Burbank's Rancho District on Wednesday, November 29, 2011. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)
Residents discuss the possibility of a 120-unit residential…

Roughly 250 people packed the Buena Vista Library Wednesday to stake out positions on a 120-unit residential project proposed for a lot in the Rancho District.

Although the intention of the meeting was to discuss the Rancho District’s future as a whole, most of the speakers at the meeting were there to make clear their opposition to the development. At one point, almost everyone in attendance raised their hands to indicate they were against the project.

Santa Monica-based New Urban West submitted an application in June to build 15 buildings containing a total of 120 one-, two- and three-bedroom townhomes and condos units on the roughly five-acre former General Motors training site.

But the project has found few fans, with residents in the area expressing concerns about increased traffic.

Despite promises by New Urban West to work with the community and closely follow the city’s review process, Burbank Transportation Commission Chairman Paul Dyson, a Rancho resident who also attended the meeting, said the attempt at goodwill wouldn’t be enough.

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“There is more opposition to this than [there was to] Whole Foods — the developer might as well withdraw its money,” Dyson said. “I’m not saying the project is right or wrong, that’s just the reality in the community.”

Rancho District residents — citing similar congestion concerns — successfully fought a proposal to bring in a Whole Foods market several years ago.

The New Urban West project calls for condos and townhomes, but city officials at the meeting acknowledged that the units could be rented out until the economy and housing market recovers to the point where developers felt they could make a profit.

That drew a negative response from the audience.

Bill Smith, a Rancho resident since 1976, characterized the neighborhood response as people being “protective” of their lifestyle.

Smith said he was involved in the 1992 conversation on the area’s master plan.

“It’s like déjà vu,” Smith said. “The impetus for that was the Pavilions project, and the same thing took place.”

Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy, who requested that city officials set the meeting, said she had some concerns about the GM site and did not want to tip-toe around the “800-pound elephant” in the room.

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