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How the Rancho District maintains its tranquil, rural feel

Seven-member body provides input on development projects in the neighborhood.

December 06, 2011|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com
  • Local resident (name not given) walks her horse around her neighborhood on the 1500 block of Morningside Drive across Beechwood Dr. in Burbank on Tuesday, December 6, 2011. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
Local resident (name not given) walks her horse around…

Numerous residents at a community meeting last week at the Buena Vista Library said they had never heard of the Rancho Review Board, the only neighborhood review board in Burbank.

“Yes, this is the only neighborhood with a review board,” Assistant Community Development Director Michael Forbes said in an email. “I think the reason for that is because this is the only area where the architectural design of the buildings is seen as playing an important role in the neighborhood character and ties the commercial and residential areas together as a single neighborhood.”

Forbes said residents should get involved in the review process to help ensure that the neighborhood character is preserved and enhanced.

“In other areas with zoning that is specific to the neighborhood such as the Media District and Magnolia Park, the architecture and design of the buildings has not traditionally been viewed as being a critical part of preserving the neighborhood character, so directly involving the residents in the review process through the creation of a review board was considered unnecessary,” Forbes said.

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Jay Geisenheimer is one of seven current members of the Rancho Review Board, created in 1993 to provide input on development projects in the Rancho neighborhood.

Geisenheimer said she got involved in the local homeowners association as soon as she moved to the area. In 2003 the City Council appointed her to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center Advisory Board . And since 2006, she has been involved with the review board.

The 15-year resident and Realtor said she wants to maintain the neighborhood’s tranquil and rural feel.

“It’s what makes it what it is,” she said.

Forbes said the intent of the board is not to discuss big-picture issues about the future of the Rancho neighborhood or provide policy direction.  

“The purpose of the board is strictly to review individual development projects to ensure that they are complying with the development and design standards for the Rancho neighborhood,” Forbes said.

City staff performs this same review, but the board members can provide additional input and insight into a project’s design, Forbes said.

“The input from the Rancho Review Board members is in addition to, not instead of, the public input that we solicit for all projects,” Forbes said.

Geisenheimer said the name is a bit of a misnomer.

“We individually review projects,” she said.

Forbes said rather than having formal meetings, city staff members email the project applications and plans to board members. Each member then reviews the project and provides their comments via email to staff, he said.

The proposed 120-unit condo and town-home development by New Urban West on the former General Motors training site is in the early stage of the city development application process, and Forbes said board members have not been asked to review the project yet, although the developer has met with some board members.

Geisenheimer said she has been meeting with New Urban West Senior Vice President Tom Zanic since January.

Geisenheimer met with the developer at this point in the process “to know what’s coming into the Rancho,” she said.

The other Rancho Review Board members are Harry McWatters, Robert Mills, Noreen Reardon, Bill Smith, Maureen Stratton and Ann Marie Tengan.
 
 

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