City Council Decides on 9 Requests for "Pipeline" Exemption From IDCO
It was another late night for City Council members and the community as nine homeowners/developers/builders requested that their project be considered "in the pipeline" prior to the March 10, 2015 implementation of the IDCO. This is a very important issue because the IDCO does eliminate a number of the "loopholes" that would push many of these projects over the maximum .40 FAR limit and force them to comply with some of the new setback requirements. The IDCO does allow for the exemption for projects that were "in the pipeline" prior to March 10th. As best I can describe, "being in the pipeline" means that a project was already substantially under way before the IDCO deadline, evidenced by things like almost complete floor plans, payment of the plan check fees to the city or a paper trail of communication with a city planner on a particular project. Unfortunately 6 out of the 9 applicants had not paid their plan check fees until after the IDCO cut off date was announced. This makes determining "pipeline properties" a rather arduous task.
After downloading the Staff Report and spending two hours trying to read through almost a dozen additional attachments prior to the City Council meeting I was overwhelmed. In my five minute "public comment" segment, I suggested to City Council that trying to evaluate 9 applications in one sitting was in my opinion an impossible task, especially because staff had not made specific recommendations either way on ANY of the projects in their written report. I encouraged them to NOT vote on any of the projects until staff had time to better vet each applicant and perhaps to limit the "hearings" to no more than three properties at one time. Many members of Preserve Burbank and the community spoke against granting "pipeline" status and all nine property owners or builders were there to plead their cases in a very limiting "5 minute public comment" format.
Long story made short, City Council DID go forward and for hours discussed the validity of each project and asked staff many questions about dates of submissions, dates on plans, dates on emails and any other records the city might have as to how recently a project had been submitted and how much detail (close to completion) they were. Although it was never stated in the staff report, it became relatively apparent that staff felt all the projects had merit for "pipeline status," even if they couldn't really produce solid evidence.
In my personal opinion, City Council did an impressive job of looking at each project and deciding whether to grant "pipeline status" for each. At times the questions and some of staff's answers were very confusing. I still think more work should have been done by staff with more specific recommendations made before presenting to council, but that's just my opinion. In the end, and don't quote me on this as it was really confusing, (as always you are welcome to watch the entire City Council meeting by clicking on this link: http://burbank.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=29&clip_id=6784 ) the council appears to have rejected two properties from "pipeline status." One of these two projects was being proposed by someone who had not actually closed escrow on the property prior to the IDCO and the other could not produce anything resembling complete floor plans or drawings. Five of the properties were granted "pipeline" status and are thus exempted from the IDCO and two properties had motions to grant "pipeline status" but did not receive a majority vote. After some really strange directions from the City Attorney it was decided that these two applicants should come back at a later date with more evidence to support their appeal for "pipeline status."
So, what does this mean? It appears there will be at least 5 more large homes going up in Burbank. Two more will get a second shot at "pipeline status." In addition, it was mentioned that there are at least five more properties seeking "pipeline status" so there will be more hearings. Although I can't help but feel sad that these properties got approved, I will admit that, in my opinion, City Council did their job and used good judgment with these applicants. I'll keep you posted as things progress.