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Talk of the Town: Burbank city manager makes huge blunder

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Photo: FLLewis / Media City G -- Burbank City Manager Mark Scott at community meeting about the Talaria Mixed-Use Project at the Buena Vista Library in Burbank September 11, 2014

Photo: FLLewis / Media City G — Burbank City Manager Mark Scott at community meeting about the Talaria Mixed-Use Project at the Buena Vista Library in Burbank September 11, 2014

Burbank City Manager Mark Scott is supposed have his finger on the pulse of the city and know how local government operates. Before coming to Burbank in August of 2013, Scott “worked in the city management profession for more than 35 years, including 24 years as a city manager in 5 cities” according to his bio on the Burbank city website.  So a lot of folks were shocked, amazed, and some even speechless last Friday, when Scott abruptly revoked the installation of one-hour temporary parking restrictions on the north side of the 3400 block of Magnolia Boulevard — overruling a decision made by the Traffic Commission at its September 18 meeting. Scott’s action rumbled through the city like an earthquake and the aftershocks are still being felt.

A parking dispute involving the merchants on that block has grown bitter and ugly over the past few months. After hearing complaints from some of those shop owners at an August 12, 2014 council meeting, Scott said: “We can look at the one hour. We can talk about whether it benefits to stripe the street. .. we’ll be talking about how best to look at the enforcement out there and the police department is very ready and prepared to engage in that dialogue. So we’ll do all those things as quickly as we can.”

Photo: FLLewis / Media City G -- Burbank Traffic Commission meeting September 18, 2014

Photo: FLLewis / Media City G — Burbank Traffic Commission meeting September 18, 2014

As part of the process, the dispute and the issues surrounding it were discussed by the Traffic Commission last month on August 28 and at a second meeting on September 18. I attended the latter. Before a vote was taken on a test of the one-hour parking restrictions on the north side of the 3400 block of Magnolia Boulevard, the commissioners had some questions. They asked traffic engineer, Ken Johnson, if special notification had been given to all those involved for this second meeting. Johnson explained that at the August meeting, parties had been made aware that the parking issues would be discussed further at the commission’s September meeting.

Photo: FLLewis / Media City G -- Traffic engineer Ken Johns delivered a report at the Traffic Commission meeting at 150 North Third Street Burbank September 18, 2014

Photo: FLLewis / Media City G — Traffic engineer Ken Johnson delivered a report before the Traffic Commission meeting at 150 North Third Street Burbank September 18, 2014

Also, the commissioners asked about a petition. Johnson said he had not received a petition in support of the one-hour parking limit on that block. However, antique shop owner, Charlotte Carpenter Lewis, told the commission there was a petition and it had been sent to City Hall officials and had been mentioned in an August 15 article of the Burbank Leader. Ten of the 13 merchants reportedly signed the petition.

Photo: FLLewis / Media City G -- Miss Charlotte's Vintage owner, Charlotte Carpenter Lewis spoke in favor of one-hour parking limit at Traffic Commission meeting Burbank September 18, 2014

Photo: FLLewis / Media City G — Miss Charlotte’s Vintage owner, Charlotte Carpenter Lewis spoke in favor of one-hour parking limit at Traffic Commission meeting Burbank September 18, 2014

Lewis, owner of Miss Charlotte’s Vintage, 3429 West Magnolia Boulevard, agreed to Johnson’s request for a copy of the petition to be emailed to him the next morning.  Also, Johnson says that as a general policy, his department goes ahead with a parking change if at least 75 percent of the people on a block sign a petition requesting it. Satisfied with the answers, the commission took a vote and passed the temporary one-hour parking restriction (4-2) with the understanding it would come back for review in 60 days.

Photo: FLLewis / Media City G -- 3400 block of West Magnolia Boulevard Burbank August 7, 2014

Photo: FLLewis / Media City G — 3400 block of West Magnolia Boulevard Burbank August 7, 2014

On Thursday, September 25, Burbank Police parking supervisor, Nancy La Prath, went door to door on the north side of the 3400 block of Magnolia Boulevard letting the merchants know that the temporary one-hour parking signs would be going up in front of their businesses the next morning. Now, this is where things get weird. I’m told by several shop owners the temporary signs went up and then were taken down before noon on Friday, September 26.

I heard later, the Traffic Commission had been overruled by the city manager who reportedly was “inundated” with calls objecting to the temporary signs. Hmm, 10 of the 13 merchants on the block signed a petition supporting the one-hour. So who called or contacted Scott to object? Were they merchants from the block? Some of the many questions Scott needs to answer.

I emailed Scott about all of this and he revealed”…  I had not been aware that the Traffic Commission had even heard the matter.  If the meeting was properly noticed, then we will proceed with the sign change.” Scott went on to say, “No one was sure, and the Traffic Engineer is out of the country for 2 weeks.” True, Johnson is on vacation.

Decisions about parking signs and restrictions are made by the Traffic Commission on a regular basis, however, it apparently never occurred to Scott to check with the commission chair, Rebecca Granite-Johnson, about the Magnolia Boulevard sign change. Hmm. Is the city manager ignorant of how the process works in Burbank and if so, should he have not investigated first before canceling those new parking signs? In a later email Scott admitted his huge blunder “… afraid this was handled poorly and I am sorry for that.”

Frequently, city officials, including city council members, tell residents to go through the process of first taking an issue, complaint or plan to the proper department or commission or board or committee. In this case, a top official, the city manager, derailed the process. By doing so, Scott has damaged confidence in the city’s commissions, boards, and committees. The city council needs to take action to restore that confidence, first by  reinstating the temporary parking signs and secondly, by making sure one city official is never able to undermine the process like this again.

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18 Responses to Talk of the Town: Burbank city manager makes huge blunder

  1. Mag Park Reader Monday, September 29, 2014 at 6:19 pm #

    Scott, like Amelia Albano, is a ludicrous buffoon. No wonder we hired them….

  2. Fronnie Monday, September 29, 2014 at 6:25 pm #

    Mag Park Reader,

    Hired him at a salary of nearly $300,000 a year.

  3. Mag Park Reader Monday, September 29, 2014 at 6:41 pm #

    Yep. And, as a thin-skinned, incompetent whiner (like Amelia, Bric, Jess and Emily), Scott fits the preferred-hire profile perfectly. Vote ’em out, folks, and hope the new regime cans our clown CA & CM

  4. Burbank Bill Wednesday, October 1, 2014 at 8:41 pm #

    I disagree about the 1 hour parking. The overszealous ticket cops work like clockwork ticketing parents in front of schools and our streets on sweeping days. Ever been to W Hollywood or Santa Monica? they chalk the tires all the time.. No reason it cant happen on Magnolia. As for Mr Scott, I agree with you . Everyone has growing pains in a new job. Time and time again,howver, the CM has lamely apologized for screwups,no follow ups, no noticing, no taping of meetings, etc. For a city that never shies from a lawsuit,they should sue the headhunter for the fee that placed Scott here in the first place!

  5. Kevin Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

    Burbank Bill. Setting aside process or failure on the part of Scott for a moment. There are 13 businesses on the north side of the 3400 block of Magnolia. Ten of them wanted a 1 hour restriction. That is 76%. They took their concerns to City Council who then quite rightly passed the matter to the Traffic Commission for consideration. The Traffic Commission met twice on the matter and heard from merchants all along Magnolia on the subject. The tradition is that when a petition reaches a super majority of 75% then a change is made. The Traffic Commission questioned staff and debated the matter. Even members of the Commission who think that a one hour restriction is not a good idea agreed that we should trust the merchants whose livelihoods are at stake to have some clue as to what is best for them. The Commission voted 4 to 2 for a two month trial of the one hour restriction. So, while it is swell that you have an opinion about the one hour limit, possibly you could see your way clear to the two month trial period and find out if it has improved anything for the merchants on the block? Do be aware that there is a large business there called Romancing The Bean. No knocks on them for having a successful business. But apparently they were permitted as a retail space and not as a restaurant (which would have demanded that they have parking). The most cursory of look inside Romancing the Bean would tell your that they simply are a restaurant, and slipped by the parking requirement in some odd way or another. Oh, and the Police have made a renewed commitment to enforce parking restrictions in Magnolia Park.

  6. Fronnie Friday, October 3, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    Kevin,

    Good point about Romancing the Bean. That restaurant is continuing to flourish and draw customers. That’s cool. Only problem, as you mentioned, Bean was allowed into the block WITHOUT THE REQUIRED CUSTOMER PARKING. City officials made that mistake and need to correct it. The Bean owner needs to “own up” to the situation and make arrangements for some customer parking in nearby lots. I hear permits for the city run lots can be purchased at $50 a month.

  7. Kevin Friday, October 3, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

    Fronnie,

    There is no way the city is going to force Romancing the Bean to do anything. It simply is not going to happen. There is a sizable public parking lot just across the street from them available any day except Sunday (it belongs to the church) with a 2 hour parking restriction. That restriction could readily be upped to 3 hour.

    The PROBLEM is that it is illegal for pedestrians to cross at Lima. And the only solution that the city will remotely consider is to put in a light. Which would mean three lights in a row. Which does not trouble me, but Magnolia is both a major thoroughfare from N Hollywood to Downtown Burbank and a pedestrian shopping destination in Magnolia park.

    The other problem in the Park is that the signage for the parking lots are inadequate. The Traffic Commission is chasing the Traffic Dept to change that.

    Oh, and if we can get Bank of America to open its parking to the public on Sundays, that would be cool.

  8. Fronnie Friday, October 3, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    Kevin,

    I’m not so sure the city cannot and will not “encourage” the Bean to do something. The restaurant’s permits can be called up for review if the problem spirals out of control. At least one council member has voiced some concerns about aspects of the restaurant’s operation. I agree, there is nearby parking in the church lot and side street parking. And making a deal with Bank of America about sharing its lot with the public is an excellent idea.

  9. Kevin Friday, October 3, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    Oh, and if I did not make the point clear: Romancing the Bean does not need to make arrangements for customer parking in local free public lots. Those lots are free local and public. There is no reason that the Bean would buy permits for anything except its employees who need to park for longer periods.

    I repeat. The crossing needs to be made legal and safe, The signage needs to be improved. The duration of the lot could be upped to 3 hour.

    The Bean has a sign referencing the lot, but it could be more effective.

  10. Kevin Friday, October 3, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    Fronnie,

    There is not one chance in a million that the city will force the Bean to do anything.

    The bean is good for the Park and the city, as a business. It is good for the other merchants as a draw. Its only delinquency is its parking. The only resolution to that is to drive it out of the Park to some store front that has parking.

    Never going to happen.

    It would wipe out all the pros of having the Bean there at all, and they are many.

    No. Maintain the one hour parking on the block, install the light, improve signage, possibly up the lot to 3 hours.

  11. Fronnie Friday, October 3, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

    Kevin,

    Businesses often buy the permits for use in city public lots to provide unlimited parking for either employees and or customers. The Bean has a problem with some of its customers wanting to park longer than the 2-hour limit.

    Let’s be clear, the Bean is the little coffee house on Magnolia Boulevard. It’s not Porto’s — which is the really the big draw in Magnolia Park.

  12. Kevin Friday, October 3, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

    Fronnie,

    You are telling me things I already know.

    Yes, businesses buy permits to allow their employees to park for extended periods. We can stop debating that. It is not the point.

    I know that the Bean draws customers that park for over an hour, and for over two hours. You saw me speak for and vote for a one hour limit on the 3400 block, to ease the issue for the other businesses there. I don’t know why you want to persuade me of a view that I already hold.

    The Bean has no especial duty to buy permits in lots for its customers. They got their license to open there and I see no point in a fist fight. I want to find a solution that serves everyone. If we keep the limit in the lot to 2 hour, that would be in keeping with the limits around most of the rest of the Park.

    If we stretch it to 3 hours, that MUST resolve the issue for the long term sitters at the Bean. But we need the light and the signs. Not hard to do, I’d say.

    The Bean may seem small, but it is huge compared to the businesses elsewhere on the block. I’d dare say that much of the day that the Bean has five customers inside for all the other shops combined. That said, THEY DRAW PEOPLE TO THAT BLOCK.

    As for Porto’s, what of it? They are well down the way, they have skads of their own parking, the real problem with Porto’s is that they have a lot of employees who do not park in Porto’s lot. Hopefully Porto’s will be buying permits under DWP’s power lines.

  13. Mag Park Reader Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at 7:47 am #

    Crossing Magnolia at Lima–or ANY intersection–is perfectly legal, whether signaled or not.

  14. Fronnie Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at 11:59 am #

    Mag Park Reader,

    Well, there’s a don’t cross sign at Magnolia Blvd and Lima Street. Also, I think the concern is that without a signal of some sort — there might be accidents — even if pedestrians are in a crosswalk.

  15. Gramma Linda Friday, October 10, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

    Fronnie, you’re the talk of the town at my mothers church. my mom lives on Avon by Magnolia. We love to walk down and shop . After living here for over TWENTY YEARS, my mother knows everyone!! What’s up with the restaurant on the 3400 block of magnolia NOW? This is more than bizarre. We read in the Burbank Leader that it was legal to approve restaurants without parking for a few years. What craziness is that? It’s legal to break rules and do a lot of things, but not in every single situation. Something is up with this. There are handfuls of stores on this block. It’s an “old fashioned” busy block! The paper said only “ONE” city council guy voted against it. Were not into politics but, do the other ” FOUR” council people need there heads examined? We personally know seven merchants down there. The owners of the restaurant tries to intimidate them. THEY ALL TOLD US not to tell anyone! One guy is open till 10:00 P.M. Sometimes even “Later”, when we walk. What does that tell you? FAIR PLAY FOR SMALL BUSINESS?WHAT EVER HAPPENED BEING “FAIR AND HONEST TO PEOPLE” ???

  16. michael p. Monday, October 13, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    fronnie,
    after reading your articles & responses about the parking fiasco on the 3400 block of magnolia blvd. I realized the city has lost sight of the small business owners in our city. Their non-responsive attitude is unfair to small mom and pop stores,Their favoritism for selected businesses by friendship or whatever is not right! This Kevin who blogs on top of blog with all respect, seams to be out of touch with this parking CRISIS. Don’t people get it? Theres only “10” parking spots available on the 3400 block on Magnolia Blvd. for everybody. If Romancing The Bean has 15 to 35 customers at anytime, where are they parking? You know everybody likes to park as close to their destination as they can.What about the DOZEN businesses already on the block who need this parking? With parking already a mess, the city now allows an “ADDITIONAL DOZEN CUSTOMERS” to lounge at “tables and chairs” OUTSIDE! How could they approve “MORE SEATING for an already Huge Restaurant taking up all the minimal parking?The BEAN has 2000 sq. ft. With the city requiring “ONE” parking spot for every 100 sq. ft.! The city figured no big deal!Well it is a “BIG DEAL”! Where do the BEANS EMPLOYEES PARK? The restaurant only has “Two parking spots”! The majority of store owners on the 3400 block voted for One hour parking. The signs were installed at 7:30 A.M. 3 HRS. later they were removed and the old “TWO hour parking signs were re-installed. All on the same day! How can this happen? Now the ONE hour signs are posted again on a trial basis. Such a struggle to take tiny steps forward minimizing the impact of this decision. This entire episode has created a devide with the ” Magnolia Park Merchants Association and a lot of merchants.The city council and traffic commission sent us to them for resolution.The magnolia park merchants association feels this is not their ” Responsibility and has ” ZERO OUTREACH” to us. They are dismisives at best and discuss it only behind closed doors (the owner of romancing the bean is on the board! Dare we wonder if anyone is comfortable speaking up on our behalf).Thus, we will move forward to unite the ANTIQUE & RETRO DEALERS. Magnolia antique row is still “STRONG” and you will find TWELVE of us on the the ANTIQUE RETRO SHOPPERS MAP & MORE TO COME!

  17. Sonia Rasmarian Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

    As a longtime resident of Burbank this is the first time I’ve seen so much animosity amongst the small business owners particularly on the 3400 block of Magnolia Blvd. The owner of Romancing the Bean developed over the years a reputation of being rude with both customers (see Yelp feedback) as well as her neighbors. Since the opening of her new venture, Romancing the Bean, she ‘donated’ her time to creating an atmosphere of hater and takes pleasure in creating small groups with the idea of “divide and conquer”.
    I have the habit of going at least once a week to various stores and sometimes I end up buying something in support of the community. While it is true that over the years the old Magnolia Antiques Row became more of a Magnolia Vintage Clothing Row, the business owners used to have a good relationship often helping each other. Now, when I go into a store on Magnolia Blvd. I see sad faces and business owners concerned with their state of affairs. No longer the smiling people I used to know but a new group afraid of being reprimanded. Many antique dealers expressed major concerns regarding their business or lack off while wondering how one person was able to obtain the approval to open a restaurant of 2,000 square feet with only three parking spots. This number doesn’t address her employees since some if not all of them also require a parking spot. Why did the City Council approve this when earlier, many other prospective restaurant owners were turned down? What makes Kerry Krull so powerful to even send people letters of Cease and Desist? Who is this Kerry Krull besides being a manipulative person, ruthless and with no conscience?
    I must confess that I went to her restaurant couple of times in the past and I was surprised of her outrageous prices for this neighborhood. The quality of the food is OK but the coffee is by far worse than the one sold in the little coffee shop on Lima Street.
    Bottom line, I am hoping that all merchants on Magnolia Blvd. will get along and put aside their personal issues. Everyone wants to survive in this tough economy and we as customers, must encourage them and support them by buying from them. Most importantly, let’s make sure to go to elections on November and change the aphetic City Council with a more dynamic group with whom Mr. Gordon can make a difference in our city. ….and I was mssing the point I meant to addreess: the City Manager is a real joke but the joke is on us since he gets paid with our money. Has he made any changes recently in this city besides the parking limits (lol)?

  18. Fronnie Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 12:52 am #

    Sonia,

    In November, candidates will be able to pull their nominating papers for the Burbank Primary Election on February 24, 2015. There will be two city council seats on the ballot along with three board of education seats. April 14, 2015 is the Burbank General Election.

    On November 4, 2014 there will be a Gubernatorial Election. No Burbank city offices will be on that ballot.

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