Tarzana Residents Buy Old Garden Statuary Property Politics by Jacqueline Fox Tarzana residents deserve a standing ovation for the work they’ve done securing one of the last bastions of partial open space along Ventura Boulevard, and creating a meeting space for business groups and cultural events at the same time. The 34,220-square-foot parcel at Vanalden Avenue and The Boulevard was purchased about four years ago by Glendale-based Public Storage Inc. The company leased the property to the new owners of the business that had been there for several years, Garden Statuary of Tarzana. When the lease ran out about two and half years ago, the word in town was that Public Storage had sold the land to a drug store chain. News of a commercial project going up on a lot with six 50-year-old pine trees prompted Tarzana residents to launch a campaign to buy it. They wanted to preserve the garden space for cultural and community events and turn the existing building into the new home for the Tarzana Chamber of Commerce. So they created the Tarzana Community Foundation and began collecting funds from the state, the city and anywhere else they could get it to buy the property. All told, they managed to pick up $350,000 from the state, another $150,000 from the city and various amounts from roughly 450 private donors. In the end, the foundation paid Public Storage $1.8 billion for the land and, if you drive by this week, you’re likely to catch its director, Helen Baker, on her hands and knees scrubbing the hardwood floors of the house on the property in preparation for the chamber’s move into the new Tarzana Community Cultural Center sometime this month. “We are delighted to have this space because it was so important to the residents here to preserve the trees and the garden without making changes to the building,” Baker said. It’s a touchy issue, said Baker, because, of course, the chamber will be paying rent, as will the Tarzana Neighborhood Council, which is also expected to set up its offices there once it’s certified. And residents who helped raise funds to buy the land want to make sure those trees don’t get mowed down in the name of business interests. Public Storage meant to put a storage facility on the property, but when those plans didn’t pencil out, they put the land on the market. “We determined it was just too small and that it would have been a very long and drawn out process to get it developed,” company president Harvey Lenkin said. “So we are very pleased that it now ends up in that kind of an ownership and that the property will become home to an organization, or a group of organizations, that will benefit the community.” Breaking the Law Burbank City Manager Robert “Bud” Ovrom said his staff would recommend approval for part of the Burbank Airport’s application for security enhancements, even if it means breaking a law barring such changes without flight curfews and caps. The law, known as Measure A, has tied both the hands of the city and the airport since it was approved by a 60-percent majority of Burbank voters in 2001. The measure bars the airport from embarking on any type of expansion or renovation even security upgrades mandated in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks until the airport agrees to flight curfews, caps and other restrictions. The city filed a lawsuit challenging Measure A’s validity. However, Ovrom said the judge that was set to rule on the case June 26 was transferred to another case, putting that decision on hold until late August or beyond. The airport now says it won’t be able to meet deadlines for making the upgrades and puts the blame squarely on the city and the Measure A delay. A public statement about the issue released just one day after the airport submitted its application for a 40,000-square-foot security enhancement project suggests the city and Measure A are posing a threat to airline passengers. “Unless the city backs off the building moratorium, or the federal government steps in, we’re heading for a bad outcome for the community and the traveling public,” said Burbank Airport Authority President Chris Holden. Just the kind of thing folks need to hear as threats, bogus and otherwise, of potential terrorist attacks are becoming more frequent. The tone of the piece has raised the ire of Burbank city officials, primarily because it was the city’s council members who challenged their own residents in filing the Measure A suit. To implicate the city in a potential safety threat against passengers, said Ovrom, is simply uncalled for. “The beef I have is the criticism by the airport,” said Ovrom. “It’s misguided and it’s unfair considering what this council has done to try to invalidate that law.” Should the council approve Ovrom’s recommendation for the expansion of a baggage checkpoint inside the terminal (a 1,000-square-foot project), it would be violating Measure A. And, until a judge says otherwise, the measure is a law in its own right, even if few city and airport officials think it has little chance of holding water. But it represents a bold first step by the city, long accused by both the airport and residents of stalling airport talks and playing both sides of the fence. It also should be a sign to the airport that it has had enough bickering and is willing to take more wrath from its own citizens in order to get a plan for a badly needed replacement terminal moving again. “We have a local law conflicting with federal law, and we have to put airline safety at the top of our priority list,” said Ovrom. It’s also a test: If the city can challenge a local measure and get away with it, what’s to stop it from going ahead and approving the rest of the airport’s plans to make the airport safer. Everybody wins here. Jacqueline Fox is politics reporter for the Business Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Tarzana Residents Buy Old Garden Statuary Property