Plans to restore a natural streambed in Burbank got the go-signal June 4 from the Burbank City Council. "The Johnny Carson Park demonstrates how a renovation can be a model of sustainable design," said Burbank mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy, "In the old days, you plant as much grass as you can and water the heck out of it. In the 21st century, we can rethink our use of water, energy and irrigation to work within nature."
In a vote of 4-1 in favor of the project, the council approved conceptual plans for the park's upgrades, which include restoring an 885-foot storm water channel into a natural creek, treating more urban runoff locally rather than having it drain to the Los Angeles River.
A key decision was to fund the balance of the project with money from the Youth Endowment Services Fund. "It can only be used to benefit the youth," said Gabel-Luddy. With improvements also planned for the children's play area and exercise zones, the council felt it a good use of the money.
As previously reported, the project was initially budgeted at $5 million. However, those funds were lost with the dissolution of the community redevelopment agency in the area. In response, the city trimmed the cost of the project and had applied for multiple grants. The city has received a few positive responses including $1.788 million from California Natural Resources Agency and $ 283,630 in state grants.
A lone dissenting vote came from Vice Mayor Dr. David Gordon. "The high cost for full stream restoration, an educational program, and relocating one of the park's public restrooms, does not include any funding for even a single public parking space on or closely accessible to the grounds," writes Gordon in an email. Gordon notes that the only parking spots available are at the nearby St. Joseph's Hospital or at a shared-use parking near Providence High School. Gabel-Luddy counters the concern by pointing out that many of the park's constituents are residents or nearby office workers who simply walk to the park instead of drive.
The Vice Mayor also adds that the project was once bid out to cost only $2.5 million, but subsequent reviews had increased the project cost to $5 million. After the redevelopment agencies had shuttered, its estimate went down to about $3.5 million in response to tightening budgets. Gordon worries that in restoring the streambed and upgrading the park, the city might be spending more than what's needed.
According to Johnathan Frank of the city's Park, Recreation and Community Services Department, construction activities are expected to begin sometime in Spring 2014.