The following story appeared in the Park Labrea News and Beverly Press 70th Anniversary issue, published April 21. To view the entire issue, click here.
Park La Brea’s director of resident services John Burney, a native of Glastonbury, Conn., fell in love with Los Angeles during a visit in 1981 during his final year at Boston-based Emerson College.
He and a group of students stayed at the Beverly Laurel Hotel on Beverly Boulevard and Burney said he got a glimpse of the good life in the Fairfax District and the surrounding neighborhoods.
“The trip was great. We went to CBS Television City and got into tapings of shows like ‘Happy Days,’ ‘Laverne & Shirley’ and ‘Three’s Company.’ I compare it to Dorothy arriving at Oz. To see CBS where all these shows were made was amazing to me,” Burney said. “We spent a month here and as soon as I graduated, I moved back. It was partly the weather and partly career driven. This is where I have been ever since.”
Burney studied communications, with an emphasis in radio and television. He didn’t land a job in the field, however, and instead first worked as a door man at the former Odyssey Nightclub at Beverly and La Cienega Boulevards and later as a waiter and manager at the Old Spaghetti Factory on Sunset Boulevard. Both were iconic places in the local neighborhood, and Burney said he is proud to have been part of those pieces of Hollywood’s history.
Burney said he also pursued a career in front of the camera and landed a spot as a dancer on “American Bandstand” in the mid-1980s.
“It was a big deal back then, even if you were just a dancer,” he said. “I was just open to being here and experiencing whatever I could do. I did some commercials and was just going with the flow. From there, I just began focusing on what I was going to be doing with the rest of my life.”
In the late 1980s, Burney landed a job in commercial property management and said he found his niche. A few years later, he answered a help wanted ad in the Los Angeles Times and was hired by Forest City, the company that owned Park La Brea at the time.
“I started in the leasing office. The property changed hands in 1995 and is [now] owned by Prime Residential, but I’ve been here since 1990,” Burney added. “This neighborhood is very important to me. It’s really the center of Los Angeles.”
As director of resident services for Park La Brea, Burney takes care of residents’ needs. He said it includes everything from working directly with tenants and scheduling repairs, to coordinating with vendors and the complex’s staff, and helping out in the activities center.
“It’s a well-rounded job that is exciting every day,” Burney said. “The relationships I build are really valuable. I think the relationships, in some respect, helped educate me and gave me a good background in different cultures. It helps me appreciate what Los Angeles and the people have to offer.”
Burney added that he loves the diversity at Park La Brea, which is the largest apartment community this side of the Mississippi River. The complex is home to 11,000 people.
“It’s very rewarding to work at a place that people call home and are comfortable in their setting,” Burney said. “Everyone comes together at Park La Brea.”
Burney has also lived at Park La Brea since 1990 and has seen the surrounding neighborhood change over the years. He serves as a liaison between the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Park La Brea to inform residents about the Purple Line Extension project construction that is now underway. Burney also plans to get more involved with the Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce – a group for which he is currently a board member – to facilitate more positive changes in the community.
“I am really excited about the future of this neighborhood,” Burney said. “Part of what’s unique is that it is one of the best walking neighborhoods in L.A. It’s a great community and the changes have been well-planned. I want to be a part of what the future holds for this community.”
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