DOWNEY COUNCIL OPTS FOR A MODERN THEME IN ITS DOWNTOWN MAKEOVERBy Arnold Adler
Its Tuesday night actions consisted of tentative approval of ordinances changing the zone classification, general plan designation, height and density restrictions and revoking an Oct. 24, 2000, ordinance calling for an historic downtown district. Final action is expected Oct. 12.
In a written report to the council, Community Development Director Brian Saeki said the new plan will increase the downtown area from the current 80 acres to 131. New boundaries will be from Burns Avenue south of Firestone Boulevard north to Fifth Street with the Downey Civic Center, 11111 Brookshire Ave., on the east and office buildings on Paramount Boulevard on the west.
The Rives Mansion, on the northwest corner of Third Street and Paramount Boulevard, was included so it can be preserved, Saeki said. Built in the early part of the 20th century, the structure is currently vacant.
“The vision for the Downtown Downey Specific Plan is to create a pedestrian-oriented mixed use environment in which residents may live and work in the same area,” Saeki said in his report.
He said that the City Council in 2009, noting the limited success of the historic version for downtown, hired two consulting firms — Hogle-Ireland, Inc. and Urban Studio.
The revised downtown plan has been shown to various civic and residential groups in the past year and was approved on a 5-0 vote Sept. 15 by the Planning Commission.
Two residents Tuesday night voiced concerns about the western section, calling for maintaining the medical office buildings, now vacant, to avoid parking problems and traffic congestion.
Councilman Mario Guerra, a member of the council’s Downtown Subcommittee with Councilman Roger Brossmer, said parking and traffic will be considered and the office buildings could remain if a future developer so desires.
However, restaurants and apartments are needed.
“There can be no successful downtown area without people living there,” he said.
Guerra said the increased density will be eased by numerous pocket parks and a large open public area near City Hall.
He said the Rives Mansion, at the urging of many residents, was included in the plan so parking can be allowed behind the structure and allow it to be used for non-residential purposes, such as the recent Art Show there.
“I’m real excited about this, but it won’t change overnight,” he said.
Councilman Dave Gafin said “for years residents have told us we need change in the downtown area, but it’s human nature to fear change. You can’t have it both ways. This will be a drastic change, but we will modify it as we go along.”
Senior Planner Dave Blumenthal said environmental aspects such as traffic and noise have been reviewed and can be mitigated. He said noise volume is not expected to increase by more than three decibels, 72 to 75, to homes near Paramount Boulevard.
He said the downtown area has been divided into five sections as follows: