A look at Community Development

DOWNEY - The City of Downey's Community Development Department is responsible for the orderly and organized development of all property in Downey. The department is also charged with expanding the local economy and facilitating development that improves the quality of life for Downey residents and stakeholders.Community Development's primary responsibilities include attracting and supporting Downey businesses, coordinating the review of new development projects, ensuring new construction in Downey is safe and secure, and providing programs to improve and expand the supply of residential and commercial property. To carry out its mandate, the Community Development Department is organized into four divisions, each with distinct and individual responsibilities. The Building and Safety Division is responsible for the safety and security of all buildings in Downey. This division reviews plans for new construction and rehabilitation of property, including large commercial and manufacturing projects and smaller residential projects. Building and Safety also delivers inspection services and coordinates the building permit process with other City departments to assure that all construction complies with current building codes. The Economic Development Division oversees Downey's efforts to expand the local economy. This includes supporting current businesses and attracting new ones. Economic Development gets directly involved in specific and strategic projects such as the redevelopment and reuse of the former NASA site. Additionally, Economic Development administrates business expansion programs such as the Taste of Downey and supports the Downey Chamber of Commerce's activities. Economic Development has recently begun a more active role in marketing and positioning Downey as a great place to do business by undertaking a branding initiative and helping to secure Downey as a finalist for the Most Business Friendly City award for Los Angeles County. Economic Development has also reworked and re-launched the Downey website and continues to administer the City of Downey's Internet presence. Downey is also a finalist for the All-America City Award, to be announced later this month. The Housing Division administers Downey's redevelopment housing funds and federal funds for both housing and community development. Housing runs an array of programs that include paint and fix-up of seniors' homes, residential rehabilitation loans and construction of residential accessibility improvements. The Housing Division also facilitates the development of affordable housing units in Downey by acquiring and clearing property, disposing of it, and providing loans to specific projects. The View Housing Project, a 50-unit project in Downtown Downey, is an example of this. Housing also administers Community Development Block Grant funds, which provide funding for parks, local public service agencies and other social services. The Community Development Department's fourth division is the Planning Division. Planning is charged with maintaining Downey's General Plan, implementing the Downey Zoning Ordinance, coordinating with outside agencies on long-term regional planning issues, all environmental review processes for projects, and staff support for the Downey Planning Commission. Additionally, Planning reviews new businesses opening in Downey to ensure the compatibility of land uses throughout the City. Planning staff also provides design review for both new and rehabilitation projects in Downey. The Community Development Department is fully committed to delivering a high level of service despite being faced with severe budget constraints over the last three or more years. Doing less with more has been the focus of the department. Community Development has reorganized its management, cross-trained staff, better utilized contract staff and cost-effectively applied new technology to the development review and permitting process. These changes have allowed Community Development to be more efficient and deliver a high level of customer service to the public. The Community Development Department continues to survey its customers to assure that service levels remain high and that changes are made to better serve Downey residents, businesses, and the general public. While operational efficiency is important, the Community Development Department is proud of the numerous recent projects it has helped facilitate in Downey. These projects include the reconstruction of the original Johnie's Broiler to its original splendor, the opening of Porto's Bakery, a new Kaiser Permanente Downey Medical Center campus, new car dealerships, Discovery Sports Complex, and an award-winning new plan for Downtown Downey that will facilitate new residential development, restaurants, with entertainment and cultural options. The Community Development Department looks forward to delivering even higher levels of service to the public in the future and playing an integral role in completing many new and exciting projects. A new Fiat and Alfa Romeo dealership on Firestone Boulevard is underway, and Downey Gateway will soon anchor Downtown Downey by providing many quality indoor and outdoor lunch and dinner options. The View Housing Project in Downtown Downey will soon provide 50 new residential units in a highly attractive and environmentally friendly building. Additionally, the Gallatin Medical Center site is poised for redevelopment, the Rives Mansion has seen recent increased usage and Stonewood Center continues to be a strong performer and will soon add a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant. Paramount Boulevard will have a new neighborhood market and a new sit-down restaurant. Staff members are now actively engaged in a rezoning and negotiation process that will transform the central 80-acres of the former NASA site into a new regional destination that will provide high quality retail, restaurants and services. The Downey Community Development Department continues to be very bullish on Downey's future. Downey abounds with many new and unique opportunities that can create a future with a better quality of life for Downey residents. The Community Development Department plans to play an active and essential role in helping to create this future.

********** Published: June 2, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 7