City chooses firm to create new downtown plan

DOWNEY - An Irvine planning firm was hired by the City Council this week to prepare a specific plan and environmental impact report in anticipation of redevelopment of Downtown Downey.The new specific plan to be drafted by Hogle-Ireland will supersede the Downtown Plan adopted by the Council in 2001, which set specific district boundaries and established development standards for downtown in the hopes of creating a unique shopping and cultural district. City officials at Tuesday's City Council meeting admitted, however, that the 2001 Downtown Plan worked only "with limited success." The new specific plan will address those issues while the environmental impact report will pave the way for redevelopment downtown. The Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday to appropriate $325,000 for the new plan. Mayor Pro Tem Anne Bayer dissented, saying the process was "moving too fast." Hogle-Ireland was one of nine planning firms to submit proposals for a new downtown plan. The proposal should become publicly viewable next week after a contract is signed, said Gilbert Livas, deputy city manager for community development. Hogle-Ireland proposed an 8-month schedule, according to a city staff report. The schedule includes a kick-off meeting where specific tasks will be clarified and undefined "community outreach." In a scope of work document presented to the city, Hogle-Ireland said it plans two presentations with "interested citizens, city leaders and local stakeholders" to gain feedback on issues facing the downtown. In other action, the City Council: •Held a public hearing on a proposed application seeking $695,825 for Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds, as established by Congress last year to help communities deal with the influx of abandoned and foreclosed homes. City officials plan to use the money to demolish the Verizon building in Downtown Downey. Any leftover funds may be used to demolish other buildings or acquire bank-owned properties for a "land banking" program, said housing manager Ed Velasco. "Such activity will only be considered if there are remaining…funds which have not been incurred on demolition projects," Deputy City Manager Gilbert Livas wrote in a staff report. •Held a public hearing confirming the 2009-10 fiscal year assessment for Lighting and Landscaping Assessment District 121. •Approved various warrants totaling $3.1 million. •Approved the loan of the city's show mobile to the Downey Police and Fire Foundation, which plan a June 28 car show at Downey High School. The Foundation provides financial support to personnel and college scholarships to their dependent children. •Approved payment of $103,883 in back rent to the Downey Unified School District for the use of classrooms at Rio San Gabriel and Gallatin elementary schools from 2005-09. The city had agreed to rent the classrooms for its daycare program beginning in 2005, but an apparent mix-up delayed the district in billing the city until now. •Declared its intention to dissolve Vehicle Parking District No. 1. The District was created by the City Council in 1961-62 as a means of authorizing the acquisition of land for public parking purposes in accordance with state law. A public hearing was set for July 14. •Approved on a 4-1 vote a $30,000 contract with Pyro Spectaculars for a fireworks display July 4 at the Discovery Sports Complex. Bayer dissented and expressed apprehension at the cost involved and city staff's ability to coordinate such an event in only three weeks' time. The fireworks show will be musically choreographed and last 20 minutes. Per the deal, Pyro Spectaculars agreed to provide general liability insurance and transportation insurance ($1 million and $5 million, respectively) while the city will provide security as required by the local fire authority. •Amended the contract between the city of Downey and the board of administration of the California Public Employees' Retirement System to reflect the recently-approved labor agreements with various bargaining units. •On a 4-1 vote, agreed to host a joint study session with the Planning Commission regarding parking requirements when additions are made to a home. Under current city law, a homeowner must add additional parking space when increasing the size of their home by 50 percent or more. While trying to add a 440-sq. ft. kitchen and patio addition to his 880-sq. ft. home last year, Councilman Luis Marquez said he was informed he would need to add a 2-car garage. The rule unfairly punishes owners of smaller homes, he argued. "I just want to see if the 50 percent (threshold) works," said Marquez, who made clear that he already completed the addition to his home. "Not everything is apples to apples." Councilman David Gafin, a former planning commissioner, said he would be against revising the code, arguing that larger homes could increase parking problems citywide. "You can call it a den, a family room, a TV room, whatever you want, but that's not going to stop people from putting bunk beds in there," he said. Mayor Mario Guerra dissented on hosting a joint study session with the Planning Commission. He said it was the Commission's "job to deal with these types of issues." •Established a fine schedule for violators of the city's sign ordinance. Residents and businesses illegally displaying signs on public property and right-of-ways will be subject to a $250 fine for the first offense, $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for a third offense. The city can also recoup money from damage caused to public property by illegal signs. The next regular meeting of the Downey City Council will be June 23 at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.

********** Published: June 12, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 8