City denies request to close streets

DOWNEY - In a 4-1 decision, the City Council voted against granting the Sean Vernon Feliciano Amazing Day Foundation a street closure permit to host a 5K run/walk promoting suicide awareness and prevention, citing city policy, which prohibits such a closure.With Mayor Anne Bayer as the sole dissenting vote, the City Council did express support for the cause, but denied the permit, apprehensive that the street closure would undermine city policy and set a new precedent for such events. "I want to make this clear, I am very much in support of this event," said Councilman Roger Brossmer. "It is a very worthy cause, but we don't close streets." Councilman Mario Guerra offered similar sentiments, encouraging the non-profit organization to keep the run/walk in Downey, but seek a new route. "I want it to be something like the Arc Walk - for that we didn't have to close any streets," said Guerra. "I hope the Amazing Day Foundation will go on and do this, but I cannot support closing down streets. I hope they won't consider the location an end-all." Last year, Bob Feliciano founded the Sean Vernon Feliciano Amazing Day Foundation in memory of his late son, Sean, a Downey native, who committed suicide last March while attending UC Santa Barbara. Proposed for Saturday, September 11, 2010 to coincide with National Suicide Prevention Week, the 5K Run/Walk for Life would have started at Stonewood Center and traveled along Woodruff Avenue to East Middle School where attendees would have made a turnaround to come back to Stonewood Center. The City Council began its consideration of the organization's application at a Council meeting on Feb. 23, but delayed its decision after Councilman David Gafin requested that all impacted residents be contacted and allowed to share their views concerning the street closure. According to the city report, staff contacted 27 of the 46 residents potentially affected by the 5K run/walk. Eleven residents indicated that they supported the current city policy, while another 11 residents said they would support a change in the city policy. Another five residents needed more time to consider the issue, but never followed up with the city. Like Councilmen Brossmer, Guerra and Luis Marquez, Gafin shared his support for the organization, but would not agree to close streets for the event, which would be held from 7:30-8:30 a.m. "It's the location that's a disruption to residents," Gafin said. "I'd love to get this moved to another venue - we just cannot go against our basic policy." Currently, the city's parade/street closure policy allows "persons or organizations the opportunity to express their first amendment rights and freedom of expression," but prohibits closing city streets. Although residents and organizations can still apply for a street closure, city policy states that "no consideration may be given to the message of the event."

********** Published: April 16, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 52