City reconsiders hotel proposal after church protests

DOWNEY ‚àí The Downey Planning Commission is reconsidering a developer's proposal to construct a three-story hotel behind Calvary Chapel Downey on Woodruff Avenue after members of the nearly 13,000-person congregation voiced concerns about the commercial project last week.One by one, several representatives from the church spoke during the commission meeting last Wednesday protesting the construction of a 97-unit Hampton Inn & Suites, proposed to sit on a narrow, strip of land between the church and the 105 Freeway. Urged by city staff, the commission will review the request further and continue the public hearing on Jan. 18. After fielding questions regarding the project's specifics, property owner Mohamed Poumamdare of 4 Prairie Inc. requested the city rezone the 2.64-acre lot from residential to commercial, allowing him to market the property, which has sat vacant since the 105 Freeway was constructed in the 1980s. In 2007, Poumamdare attempted to open a self-storage facility on the property, but the city denied his request to rezone the site. Poumamdare, who owns and operates other hotel locations, said the proposed three-story hotel, which would include an outdoor pool, fitness center, and conference room, is just one of the few types of establishments that could work on the site, which is 1,200 feet deep and as narrow as 70 feet wide. Opponents to the project believe the hotel would create traffic, foster drugs and theft, and give child molesters a clear view of children playing at the church playground across the fence. Local real estate agent and Calvary Chapel board member Don Jervis expressed sincere disdain for the project during the commission meeting, which was overwhelming attended by church members. "I'm concerned for the children and worried that sex offenders can prey on our children next door. I have nothing against Mohamed," said Jervis turning to Poumamdare. "I wish him well, just not on this property." Similarly, an attorney for the 460-unit apartment complex to the eastern half of the northern border of property also believes the project is a wrong fit for the space. Howard Weinberg of Armbruster Goldsmith & Delvac. insists the city did not do enough environmental analysis of the property and that increased traffic and noise will beleaguer the neighboring communities if the hotel is approved. In a city staff report, officials did express several concerns about the proposal including the driveway of the proposed development, which might conflict with traffic on Woodruff and Adoree Street. Staff also had concerns about lighting and construction, which could serve as a nuisance for Calvary Chapel. Nonetheless, city staff did recommend the commission approve the hotel prior to Wednesday night's meeting, saying it would act as a buffer between the church and the freeway. The Planning Commission will take up the issue again and continue the public hearing on Jan. 18.

********** Published: December 15, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 35