Collapse of auto industry in Downey

Dear Editor:Casa de Gonzalez at Studebaker Road and Florence Avenue is among the 1,100 dealers GM announced they are closing. Earlier this year the Ford dealership at Lakewood and Gallatin closed. The year before that the Lincoln-Mercury dealership across the street closed. The used car dealership along Firestone Boulevard near Old River School Road recently closed. The Pontiac dealership next door may also close. If it does, that leaves a vacant parcel nearly a quarter-mile in length from Old River to All-American Home Center. If the Chrysler dealership on Firestone near Woodruff Avenue closes, that will leave the city of Downey with only Toyota and Nissan dealerships at either end of Firestone Boulevard, and a handful of independent used car lots scattered throughout the city. Clearly, Downey's automobile industry is near collapse. This is an economic crisis facing the city that is equivalent to what we confronted with the collapse of the aerospace industry in the early 1990's. The city reacted fairly well to the aerospace collapse by acquiring the Boeing plant and redeveloping it, although with only moderate financial success to date. What is the City Council doing about the collapse of the auto industry and the vacant parcels left all over the city in the aftermath? I recommend that Council consider creation of a city-wide redevelopment zone taking in all former and current automobile dealers and develop these underutilized parcels to their highest, best use in generation of retail sales tax. How ironic that Firestone Boulevard, the major thoroughfare in our city, was named after the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company plant located near Alameda Boulevard to the west, when the southeast area of Los Angeles County was thriving with automobile manufacturers and dealers. Now all we have left as a symbol of that once great local industry is a Bob's Big Boy under construction which will end up being nothing more than a place for a generation past to gather, show off their vintage cars and talk about the "good old days." But if the City Council is proactive and doesn't squander resources in the perpetual redevelopment of Downtown Downey, something better may come of the collapse of the automobile industry in our city. - Brian Heyman, Downey

********** Published: May 22, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 5