Downey turns attention to southern portion of city

DOWNEY – After significant progress in breathing life into downtown Downey, city officials are now hoping for equal success in another part of town: south Downey. 

Planning commissioners on Wednesday will hear a report on the Imperial Highway Economic Development Strategic Action Plan, a 68-page document that outlines the city’s strategy to revitalize Downey south of Imperial Highway. 

The redevelopment of the south Rancho Los Amigos campus could spur development on Downey's Imperial Highway corridor, officials said. Photo by Joan Anderson, DowneyDailyPhotos.com

The redevelopment of the south Rancho Los Amigos campus could spur development on Downey's Imperial Highway corridor, officials said. Photo by Joan Anderson, DowneyDailyPhotos.com

The plan relies heavily on a proposed $468 million redevelopment of the abandoned south campus of Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center. If the project comes to fruition, officials hope the 70-acre property could prove a catalyst to economic development in south Downey. 

Preliminary plans call for a Metro Green Line station at the site, connecting Downey and the Los Angeles region via light rail. Several L.A. County agencies currently scattered along Imperial Highway would be consolidated onto the south Rancho campus, including a Sheriff’s Department crime lab and the L.A. County Probation Department. 

Those consolidations would create more opportunities for redevelopment on Imperial Highway, officials said.

“Imperial Highway is poised to [become] a new, grand thoroughfare in Downey,” the report states. However, “the future development pattern, type, and intensity that may occur along Imperial Highway will, in large part, be influenced by the disposition of the county facilities.”

The project appears to be moving forward, with the L.A. County Board of Supervisors agreeing last August to spend $17 million on architectural plans and an environmental impact report.

Meanwhile, the strategic plan also encourages a partnership with Kaiser Permanente, which is reportedly looking to expand its medical facilities in Downey. 

“By working closely with Kaiser Permanente and the County of Los Angeles, the city will be able to forge strong partnerships that can influence the development process, leading to mutually beneficial projects,” according to the report. 

Councilman Alex Saab has been vocal in his desires to see more attention paid to south Downey. 

“I see a great level of potential in the south part of the city,” he said. “I think we need to get ahead of the curve because in the next 5-10 years, we’re going to see a great amount of growth there precipitated by the south Rancho campus.” 
 
Saab said he recently met with “a large business” that was interested in Downey, but would only consider a location on Firestone Boulevard. 

“It made me think to myself that we haven’t done a good job in marketing our south side of the city,” he said.

There are other challenges to overcome as well, according to the report, including unattractive older storefronts, apartment buildings awkwardly located next to retail strips, and vehicle traffic that travels too fast to notice entrances to local businesses.