Downey's selling points

Dear Editor:As I always do, when I talk about Downey with people from other places in L.A., I get the sense that one of the main problems with our city is basically image and identity. Most people really have no idea where Downey is, or what it's about, the people that live there, the community, etc. I find that a lot of people consider this area to be "ghetto." Of course, we all know that it's not, but the fact is that that's the perception, coupled with an urban environment that seems to sprawl at times with no specific direction and intent (I'm talking about design), I believe hinders the possibility of getting high quality investments into the city. So what I propose is that we look at the possibility of rebranding the city, just as you would a clothing brand or any other consumer product. Downey needs to connect with an image. I believe it's difficult to attract high-end investments when we aren't putting an image out there of the city that calls for that. I feel like we need to make the city look diverse, cultured, artistic, historic, energetic, colorful, young, vibrant, urban, etc. (add in more as you want). By showcasing the elements of our city history that make it unique, (neighborhoods, architecture, 50's, 60's, churches) and combining that with the youthful and colorful nature of the present day, (kids, skateboarding, full grown trees, portraits of people, diversity, different foods, events, families, etc.) I think we can show off Downey in a very unique way that separates us from surrounding cities and makes us attractive again. Think about what a coffee table book on Downey would look like: well-designed, artistic, colorful, detailed. It would connect with the past... but have a major emphasis on the present. You don't need paragraphs and paragraphs of text. Pictures and the emotional connection you can make with a good photo is worth more than line and line of text. Example: a photo showing the texture of an old brick wall. Not super exciting, but when laid out next to a wider shot of the building, you make a more physical connection with the place, a deeper level of connection. The general feeling I'm getting from traveling around L.A. and in other places is that everything old is new again. There is a newfound appreciation for the past, because people are realizing how unique it is. That's what Downey has, and it needs to showcase it, protect it and take advantage of it. I know its not an easy task, and we are trying. However, I recently received a brochure from the Downey Chamber of Commerce about doing business in Downey. Maybe you have seen it or not, but I think it does not serve the purpose of showcasing our city well. It's bland, it's not artistic, it's boring, it doesn't excite or show anything important. It just doesn't do a good job of selling the city, and at the end of the day, that's pretty much what it comes down to. I know many people don't realize the importance of good design, and are really oblivious to it, but let me tell you, it does make a huge difference. We live in a designed environment, and the appearances put forth by those designs affect our psychology, whether it's consciously or unconsciously. Very simple example: the streetlight banners advertising the Farmers Market, black text on a blue background. Bad design, hard to read, bad color choices for high contrast. Most good graphic designers would not make that mistake. Well, anyway, I'm not writing to give a design lesson, my point is that design in the communication of information is very important and we need to take notice of that, and fix those issues. I don't think it takes more money, just a bit of awareness. Lastly, I will once again reiterate how much I feel like tearing down the Avenue Theatre in favor of housing is a huge missed opportunity to bring entertainment and art and culture into our city. I really hope that there is something that can be done here to find suitable investors to take over that property and create what the downtown area really needs, entertainment! I know they are out there and we shouldn't rush into things, because we're going to have to live with these buildings for some time. I feel like there are other places in our downtown area that could be used for housing. Everyone I talk to says the same thing. Thanks for reading, and sorry for rambling. - George Manzanilla, Downey ********** Published: March 6, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 46