Housing complex downtown moves closer to groundbreaking

DOWNEY – Bidding for the demolition of the old Verizon Building on Second Street to make way for the construction of the six-story 50-unit affordable housing complex referred to as ‘The View’ will commence after bid documents are finalized and distributed to interested contractors.

Demolition is scheduled to start within three to five months, say city officials, after all the necessary paperwork (specifications, proposals review, etc.) and documentation is done, and once the winning bid is sanctioned by the City Council. Then actual construction of The View will begin, either by the end of this year or the beginning of 2012.
The View is the working name for the downtown project which was awarded to the nonprofit National Community Renaissance, otherwise known as National Core.

The $20 million housing complex will boast 35 two-bedroom units (measuring some 800-850 sq. ft.) and 15 1,000-sq. ft. three-bedroom units.

It will feature, among other amenities, a 1,500-sq. ft. community room for residents, a second-level courtyard, and rooftop garden, as well as the all-important self-contained parking. Each unit will also have a private patio.

Funding for the project comes from federal, county, city and private sources. National Core’s share is $2 million, Downey’s $3 million (“not from general funds”), the county’s $2.5 million, and $10 million from federal tax credits; the balance of $2.5 million is administrative costs.

A previous estimate by National Core and city sources says a 2-bedroom unit at The View would rent for about $1,000. The prevailing market rate for such a unit normally runs about $1,400.

The pricing structure is aimed at attracting individuals and/or households with incomes in the $40,000-$60,000 range.
Councilman Mario Guerra, who along with Mayor Pro Tem Roger Brossmer constitutes the subcommittee that has husbanded the project, says it will be “the finest building in downtown Downey” but still is only one component in a series of planned revitalizations of the downtown area in an overarching context of an improved, more aesthetically-pleasing, more culturally alive, more vibrant downtown.

To give credit where credit is due, other major players who have made their imprint on the much-ballyhooed project include assistant city manager Gilbert Livas and economic development director Brian Saeki.

The project is not without its detractors. Criticisms, even outright vituperations, have greeted the coming of The View. Language ranges from the pointed “A six-story apartment building with other people’s money to enrich the developers” to the accusatory “Low income housing is not the way to revive downtown. Everybody is against this plan except for the mayor and his friends at National Core” to the outrageous, even hilarious (complete with bad spelling, bad grammar, and an even ‘badder’ attitude, “Downey is just another city that is over rated, filled with SNOBBY people who have overpriced homes to “keep” the trash out. But eventually whats going to end up happening is everyone from compton and surrounding areas will move in and it will be just another sad, dirty city in ca. I hope they build 40 more of these apartments to run out all of the people who THINK THEY ARE BETTER than everyone. IF YOU THINK you are that high class why dont you move to bel air, or beverly hills? Probably because if you ever moved there YOU would be the NEW trash lowering their citys value.”

People with incomes of $40,000 to $60,000 are not exactly low-income people, says Guerra.

“More likely, young professionals, nurses, teachers, these are the people that would want to occupy The View’s units, especially when all the other complementary elements—small open spaces as well as public gathering spaces, walking venues, cultural events, etc., etc.—are taken into account.” Besides, he adds, “There seems to be a misunderstanding of the word, ‘affordable’. Affordable is not Section 8 (low income). So, contrary to the fears of some people, The View should not attract what we can classify as ‘low-lifes’.”

Guerra was livid after critic Lawrence Christon, in a recent front page article in the Patriot, pointed to “Downey’s essential dullness, the dry rot in its commercialized soul,” and his reference to Downey’s “decades of cultural inertia.”

“Not so,” fumed Guerra. “If he read the Downtown Specific Plan that took two-and-a-half years to put together, with much public input and the commendable efforts of our fine city staff, professionally presented and subsequently approved by the city council in September of 2010, he would not be making such insensitive comments. What upsets me is that sometimes people are quick to criticize without looking into the facts.”

With all that said, and barring delays, Saeki says The View should have its grand opening in the fall of 2012.

Published: March 24, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 49