DOWNEY - Hoping to better embrace communities on the fringes of city limits, Mayor Luis Marquez is proposing the city host several community picnics this summer, bringing City Hall a little closer to the seemingly neglected neighborhoods of Downey. "Everyone should feel a part of our city - we're all a part of Downey," Marquez said. "We haven't come up with a date yet, but we want to go out there and let them know that we're there for them. They're a top priority like any other neighborhood." Marquez believes the community gatherings could help city officials highlight neighborhoods around the city that may feel marginalized due to geography or a variance in resources. Living on Little Lake Road, for instance, offers residents a different experience when compared to homeowners living on Sixth Street. Little Lake Road, which runs parallel to Wilderness Park in east Downey, is just one of the streets that make up the nearly 400-home neighborhood bounded by the San Gabriel River in the west, the 5 freeway in the east, and Cecilia Street in the south. Although the triangle-shaped community is technically within Downey city limits, there are several differences that separate the neighborhood from the rest of the city. First, the community is not a part of the Downey Unified School District. While the DUSD does cover portions of South Gate, Bellflower, and Bell Gardens, district boundaries, established by Los Angeles County more than 50 years ago, do not extend pass the Rio Hondo River on the west or the San Gabriel River on the east. As a result, dozens of Downey students living in this area attend elementary and middle school in the Little Lake City School District, which largely covers Norwalk and Santa Fe Springs. Later, students enroll in the Whittier-Union High School District where most graduate from Santa Fe High School. Also, residents living in this neighborhood receive water from two separate suppliers. The majority of Downey homes utilize the water from the city's own ground water wells, but in the triangle community, 300 homes get water from the city of Santa Fe Springs while another 100 homes receive water from Golden State Water Company. Marquez acknowledges that there may not be much the city can do to change those differences, but he maintains that communities like this one will benefit after city leaders are able to meet with residents and hear their concerns. "When I was running for office, walking through the districts, I talked with people who felt they were not a part of the city," said Marquez who lives in south Downey. "We want to hear from our residents north of Telegraph, south of Imperial and interact with them. That's why we're bringing City Hall to them. "Coming together for a community picnic on a Saturday gives everyone a chance to meet their city officials," said Marquez over the phone. "I want to ask residents on Treasure Island what are some of the things we could do better - all our neighborhoods are great, we're trying to make sure their needs are met." Marquez, who introduced the concept last December after becoming mayor, hopes to host the first community picnic in the early summer.
********** Published: May 19, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 5