NORWALK – Hoping to redevelop the commercial stretches along Firestone Boulevard and San Antonio Drive, the city of Norwalk is planning to purchase and demolish the Norwalk Classic Car Wash, located at 11565 Firestone Blvd, and replace it with affordable housing.
In a 4-0 decision last month, the City Council agreed with city staff who believe the 3.1-acre site is a prime redevelopment site, situated at the gateway to Norwalk’s historical Front Street.
Using funds from its Low and Moderate Housing Asset Fund, city officials plan to purchase the property site -- which also contains Panda King and Albert’s Mexican Food -- for $5.5 million.
Currently, the city has $11.3 million in its housing asset fund to make property acquisitions.
City Manager Mike Egan said the land purchase allows the city to control the nature and quality of future development at the site. With a redevelopment specific plan for that area already in the works, Egan hopes the city could later attract a patron to construct affordable housing or even a mixed-use project on the site.
Once escrow closes on the lot, the car wash, which is operated by the current property owner, will close down and be fenced off. The city estimates demolition costs to reach $581,000.
Panda King and Albert’s Mexican Food will continue to operate until their current leases expire in Jan. 31, 2018.
The City Council also moved forward with the repeal of current city codes regarding sex offender residency restrictions.
In May 2009, Norwalk adopted an ordinance to prohibit any registered sex offender from establishing a residence in a residential zone, which is within 2,000 feet of a public or private school, park, child care center, or recreational facility.
In light of recent studies and reports that indicate these laws do not improve public safety, but in fact, increase the threat, City Attorney Roxanne Diaz recommended the city council retract its ordinance.
“The evidence suggests that residency restrictions have the unintended consequences of increasing homelessness among registered sex offenders, thereby actually threatening public safety,” Diaz said.
Diaz cited several recent court decisions that have called into question the constitutionality of blanket residency restrictions.
“These laws haven’t helped, but makes it more difficult to track sex offenders and that makes them more likely to offend,” Diaz said. “Nearly 50 cities in California have already appealed these residency restrictions.”
In a 3-1 vote, the Norwalk City Council approved the resolution to retract its residency restrictions, albeit begrudgingly. Councilmember Luigi Vernola voted in opposition.
The Norwalk City Council also approved changes to mid-management staff positions on Oct. 18, reassigning the two public services superintendent roles into separate positions entirely.
Previously, the Department of Public Services employed two public services superintendents to assist with day-to-day operations as well as short and long-term objectives.
City officials, however, felt it best to alter the positions into two distinct roles: public services manager and special projects coordinator.
The public services manager position will see a pay increase from $9,950 a month to $10,837. While the special projects coordinator role will now report to the manager and receives a pay decrease from $9,950 to $7,700 a month.
Overall, the city expects the reclassification to save the city $26,000 annually.