Prefers ownership housing downtown

Dear Editor:Some months ago, we were called on to congratulate our city officials for acquiring the former Verizon building on Downey Avenue and 2nd Street and the old Avenue Theatre property on Downey Avenue, thus "rescuing" these prime sites in the core of our downtown from developers over whom we would not have any control on what they may put on these sites. Now we read that a subcommittee of our City Council is seriously considering and have in fact given the go-ahead to negotiations to turn these properties over to a developer who would build high-density "affordable" rental housing on these sites. ("Officials Mull Housing Options Downtown," 7/10/09) The funds used to purchase these properties obligate the city to turn these properties into "affordable housing". Alternately, housing units which do not meet the criteria of "affordable housing" (low rents), would need to be subsidized with city funds. The issue is not whether Downey needs affordable housing, perhaps it does. Nor is there concern over the architectural appearance of what is now under consideration. The buildings will meet the architectural aesthetic of the ultimate approving authority. But is the core of the city's downtown, the area in which the city has been spending money for more than 10 years to revitalize and attract upscale businesses and restaurants, the place to put high density affordable housing? The answer could be yes, if the area were already revitalized, vibrant with high value activities and there were no other areas to accommodate the proposed affordable rental housing. But the idea of putting "affordable rental housing" as the primer to jump start the upscale revitalizing of the core of the downtown area does not appear sensible. This is especially puzzling since the city has been discouraging "rental" development while encouraging upscale owner-occupied housing developments in any part of the city, as does the City General Plan. Perhaps the city will find its way out of this predicament and find the way to put high value owner-occupied mixed-use projects to standards which would attract further high value development in the core of the downtown area. That would make more sense. High value, owner-occupied housing would tend to attract occupants with the economic strength and permanence to support high value activities and development in the immediate area, and would tend to advance the goal of revitalizing Downey's downtown area, the expressed goal of the many City Councils which has eluded us up to now. Let's hope the residents of the city get to have their say before we start down the path of creating a ghetto downtown by design. The City Council should think about scheduling some well publicized hearings to give the opportunity to the residents - they are the stakeholders - to have input in an important public policy issue which the development of the downtown is. And do so before agreements are entered into with National Core from which it would be difficult to disengage. - Harold Tseklenis, Downey

********** Published: July 17, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 13