Tesla Motors seeks 51 acres

DOWNEY - If Tesla Motors can reach agreement on a lease deal, the electric vehicle manufacturer plans to lease 51 acres at the former NASA property, "more than likely" spelling the end of Downey Studios, according to a city of Downey staff report.The Planning Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved an application submitted by Industrial Realty Group seeking to subdivide the land in order to accommodate Tesla's much-publicized manufacturing and assembly plant. IRG owns about 57 acres of the 77-acre property. The city of Downey owns the remaining 20 acres and leases it to IRG. Tesla would use 51 acres (or about 2.2 million square feet), including 46.45 acres on IRG-controlled land, according to a staff report. It will occupy Buildings 1, 6 and 290, which were used by NASA until Boeing closed the site in 1998. The buildings were placed on the National Register for Historic Places in 2001 and any alterations to the structures must adhere to an agreement previously reached between the city and NASA "designed to mitigate impacts on historic resources at the site." Thomas Messmer, a vice president with IRG, told the Planning Commisson on Wednesday that negotiations on a lease with Tesla "are ongoing." "We're putting this in your hands now," commission member Terry Lambrose told Messmer after the 4-0 vote. "You have a big job." If Tesla and IRG agree on a lease, Downey Studios would probably close, city officials said. "[With] Tesla Motors leasing the lion's share of the studio site, Downey Studios will more than likely shutter their operations," Brian Saeki, community development director for the city, wrote in a report. "Closing the studios will in turn open up Parcel 3 [approximately 14 1/2 acres] for redevelopment." The Downey Landing Specific Plan calls for a "commerce center" on those 14 1/2 acres. "Moreover, the specific plan envisioned the Commerce Center as a business park developed in a 'garden office' setting with small groups of buildings clustered around open spaces, rather than a series of isolated structures," Saeki wrote. "The plan also indicated that each building will house some combination of light manufacturing and/or office use." Tesla officials have not publicly announced their intentions to open a manufacturing plant in Downey.

********** Published: March 19, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 48