Downey adopts economic incentive plan

DOWNEY - In an effort to attract new jobs to Downey, the City Council this week gave top city staff the authority to entice developers with a variety of economic incentives, including selling public property at below market value. City officials can also waive fees, issue grants and loans, and use city crews to demolish vacant buildings for private developments.

According to the ordinance, the incentives are meant to create jobs by adding retail, restaurants and entertainment options in Downey, "improving the city's tax base thereby furthering the city's ability to enhance and provide municipal services to its residents."

The ordinance was approved 4-0 Tuesday. "In this post redevelopment era, cities throughout California are faced with new challenges to retain and attract new businesses. The city of Downey is no different," community development director Brian Saeki wrote in a report to council members.

The three-page ordinance specifically allows city manager Gilbert Livas to "dispose of real and personal property for fair market value, or for less than fair market value of the property so long as the disposition is found to aid in the purposes of this Chapter."

The ordinance also grants Livas authority to "undertake vigorous efforts to retain and attract businesses to the city, which may include but is not limited to assistance in the form of grants, loans, fee abatements, payments of insurance premiums, tax rebates for the purpose of attracting and retaining qualifying commercial, mixed-use, industrial or other suitable activity in the city."

Apart from the ordinance, council members also signed off on an "economic development strategy." One component is the creation of a taskforce comprised of Saeki, Downey's mayor (currently Mario Guerra), a city business advocate and a member of the Downey Chamber of Commerce to regularly meet with Downey's largest employers and revenue-generating businesses.

City officials are also putting the finishing touches on a spreadsheet that will list all available commercial and industrial properties in Downey, a go-to document for prospective businesses.

There are also plans to create a new economic development website and print a brochure to highlight development opportunities in Downey. By the end of this year, the city also expects to create additional zoning for much-needed medical space.

Meanwhile, the city council this week also killed a proposal to ask voters to increase Downey's utility users tax.

City attorney Yvette Abich Garcia said Downey is in a better financial situation than six months ago. "As a result, the placement of a (utility users tax) or other revenue measure before the voters is not an immediate issue," she said.

The city paid a consultant $44,000 as it considered placing the tax increase on November's ballot.

********** Published: June 27, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 11