Herald American

Downey advances community benefit district plan

By Arnold Adler

Contributing Writer

DOWNEY — Plans for a Downtown Downey Community Benefit District advanced July 24 after a public count during the City Council meeting found more than the required 30 percent of the affected business owners approved the plan.

After counting the ballots, City Clerk Maria Alice Duarte said 57.67 percent of downtown business owners favored the plan.

The City Council conducted the ballot count after a public hearing at which only one member of the audience spoke. The council then approved on a 4-0 vote a resolution of formation to establish the benefit district and levy assessments, estimated at $253,589 the first year. The city’s share would be $49,067. Councilman Fernando Vasquez, who is connected with a business in the area, abstained

The next step will be to establish a nonprofit agency, composed of businesses and property owners within the district to govern the area and levy assessments, said Aldo E. Schindler, director of community development.

City staff will return at a later date with an agreement between the city and the nonprofit entity, he added.

The City Council ordered the vote June 7 after receiving petitions from 30.4 percent in favor of the plan. Ballots were mailed out June 8.

The district would be bounded by Nance Street south of Firestone Boulevard on the south, Brookshire Avenue on the east, an area between Third and Fourth streets on the north and both sides of La Reina Avenue on the west with some parcels extending west to the east side of Myrtle Street.

The council resolution removes 31 condominium owners along the western boundaries. Those properties were recently occupied and staff did not have a chance to talk with owners of the sites and explain the benefit district plan, Schindler said

He said the benefit district assessments would help the city pay for some of the services which benefits those businesses, such as street sweeping, steam cleaning of sidewalks, security and public art.

“While the city currently provides regular general services to the downtown area, it is essential that alternative sources be studied to provide continued funding for special services the downtown requires to maintain its vitality,” Schindler said in a written report.

He said assessments would be based on width of the property, size of lots or size of buildings.

The council’s Downtown Subcommittee, composed of Mayor Pro Tem Rick Rodriguez and Councilman Alex Saab, along with staff and a contracted consultant, New City America, have been talking with the business owners the past three years and several property owners have voiced support for the plan.

They said they would support paying for services such as street sweeping, landscaping, steam cleaning, public art, private security, beautification, marketing, public space development and building enhancements; along with special events such as sales, concerts and other programs, while also dealing with the homeless and panhandlers, Schindler said.

“A Downtown Downey Community Benefit District could raise nearly $232,385 annually, which would be reinvested into making Downtown Downey thrive,” Schindler said in his report.