DOWNEY — Larry Blauvelt fears that Downey's proposed redevelopment plan could make it difficult for him to keep operating his mom-and-pop business.
Blauvelt and his wife, Maureen, make signs in a small shop in an aging industrial alley that is included in a proposed redevelopment zone called the Woodruff Industrial Project.
"They say we're a burden to the community and a depressed business (area)," Blauvelt said in a recent interview. "I feel I'm just the opposite. I feel like they're going to bulldoze my business and ruin my future."
Low Monthly Rent
Blauvelt and the owners of 11 other businesses in the cluster of green and yellow buildings on Regentview Avenue pay a monthly rent of about 15 cents to 20 cents a square foot. If new buildings were put in under the redevelopment plan, Blauvelt said his rent would more than double, forcing him to move, raise his prices and lose customers.
"It's going to kill me," Blauvelt said. "My very low overhead has been very beneficial to me. Without that I wouldn't be in business today."
Blauvelt is not alone in his fear of redevelopment, but there is another view promoted by the city's Redevelopment Agency.
Agency officials say they are trying to ensure Downey's future, and that means change. The financial incentives provided by the redevelopment project would attract industry, jobs and raise tax revenue for the city, said John F. Wager, redevelopment manager.
"If Downey maintains the status quo, we're going to see cities around us attracting business, retail sales and developments that otherwise would have come to Downey," Wager said. "Creating and maintaining jobs, that's what Woodruff (redevelopment) comes back to."
Public Hearing Scheduled
As proposed, the Woodruff Industrial Project would encompass 118 acres of an industrial area straddling Woodruff Avenue south of Firestone Boulevard.
The City Council, which doubles as the Community Development Commission and is responsible for approving the Woodruff Industrial Project, is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the plan at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.
The Redevelopment Agency has tried before to form a larger redevelopment zone in the same area, but public opposition stymied approval and portions were deleted in an attempt to make the plan more acceptable.
The agency contends that the area is blighted, with some dilapidated buildings and land uses contrary to zoning. The agency also contends that there is not enough water going into some parts of the area to fight fires and that the economic benefits of a redevelopment zone are needed to encourage growth.
Property Taxes Frozen
When a redevelopment district is created, property taxes used to support traditional government services are frozen. Additional tax revenue from the higher value of redeveloped properties is then diverted to the redevelopment agency. The agency uses that money to promote development through low-interest loans and subsidized public improvements.
Once formed, the redevelopment zone would be in place for 30 years, and the agency would have condemnation powers for 12 years.
Two groups of area businessmen have submitted petitions to the city requesting that their areas be deleted from the proposed redevelopment zone. If the redevelopment district is formed, the landowners in those areas could be compelled to make improvements, or even forced to sell their land to make way for other developments.
Leo and Lois Du Lac of Hesperia own the industrial alley that houses Blauvelt's sign shop, a number of machine shops and other small businesses. The Du Lacs, long-time Downey residents until 1983, said some of their tenants have been in the building for 30 years, while others are second-generation businessmen and tenants. The buildings are from six to 30 years old, Leo Du Lac said.
"We're very happy the way things have been," Lois Du Lac said.
The Du Lacs and their tenants submitted a petition last month requesting removal from the project.
A few blocks away on the southern tip of the proposed redevelopment zone, businessmen along Everest Street and Benedict and Woodruff avenues also have organized to oppose the project.
Thirteen landowners and 32 businessmen in the area signed a petition to be removed from the proposed redevelopment zone, said David C. Muhs, chairman of the opposition group and the president of EDM Supplies Inc.
In a letter to Mayor James S. Santangelo, who doubles as chairman of the Downey Community Development Commission, the group noted that 247 people are employed in the area, and that the land is 100% developed and occupied.
The group also noted that a 36,000-square-foot building owned by local businessman Edward DiLoreto was built in the area last September.
"These types of developments are evidence the area is thriving and continuing to develop without redevelopment law," Muhs said. "We feel that we have a thriving and prosperous business community here that is providing jobs and revenues for the city."
Some Facilities Outgrown