DOWNEY — The City Council has approved a county proposal to develop a light-industrial park on land at the site of Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center. The park is projected to return more than a billion dollars to county coffers.
The council last week amended the city's General Plan to allow light manufacturing on 121 acres of county-owned land that had been designated for public use.
As planned, the industrial park would be constructed in three phases over 16 years. The county would lease the land to a private developer or developers to build the project.
Assembly Plants Envisioned
The first phase involves changing the land-use designation of the site. The second phase will determine exactly what will be built and the third will encompass the actual construction. Facilities such as warehouses and small assembly plants are envisioned.
Because the 212-acre hospital property is located in Downey, the county needed city approval to use the land for private development instead of maintaining it for public use.
"The rancho project is part of the county's asset development program to take surplus land and develop it commercially. This project will benefit both the county and the city of Downey," said Les Detweiler, principal administrative analyst in the county administrative office.
The county intends to offer 66-year leases on the land. Over the 66 years, the leases are projected to return an estimated $1.3 billion in rent to the county and an estimated $32 million in property and sale taxes to the city, Detweiler said.
Detweiler said the project is expected to generate more than 400 jobs during the construction phase, which could start within three years, and to create 6,100 new jobs when the industrial complex is complete.
Downey Mayor Robert G. Cormack said he supports the project but that city officials should monitor it carefully to make sure the development is done correctly.
He said that Downey, a bedroom community of 86,000, needs industry. "It will be good for the city. It will help give a balance between the city and industry," Cormack said.
The project is targeted for a portion of the hospital property that is bordered by Hidalgo Road on the north, Old River School Road on the west, Gardendale Street on the south and Rives Avenue on the east.
The majority of the hospital's facilities are north of the project site, but there are various medical facilities spread over the 121-acre planned development site. Plans are to move those facilities as the project develops.
The city of South Gate, which borders Downey at Gardendale Street, had expressed concern over possible traffic congestion.
However, during last week's meeting, the Downey council approved a master plan for streets and highways within the project area that reportedly would prevent traffic from becoming a problem for South Gate.
At least three new streets, including a major highway, would be constructed within the project area which would "keep traffic away from Gardendale," said Mark Sellheim, principal planner for Downey.
South Gate supports the new street construction, South Gate representative Karen Bell said.
The Downey Council voted 4 to 1, with Councilwoman Diane Boggs dissenting, for the new street plan.
"I was not sure it was the way to go with the traffic," Boggs said. There are more than 100 trees on the hospital grounds and some of them would be destroyed during street construction, Boggs said.
"I'm not ridiculous enough to think we should save all of the trees but we should save some. Some of them are rare, and we should save them," she said.
The council said it would work with the county to save as many trees as possible, especially the rare ones, such as Morton fig and bunya-bunya.
Before the council voted, it heard more than three hours of testimony from county and city officials and residents. Half a dozen persons spoke against the project.
"I've made a fuss about this project for more than four years," resident Larry Marks said in an interview. Marks lives just east of the project area and became involved in the proceedings early on.
Marks said the property should be developed "but I don't want it developed where it becomes absolutely unlivable with tall buildings, traffic and noise."
In 1985, the county, with city approval, worked out an agreement with Lincoln Property Co. in Irvine to develop nine acres of the hospital land just north of the 121 acres. Lincoln Property also is purchasing two additional parcels within the 121 acres. Lincoln has not yet developed the property.
"There is nothing definite (to construct on the site). There is a conceptual plan for office space and light industry," said Bill Shubin, a partner in Lincoln Property. "It was critical to change the use from public to light industry and change the roadway plan. Now, we know the project is a go."