Downey, California: Wikis


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City of Downey
—  City  —

Location of Downey in Los Angeles County, California
Coordinates: 33°56′17″N 118°07′51″W / 33.93806°N 118.13083°W / 33.93806; -118.13083Coordinates: 33°56′17″N 118°07′51″W / 33.93806°N 118.13083°W / 33.93806; -118.13083
Country United States United States
State California California
County Los Angeles
Founded October 23, 1873
Incorporated December 17, 1956
 - Type Council-Manager
 - City Council Mayor Mario A. Guerra
David R. Gafin
Roger Brossmer
Anne Marie Bayer
Luis Marquez
 - City Treasurer Lee Powell
 - Finance Director John Michicoff
 - Total 32.6 km2 (12.6 sq mi)
 - Land 32.2 km2 (12.4 sq mi)
 - Water 0.4 km2 (0.2 sq mi)  1.35%
Elevation 36 m (118 ft)
Population (2000)
 - Total 107,323
 Density 3,336.4/km2 (8,641.7/sq mi)
  U.S. Census, 2000
Time zone PST (UTC-8)
 - Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP codes 90239-90242
Area code(s) 562
FIPS code 06-19766
GNIS feature ID 1652698

Downey is a city located in southeast Los Angeles County, California, United States, 21 km (13 miles) southeast of downtown Los Angeles. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 107,323.



Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in Alta California, the area that now comprises Downey was inhabited by the Tongva ethnic group, which came to be called the Gabrielino by the Spanish.

Spanish colonial history of the area today known as Downey dates back to 1771 with the founding of the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel, a California State historical landmark. The founding of the mission and mission lands establishes the birthplace of the modern Los Angeles region.

In 1784, Governor Pedro Fages granted to former soldier Manuel Nieto (1734–1804) the largest of the land concessions made during the Spanish control of California. Its 300,000 acres (1,200 km2) stretched from the Santa Ana River on the east to the Old San Gabriel River (now the Rio Hondo and Los Angeles River) on the west, and from the mission highway (approximately Whittier Boulevard) on the north to the ocean on the south. Its acreage was slightly reduced later at the insistence of Mission San Gabriel on whose lands it infringed. The Spanish concessions, of which 25 were made in California, were unlike the later Mexican land grants in that title was not transferred, but were similar to grazing permits, with the title remaining with the Spanish crown.[1]

The Rancho Los Nietos passed to Manuel Nieto's four children upon his death and remained intact until, in 1833, his heirs petitioned Mexican Governor José Figueroa to partition the property. The northwestern portion of the original rancho, comprising the Downey-Norwalk area, was granted as Rancho Santa Gertrudes to Josefa Cota, the widow of Manuel's son, Antonio Nieto. At approximately 21,000 acres (85 km2), Santa Gertrudes was itself a sizable rancho and contained the old Nietos homestead, which was a center of social life east of the pueblo of Los Angeles.[2]

After the Mexican-American war concluded in 1848, many of the Californio ranchos were obtained by affluent Anglo-Americans who were immigrating west under the United States manifest destiny doctrine, and marrying into established Californio Spanish families.

Downey was founded by and named for the former Civil War governor of California, John Gately Downey, when he subdivided land he procured between the Rio Hondo and the San Gabriel River. The Southern Pacific Railroad arrived in 1873, and farmers in the area grew grain, corn, castor beans and fruit until around 1940.

Downey was incorporated in 1956, and instituted a charter form of government in 1964. Suburban homes and factories replaced the farms after World War II. The largest employer was originally Vultee Aircraft, then North American Aviation, (later North American Rockwell, then Rockwell International which was then bought by the Boeing company) whose facilities produced some of the systems for the Apollo Project as well as the space shuttle. The seventy year history of airplane and space vehicle manufacturing in Downey came to an end when the Rockwell plant closed in 1999. The former Rockwell plant has been converted to the Downey Landing shopping complex, a Kaiser Permanente hospital, a park, a space museum and Downey Studios. For more information about the history of the Downey NASA site refer to

Near the center of the city lies what was once one of the busiest intersections in the world, the intersection of Lakewood Boulevard (State Route 19) and Firestone Boulevard (former State Route 42). Route 19 was a major thoroughfare between Pasadena and the port at Long Beach, and Route 42 was part of the old Spanish Trail system that connected Los Angeles to San Diego.

In the 1960s the town's Downey Records achieved a small notoriety with recordings like The Chantays' surfing instrumental "Pipeline." Downey's two main public high schools are named for Governor Downey and Governor (and later, Chief Justice) Earl Warren.

Downey is home to Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, which is the main public rehabilitation hospital for Los Angeles County. Rancho Los Amigos is renowned worldwide for its innovative contributions to the care of spinal cord injuries and post-polio syndrome.

Downey was recently featured in the 2008 American action comedy film Pineapple Express. Much of the buildings along Florence Ave. can be viewed in a driving scene towards the beginning of the film.


Location of Downey, California

Downey is located at 33°56′17″N 118°7′51″W / 33.93806°N 118.13083°W / 33.93806; -118.13083 (33.938164, -118.130801).[3]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 32.6 km2 (12.6 mi2). 32.2 km2 (12.4 mi2) of it is land and 0.4 km2 (0.2 mi2) of it (1.35%) is water.

The cities of South Gate and Bell Gardens are adjacent to the west and northwest, Pico Rivera lies to the northeast, Santa Fe Springs and Norwalk to the east, and Paramount and Bellflower are to the south.


As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 107,323 people, 33,989 households, and 26,001 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,336.4/km2 (8,641.7/mi2). There were 34,759 housing units at an average density of 1,080.6/km2 (2,798.8/mi2). The racial makeup of the city was 53.48% White, 3.75% Black or African American, 0.87% Native American, 7.74% Asian, 0.22% Pacific Islander, 29.05% from other races, and 4.89% from two or more races. 57.85% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 33,989 households out of which 41.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.1% were married couples living together, 15.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 23.5% were non-families. 19.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.11 and the average family size was 3.55.

In the city the population was spread out with 29.2% under the age of 18, 9.8% from 18 to 24, 31.2% from 25 to 44, 18.8% from 45 to 64, and 11.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 94.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $46,000 and the median income for a family was $50,017. Males had a median income of $35,991 versus $28,768 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,197. About 9.3% of families and 11.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.4% of those under age 18 and 7.6% of those age 65 or over.

Government and infrastructure

Downey City Hall

In the state legislature Downey is located in the 27th Senate District, represented by Democrat Alan Lowenthal, and in the 50th and 58th Assembly Districts, represented by Democrats Hector De La Torre and Charles M. Calderon respectively. Federally, Downey is located in California's 34th congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of D +23[5] and is represented by Democrat Lucille Roybal-Allard.

The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services operates the Whittier Health Center in Whittier, serving Downey.[6]

The United States Postal Service operates the Downey Post Office at 8111 Firestone Boulevard,[7] the North Downey Post Office at 10409 Lakewood Boulevard,[8] and the South Downey Post Office at 7911 Imperial Highway.[9]


Historic McDonald's restaurant

Oldest operating McDonald's restaurant on Lakewood and Florence in Downey, California

The 1953 McDonald's restaurant at 10207 Lakewood Blvd. (at Florence Ave.) was the third franchised McDonald's built and is the oldest surviving McDonald's. It was listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's 1994 list of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. It was one of the first restaurants franchised by Dick and Mac McDonald, prior to the involvement of Ray Kroc in the company, and it still has the original "Golden arches" and a 60-foot animated neon "Speedee" sign.

With low sales, damage from the 1994 Northridge earthquake, and the lack of a drive-up window and indoor seating, the restaurant was closed. However with both the public and preservationists demanding the restaurant be saved, McDonald's spent two years restoring the restaurant and reopened it. Customers today can visit the original restaurant and an adjoining gift shop and museum.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, serving the Catholic Community of Downey

The first Taco Bell

Glen Bell opened the first Taco Bell restaurant on 21 March 1962 in Downey [1].

Johnie's Broiler

Johnie's Broiler (originally Harvey's Broiler) was a dive restaurant and coffee shop. The dive restaurant has been in movies and sitcoms as well as TV commercials and music videos. Completed in 1958, it is an example of Googie architecture. Johnie's was well known to Southern California locals, many of which drove miles to cruise through its massive lot. The restaurant was closed in 2001, and a used car dealership has since leased the property. In January 2007, the leasers of Johnie's started to illegally tear it down.[2] The destruction of the building was halted, with extreme damage to the building, though the sign is intact.

In April, 2008, Jim Louder, owner of the Bob's Big Boy restaurant in Torrance, California, entered into a long-term lease agreement with the owner of Johnie's Broiler.[10] The restaurant will be rebuilt as a Bob's Broiler and will incorporate the surviving architectural elements of the old structure into the new restaurant.[11]


Downey has vehicle theft levels that are 1.76 times the national average, all other major crime categories are below the national average. In 2003, 7 murders, 25 forcible rapes, 216 robberies, 257 aggravated assaults, 588 burglaries, 1819 thefts, 1169 vehicle thefts, and 4 arsons were reported to law enforcement.

Anti-gang activities

In the late 80s and early 90s, Downey saw an increase in gang activity. Today there is still gang activity going in the south area of Downey. In response, Downey formed GOOD (Gangs Out Of Downey), a community-based organization that helps encourage young people between the ages of 10-20 to stay away from gangs. GOOD is also responsible for organizing many community events and programs such as various sports, after school care, scholarship programs for at-risk students looking to attend college, and counseling for both young people and their parents. GOOD has kept a close partnership with Downey Police. [3]


The city can be conveniently reached by any of four freeways: Interstate 105 with its Metro rail line passes through the southern part of the city, Interstate 5 and Interstate 605 pass along the eastern side, and Interstate 710 passes just west of the city.

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) provides bus services to the city. The city also operates a local bus service called DowneyLINK.


Primary and secondary schools

Downey is within the Downey Unified School District.

Public schools include:

Private schools include:

Public libraries

The Downey City Library serves the city. The first library in Downey was established in 1901 by a women's social club that was founded in 1898. The County of Los Angeles Public Library opened a branch in Downey in September 1915. The county branch moved several times; its final location was in the County Civic Center. In 1958 the Downey City Council voted to establish its own library and withdraw from the county system. The city library services were originally provided out of the back of a bookstore. The city library opened in the former cafeteria of the former Downey Elementary School, then being used as the city hall and police station, on July 1, 1958. A permanent library building was built on December 7, 1959. It had almost 16,000 square feet (1,500 m2) and it was built for $186,200, costing $11.97 per square foot. It was dedicated on December 17 and opened on December 18. In February 1984 an addition of almost 12,000 square feet (1,100 m2) was completed and dedicated.[12]

In addition the headquarters of the County of Los Angeles Public Library are located in Downey.[13]

Celebrities from Downey

  • The brother and sister music duo The Carpenters moved to Downey in 1963 with their family. When they hit it big in the 70s they built two apartment buildings there that still operate today. They stand across the street from each other on 5th St. and are named after their two biggest hits We've Only Just Begun and Close To You. The Carpenter's family house still stands today in Newville Avenue as well. The house can be seen on the cover of their album, Now & Then.
  • Weird Al Yankovic the polka parody artist was born in Downey in 1959.
  • Metallica frontman James Hetfield was born and raised in Downey. Also, original Metallica bassist Ron McGovney attended Downey Elementary , East Middle School , and graduated from Downey High School in 1981.
  • Rock and Country musician Dave Alvin was born and raised in Downey. He formed the early Downey based rockabilly band The Blasters with his brother Phil, and later started a solo career as a country musician. He wrote a song called Downey Girl released on his 2009 album Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women.
  • Audelio Flores, Jr. - guitarist for punk rock group Set Your Goals was raised in Downey.
  • Carlos Salas, Third - professional African lion fighter.
  • Dan Henderson, a mixed martial art fighter, was born in Downey.
  • Quest Crew, America's Best Dance Crew season 3 champions, member Ryan Conferido was raised in Downey.
  • American Bioethicist, Whitny Braun, went to Rio Hondo Elementary, was a high school classmate of Ryan Conferido, and still lives in Downey as a third generation Downey resident.
  • Nathan Trasoras, one of the top 20 contestants on the sixth season of So You Think You Can Dance, was raised in and currently resides in Downey.
  • Leroy Patterson, Stuntman and Professional Wrestler was born, raised in, and still resides in Downey.


The surf rock group The Rumblers were from Downey and recorded on Downey records.


  1. ^ Beck, Warren A., Haase, Ynez D. (1974). Historical Atlas of California. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
  2. ^ Quinn, Charles Russell (1973). The History of Downey, California Published by Elena Quinn; copyright by City of Downey, California.
  3. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2000 and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2005-05-03. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  4. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  5. ^ "Will Gerrymandered Districts Stem the Wave of Voter Unrest?". Campaign Legal Center Blog. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  6. ^ "Whittier Health Center." Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. Retrieved on March 18, 2010.
  7. ^ "Post Office Location - DOWNEY." United States Postal Service. Retrieved on December 6, 2008.
  8. ^ "Post Office Location - NORTH DOWNEY." United States Postal Service. Retrieved on December 6, 2008.
  9. ^ "Post Office Location - SOUTH DOWNEY." United States Postal Service. Retrieved on December 6, 2008.
  10. ^ Gonzaga, Samantha (2008-04-08). "Bob's Big Boy to Replace Johnie's". Long Beach Press-Telegram. Retrieved 2008-09-07. 
  11. ^ Gonzaga, Samantha (2008-11-08). "New Future for Johnie's". Long Beach Press-Telegram. Retrieved 2008-09-07. 
  12. ^ "About the Library." Downey Public Library. Retrieved on March 5, 2010.
  13. ^ "Public Records." County of Los Angeles Public Library. Retrieved on March 5, 2010.

External links

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