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From Red Neck to Red Beans And Rice. Downey, California in 30 Years.

English: Seal of Downey, California

English: Seal of Downey, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

              

Downey, California: A new kind of suburban idyll

 

The etched-glass door of the Downey Brewing Company still reads “Foxy’s” — all that’s left of the restaurant that occupied the space for decades, catering to a long-gone crowd.

Pub co-owner Sergio Vasquez remembers the place as “a coffee shop which served Scandinavian food.” But, he says, as the city’s demographics changed, “The population didn’t catch up with it. The only people that really attended were elderly people. They decided to shut it down. And that’s where we came in.”

Today, the five-year-old boutique brewpub buzzes with the sounds of craft beer pouring out of taps, clanking glasses and dishes, and a crowd of patrons that – like the population on the outside – is mostly Latino.

Downey Middle Class

 

(Jessica Haro and Eric Ibarra sit at a fountain on the corner of Firestone Blvd and Downey Ave on November 9th, 2013.) Photo by Mae Ryan/KPCC

 

In some ways, the pub’s story reflects the story of Downey, a onetime aerospace hub which, like nearby Whittier and a cluster of other Southern California communities, embodies the latest chapter in the evolution of Latino L.A.

 

Back in 1980, Downey was mostly non-Latino white, with Latinos representing less than 17 percent of the population.

 

It was an earlier era’s picture of the suburban idyll: wide green lawns, tidy ranch-style homes,

 

a Stonewood Shopping mall, a golf course,

 

 an iconic McDonald’s with golden arches that’s still the chain’s oldest surviving outlet.

                 (Karen and Richard Carpenter grew up in this house in Downey)

 

 

 

The Carpenters, the soft-pop singing duo, once attended Downey High School, the home of the Vikings..

 

Thousands of residents held good jobs at the sprawling Rockwell aerospace plant, which in its heyday produced Apollo capsules and the Space Shuttle.

 

But defense cuts began taking their toll in the 1990s.

 

By the time the plant closed in 1999, the city’s white suburban identity was in a state of flux, with many families moving out.

 

Left behind was a mix of retirees, languishing businesses,

 

and – for some Latinos who had been saving their pennies in more modest communities nearby – opportunity.

 

Like Vasquez, who grew up a short distance to the west in Bell, Latin American immigrants and their descendants gradually began transforming the city.

 

They started buying up the ranch-style homes and investing in businesses.

 

Today Downey is 71 percent Latino – and like their predecessors – these newer residents are mostly middle class.

 

University of Southern California sociologist Jody Vallejo says they represent a growing group of upwardly mobile (Yuppies) Latinos who have chosen to settle in Latino-majority communities that reflect their economic reality. These include Whittier, West Covina, pockets of Orange County, and Downey,

 

“Which is often referred to by Mexican Americans themselves as the Mexican American Beverly Hills,” Vallejo says.

 

Okay, so it’s not quite Beverly Hills.

 

 

Downey has a mix of more and less affluent neighborhoods, with property values generally higher on the north end of town.

 

But with a median annual household income of more than $60,000 – and close to 40 percent of its households earning $75,000 or more, according to a Cal State Long Beach analysis  – it’s earned its reputation as a middle class Latino stronghold.

 

The Latino version of the middle-class “ethnoburb” – a term typically associated with Asian American suburbs – is a phenomenon that Vallejo says began in the 1990s but took off in earnest during the last decade.

 

It coincides with slow but steady gains in educational and career attainment among Latinos as the great, post-1965 wave of immigration from Latin American settles into its second and third generations.

 

For those who succeed, moving into communities once perceived as out of reach is part of “making it,” Vallejo says.

 

“Many Latinos who are moving to places like Downey did grow up in places like South Gate or Lynwood, and really saw, or see, Downey as the next step,” Vallejo says.

 

“Growing up, you thought that’s where all the wealthy or the middle class people lived.”

 (Reeves Mansion on Paramount Boulevard, across from the Nordic Fox restaurant.)

Mexico City transplant Elsa Valdez once lived in Maywood. But for her, Downey was the always the place to go.

                                     (The Krikorian Theater)

“This is the city that we were coming to the mall, to the theaters,” Valdez said. “I see the city that it was cleaner than the city that I was living. It is also really close to my community, that is, Latin people in Huntington Park, Maywood, Cudahy and all those cities.”

Valdez bought in Downey in 1995. Now she sells real estate in the area, and says most of her clients are the children of immigrants – entrepreneurs and professionals who can afford homes costing half a million or more.

This latest wave of residents has spawned a new wave of businesses, including upscale Latino-owned ones.

 

Recently, Valdez took her mother to lunch at Porto’s, L.A.’s famous bakery begun decades ago by a Cuban immigrant family. The $14 million Downey location opened three years ago, drawing long lines of customers who line up at gleaming glass counters to order flawless guava pastries and steaming cups of café con leche brewed on on luxe equipment.

 

City officials have drawn several chain restaurants and other businesses catering to middle-class tastes, but there’s a homegrown element, too: an art gallery that opened last year and highlights the work of local artists, for example, and a soon-to-open upscale independent steakhouse whose chef has promised a signature mac and cheese spiked with chorizo.

 

“All one needs to do is look around to see the effects of gentefication,” says Vallejo,

 

using a coined term that refers to gentrification by Latinos.

 

There are still a few wants: For example, a specialty grocer. A Facebook campaign by residents to lure a much-coveted Trader Joe’s (Whittier has the nearest) has not yet done so.

Outgoing Downey mayor Mario Guerra says that in some cases, a majority Latino population can still be a hard sell for some retailers.

       (New Downey Mayor, Vernando Vasquez was sworn in December 2013)

“There’s certain businesses that look at a certain demographic, and don’t take in the reality and look at the buying power of Latinos,” Guerra says. “And it’s sad for them, because they are missing out on opportunities.”

(At Sambi’s of Tokyo for a Sister City Association Christmas Party with former Mayors Barbara Riley and Joyce Lawrence of Downey.)

 

But there are others willing to cash in on that buying power.

(The Abortion Clinic on Firestone was open six days a week. Right-to-Lifers were picketing out front)

 

 

Guerra and other city officials broke ground recently at the old Rockwell site, making way for a new development that will host theaters, restaurants and a pedestrian shopping village.

      (As we drive out of Downey on Firestone Boulevard, we wish you well.)

 

ADDENDUM:

After being sworn in, Mayor Fernando Vasquez said “Only in America can a son of immigrant parents with a 1st grade education earn a college education and become the Mayor of Downey. Thank you Downey for allowing me to serve as your 46th Mayor!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leslie Berestein-Rojas

Leslie Berestein Rojas, Immigration and Emerging Communities Reporter
  • More from Leslie Berestein Roja
    • Fernando Vasquez, center, was sworn-in as Downey mayor Tuesday. He is pictured with finance commissioners Jason Valle and Ricardo Perez.
    • VIEW ALL PICTURES

     

    Vasquez becomes Downey’s 46th mayor

    New mayor plans expanded community events in 2014, including a ‘Tour de Downey.’

    WRITTEN BY :   Christian Brown, Staff Writer

    DOWNEY – With more than 100 community leaders, city officials, and residents looking on, Councilman Fernando Vasquez was sworn-in as the 46th mayor of Downey on Tuesday night December 10.

    The 34-year-old councilman, who was elected in 2010, was administered the oath of office by his fiance’ Donna Noushkam.

    Echoing themes of economic growth, quality of life, and community engagement, Vasquez reaffirmed the city’s commitment to the Healthy Downey initiative by introducing an array of new 2014 community events, including a “Tour de Downey” bicycle race.

    “Folks, we’re going to have a big Downey bike day with a 30-mile route for experienced cyclists and a five-mile route for those who want something smaller,” he said. “But we want to promote active living and encourage people to spend time in Downtown Downey.”

    Vasquez said he will also advocate a bicycle-sharing program modeled after a similar system in Denver. The program will allow users to pick up and drop off bicycles as often as they like at designated stations throughout the downtown area using their credit cards as currency.

    The incoming mayor also said he hopes to host a FIFA World Cup viewing party for the community on June 22 when the United States soccer team faces Portugal.

    “Soccer is very popular in our community — and I see a lot of communities come together for these games,” he said. “We’re very fortunate that the U.S. plays Portugal on a Saturday at noon.”

    Vasquez’s other community-building events include an international food festival, highlighting Downey’s strong Mexican, Cuban, Greek, Lebanese, Argentine and Brazilian communities, summer sunset rooftop events, such as movie screenings, and a music and arts festival.

    “We want to rebrand the city as a regional hub for arts and culture. There’s been a huge push for the arts, it’s one of the city’s strengths,” Vasquez said. “Cities like Long Beach and Santa Monica are known for their arts communities, but in Downey, we have a lot of talent. We need to support them.”

    In addition to the new events, Vasquez said he plans to hand out Mayor’s Healthy Heart awards to local hospitals, nursing facilities, doctors, coaches, teachers, and trainers who are making a difference in the community.

    Vasquez also pledged to embrace new technologies such as solar power on public facilities, online water bill payment options, and social media for means of community engagement.

    “Managing city funds responsibly, business and economic growth, running city operations smoothly, maintaining a high quality of life, and engaging our citizens…anything proposed [by the council] has to meet these priorities,” said Vasquez. “We will continue to have a balanced budget and a healthy reserve so we can weather any storm in the future.”

    Citing it as a quality of service issue, Vasquez also strongly reaffirmed his commitment to maintain the Downey Fire Department.

    Before Vasquez’s swearing-in ceremony, outgoing mayor Mario Guerra gave a final address, highlighting the accomplishments of the Healthy Downey initiative, which motivated him to lose 84 pounds over the course of 2013.

    During his tenure, Guerra facilitated Walking Wednesdays, Walk to School Day, National Night Out, and Dia De Los Muertos, which was attended by 4,000 people.

    In 2013, Downey became an All-America City and a sister city to Roscommon County, Ireland, the birthplace of the city’s namesake Governor John Gately Downey.

    Guerra also touted the groundbreaking ceremonies for The View apartment complex, the Downey Gateway food court, and the Promenade at Downey, which will create 1,500 permanent jobs once completed.

    “I’m looking forward to working with Mayor Vasquez. When I leave, I do get a different office,” Guerra said drawing laughs. “But we’re in good hands — Fernando has a great vision.”

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Coast Guard Academy’s 131st Graduation Speaker Was Janet Napolitano, Secretart of Homeland Security

English: United States Coast Guard Academy seal

English: United States Coast Guard Academy seal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Coast Guard Academy’s 131st Graduation Speaker is Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano

by London Richter on Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 3:16pm ·

HC HC Coast Guard Commencement02 NEW LONDON 05/16/12 Derek Balke (center) grips his cadet shoulder boards in his hands as he and fellow newly commissioned ensigns Anthony Bareno, (left) Emily Balingit Clark, (second from right) and Trevor Auth (right) take theirs off at the end of commencement ceremonies at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy‘s 131st commencement exercises at the New London campus.

May 16, 2012

New London, Connecticut

U.S. Coast Guard Academy

Good afternoon! Thank you, Admiral Papp, for the introduction, and for inviting me to speak today at your graduation, or as I’ve heard, roughly your 12th “culmination” since 2008.

By the way, I was challenged to see whether I could fit the names of all 16 of the Coast Guard’s 210’ cutters in this speech. Listen close: I have confidence you can count them all.

It’s good to be back at the Coast Guard Academy. I thank your Superintendent, Admiral Stosz, and all the members of the faculty who have helped get you to this point.

On behalf of your Commander in Chief, President Obama, (who will speak at the Air Force Academy on 22 May) congratulations to each of you. And thanks to all who have supported you: your families, your friends, and your (undoubtedly relieved) parents. Please join me in giving all those who have helped you a round of applause.

As the Service Secretary of the Coast Guard, it is my honor to address you as you embark on a career of service to your nation.

After four years of studying with diligence, you enter active duty with the confidence instilled by the finest multi-mission maritime military education in the world.

You have learned about both teamwork and self-reliance, and you have remained resolute in the face of many obstacles. You are well on your way to becoming steadfast leaders.

And that’s critical, because once you leave here, you will be given a lot of responsibility very quickly. I was on the Cutter Kittiwake just a couple weeks ago, and the majority of her crew, including the Commanding Officer, were 25 years old or younger.

Leadership in Uncertain Times

The qualities you have developed over the last four years, that strength of character, are exactly what our nation needs as your careers get underway during uncertain times.

Cadets, we live in a world of evolving threats and unconventional enemies; a world where the battlefield often has no boundaries or uniforms.

You will don many hats as you leave this Academy, because it means a lot to be a member of the Coast Guard – you are rescuers, protectors, first responders, law enforcers, teachers, public servants.

You graduate in a 21st Century anchored in neither the Cold War nor the conventional rules of warfare. In this ever-changing world, the only certainty is that you will be called on to carry out many missions around the globe:

You will help people who are in danger at sea. Last year, the Coast Guard rescued 3,804 men and women.

You will enforce our laws, ensuring that drugs and contraband stay away from our shores, and that our waters are protected from pollution and overfishing. Last year, the Coast Guard accounted for approximately 40% of all U.S., allied nation and partner nation interdictions in the drug transit zone.

You will stop human traffickers and others who are trying to come to our shores illegally, while saving those who have become stranded in crafts not worthy of the sea. Last year, the Coast Guard saved the lives of 2,474 refugees who otherwise would have drowned in their attempt to reach our country’s shores.

You will keep vital shipping lanes half a world away open to commerce – training and patrolling with allies to keep pirates at bay. Last year, the Coast Guard interrupted or defeated four pirate attacks.

You will help ensure the safety of America’s ports, as well as foreign ports that serve as last points of departure to the United States. The Coast Guard operates as the Captains of the Port in 42 locations around our nation.

You will support the defense of our nation during war. Currently, the Coast Guard has men and women in locations like Kuwait, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

And you know that no matter how routine the mission may seem, you must remain vigilant on unforgiving seas. Those in the Coast Guard who gave their lives in the last year bear silent, but eternal witness to the risks of your chosen profession.

But while we know you would give your life – “dearly to an enemy, but freely to rescue those in peril,” as your Creed says, we as your leaders are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that you remain safe and that you have the tools and equipment necessary to succeed in your jobs.

That’s why we invest in you, providing one of the finest educations in the world here at this Academy. And that is why we are investing in new cutters, and helicopters, and other resources to meet your needs.

Our continued investment means that even as the world around us evolves, the Coast Guard will remain a durable and versatile multi-mission force, a force that never rests.

Preparing Future Coast Guard Leaders

But above and beyond equipment and technology, the Coast Guard’s work will continue to require people with a range of talents possibly unmatched anywhere else in public service.

And I have to say, after reviewing the research on your class, I am impressed. You have already distinguished yourselves in so many ways.

Your Distinguished Graduate, Katie Schumacher finished with a 3.97 GPA, despite the major time commitment of serving as regimental Executive Officer.

Your Honor Graduate Justin Daniel finished with the highest GPA at 3.99.

Members of your class including Eric Doherty and Garrick Gillan helped designed and build the “SailBot” autonomous sailboat. Jacob Conrad, Nick Powell, Tom Kane, and Brian Gracey designed and built a “Mobile Biodiesel Batch reactor” that can pull up to a McDonald’s, take the fryer oil, and produce diesel fuel on the spot.

As an attorney myself, I was particularly proud to hear that David Rehfuss’ team won a worldwide “Competition on the Law of Armed Conflict for Military Academies,” beating Army, Navy, and Air Force! I hear we also beat Army in Action Pistol.

And your class has excelled athletically as well:

The softball team won three games in one day earlier this month to come from behind, win the conference, and make it to the national tournament.

And Hayley Feindel overcame a lot to become, as the newspaper said, ‘the most accomplished athlete in the venerable history of the Academy.’ Talk about dependable – she was conference Pitcher of the Year – for the third time – she’s a two time All-American, AND she’s the all-time Division III leader in wins and strikeouts.

And it’s only fitting that you’re good at water sports, with women’s Crew ranked 5th in the country, under leaders like All-American Sarah Jane Otey. If you need any help at the upcoming crew championships, I want you to know I’ve been named an Honorary Coast Guard Coxswain by Coast Guard Station Washington, where I had the chance to show off my small boat driving skills last year.

And Trevor Siperek, a two-time All-Conference Cross Country runner, is ranked near the top of the country at steeplechase, and is also competing in the national finals later this month.

The list I have given is only illustrative, not exhaustive. In fact, your class has many other impressive achievements. No parade field rejects here!

After your Academy education, I am confident all of you will be well prepared to excel at whatever comes next, ready to join a long line of leaders in an organization with a rich history.

In short, I believe your extraordinary achievements and valiant service merit special consideration. Therefore, and using the powers vested in me, I hereby absolve all cadets of the restrictions associated with minor conduct offenses!

(But I cannot, I will not, and I shall not Pardon cadet Webster Smith, Class of 2006)

But as much as you have already accomplished, this is also just the beginning.

One DHS and USCG Role

Remember, the Coast Guard does not carry out its missions alone – you are part of something larger – the homeland security family. More and more, we are working together as one DHS to protect against terrorism, secure our borders, and respond to disasters of all types.

Our components support each other by sharing information, leveraging resources, and conducting joint operations. And while complementary missions bring us together, it is the venturous spirit shared by all who willingly put service over self that bonds us as One DHS.

Embodying Core Values

That spirit shows in the way you will face the overarching challenge of the Coast Guard, and of DHS as a whole: the challenge of leading in an uncertain world.

You are the first class to be born after the end of the Cold War, and to grow up in the Internet age.

You have faced uncertainty and change throughout your lives. And the world around you will continue to change, often in unpredictable ways. You must think about how you will confront these challenges as proud Coast Guard Officers, sworn to uphold the laws and Constitution of the United States.

My advice is to always remember that you are decisive leaders of character, guided by the three Core Values of honor, respect and devotion to duty – three values that you’ve already made your own.

You’ve lived “honor” through your decision to serve, and the integrity you’ve upheld through your time as cadets. As honorable leaders of character, I encourage you to look to other leaders and learn about how they approached challenges. Understanding their successes – and mistakes – can help guide you through difficult times.

There is no clearer example of an honorable leader of character than George Washington. As much as we know about our first President, each generation finds that it has more to learn.

Today, we have a picture of a complex figure who could have assumed near absolute power after the American Revolution, but who resisted that temptation, voluntarily serving only two terms as president.

It is difficult to overstate how rare it is for anyone in history to refuse absolute power, or how much this selflessness shaped our nation. It is the very definition of honor.

And yet this deeply honorable man also had his flaws and struggles, as his biographers have noted. So let the actions of leaders inspire you, but let them also teach you that no one is perfect, and that our success comes despite our imperfections.

Now, we come to the core value of “respect,” which, in the Coast Guard, is all about treating the people around us with “fairness, dignity, and compassion.” Indeed, you’ve demonstrated respect in many ways:

Your compassion has shown through in your commemoration of the life of classmate Kenny Link, and the love and support you’ve shown his family since he passed on;

By building a children’s home for a small community in Honduras, you have helped those who have next to nothing gain a measure of dignity.

Raising funds to fight leukemia and lymphoma is another example of your compassion; and accruing the most community service hours of any class in the past two years shows your dedication to building a fairer world.

You have lived respect, and I encourage you to continue to live this value. Show it in how you deal with both your colleagues and your superior officers. Show it, as well, in how you deal with those under your command. After all, it is difficult to inspire a crew if they sense you do not respect them.

The third core value is devotion to duty. You have embodied this value by volunteering to serve your nation, persevering through every obstacle of the last four years, and by remaining alert, even on a leisure cruise, noticing and rescuing stranded young boaters off Key West. And you will live it in a thousand other acts, large and small, over the course of your careers.

For devotion to duty, I encourage you to follow the example David Henry Jarvis, first in the cadet class of 1883, and namesake of the Jarvis Inspirational Leadership Award.

As a First Lieutenant, he led his men, dogs and 400 reindeer in one of the greatest displays of devotion to duty in our history – the Overland Expedition. And while I know the graduates know the story, I’ll tell it briefly for everyone else.

In November 1897, a fleet of eight whaling ships with some 300 people aboard had become stranded off the northernmost tip of the United States – Point Barrow, Alaska, high in the Arctic – and courageous rescuers were needed to relieve them.

And so America turned to her Revenue Cutter Service, now known as the Coast Guard.

On the orders of President McKinley himself, (Captain “Hell roaring Mike Healy”) and the Revenue Cutter Bear headed north, into the frigid Arctic Winter, landing Lieutenant Jarvis and just two other men near Cape Vancouver.

Dauntless in the face of ice, snow, mountains and weather as cold as 60 degrees below zero, they traveled 1,500 miles at breakneck speed across the Alaskan wilds.

Halfway through, with the help of Native Alaskans, they gathered hundreds of reindeer – self-propelled food – and drove them the rest of the way to Point Barrow.

The whalers were saved, the nation was grateful, and the legacy of devotion to duty the Coast Guard would inherit was born.

That legacy lives on, as we were reminded this year. When the harsh winter placed Nome, Alaska, in peril, America turned again to the Coast Guard. With its heating oil supplies close to running out, the Coast Guard icebreaker Healy came to the rescue, clearing the path for an oil tanker, staying close, bringing her along, leading her forward until the cargo was safely delivered.

Conclusion

You can trace an unbroken line of devotion to duty from the valiant feat of First Lieutenant Jarvis’s team to the men and women of the Healy.

And I am confident you will extend that line forward for decades to come in your own careers, in every way imaginable.

Because for all its history, the Arctic is still a young frontier that you can explore. For all our success against terrorists, our adversaries will adapt, and you will too.

For all we know about ocean science, there is still so much more to learn. And for all the advances in maritime safety, we still know that no ship is unsinkable, and there will always be tragedies to respond to and lives to be saved.

You are not only heirs to a great tradition in each of these areas, you enter a force that is vibrant and vigorous today. And you represent its future – a future that is undoubtedly and incredibly bright – a future where you will conquer challenges yet undreamed of.

You are ready. You are prepared. Go forward to meet those challenges. Semper Paratus!

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