Lodi Voters Kill Redevelopment Plan

Voters in Lodi rejected redevelopment, while those in Alamo said no to incorporation of a new city during municipal balloting on March 3. In Los Angeles, voters narrowly rejected two charter amendments, one for a solar energy program, the other for fiscal incentives for business development.

Only in Glendora did the electorate provide a positive response to proposed change. A measure rezoning the site of a former automobile dealership for other retail uses passed easily.

Redevelopment has been a controversial topic in the San Joaquin County city of Lodi for years. In 2002, the City Council dropped a plan to establish a redevelopment project area after opponents gathered enough signatures to force a referendum. But the idea never completely died, and the City Council last year approved a 2,100-acre project area covering much of the older, east side of town. Again, opponents forced a referendum election, but this time the question actually went on the ballot as Measure W.

Opponents argued that redevelopment would saddle Lodi with debt, permit the redevelopment agency to use eminent domain on behalf of special interests and take money away from schools and the county. "This Lodi ordinance binds our city for the next forty years," stated one flyer against redevelopment. "No to Waste Lodi doesn't need another layer of government."

Proponents contended redevelopment would provide the best tools to revitalize a poor part of town, and they noted the City Council had prohibited use of eminent domain. Still, opponents carried the day, as 54.1% of voters overturned the council's redevelopment plan.

"Lodi has a small but very vocal group of people who really distrust government. We have more than our share of referendums," said Mayor Larry Hansen, Lodi's mayor and retired police chief. A city of 63,000 people, Lodi is one of the few San Joaquin Valley cities where growth control measures and big-box limitations frequently make it onto the ballot.

The Measure W defeat, said Hansen, "was really frustrating to me because those who understood it are just baffled why the community wouldn't help itself." He blamed the loss on the negative campaign against redevelopment and the timing of the election for a period when nothing else was on the ballot and the economy is bad. Still, the problems persist, he said.

"What's your plan?" Hansen demanded. "You still have 100-year-old sewer pipes. You still have neighborhoods that are run down. People still need affordable housing. The sad thing is, we have no money to address these issues."

However, Lodi Councilwoman Joanne Mounce, a redevelopment opponent, said the city has raised nearly $30 million through utility surcharges enough to fund necessary infrastructure maintenance and upgrades. She denied the city's east side is blighted.

"I've always felt the plan was a smokescreen for economic development, not for all of these other things," said Mounce, who decried incentives for developers and businesses. "I just think there needs to be reform of redevelopment on the state level."

In Contra Costa County, voters overwhelmingly denied Alamo's bid to become the state's 481st city. Opponents agued that the Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Commission's comprehensive fiscal analysis overstated revenues and underestimated expenses, especially for law enforcement. The opponents who included Cecily Talbert Barclay, co-author of Curtin's California Land Use and Planning Law presented their own study that said the new city could face an almost immediate deficit that would prompt either service cuts or higher taxes.

The proposed city of about 16,700 people and 10 square miles would have been based on a contract model more commonly seen in Southern California. The city would have had only about 10 employees, with private firms and other public agencies providing most services. However, the new city would have gained control of the politically sensitive topics of planning, roads and parks. The incorporation drive stemmed in part from the Board of Supervisors' decision a few years ago to convert a local land use advisory council from elected to board-appointed.

The incorporation drive failed, as Measure A received only 35.6% support.

In Los Angeles, voters defeated a charter amendment that would have required the Department of Water & Power (DWP) to install and operate 400 megawatts of solar energy facilities on city properties by 2014. Measure B provided a major component of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's renewable energy proposal, and Villaraigosa easily won re-election over token opposition during the March municipal election. But Measure B opponents said the solar program was ill-conceived, would have relied on DWP's union employees when it should have been open to competitive bidding, and would have raised electricity rates. Although Measure B lost 50.5% to 49.5%, Villaraigosa vowed to press forward with additional solar installations.

Measure E, the economic development charter amendment, fared even worse, as 52.3% of voters said no. The proposal would have given the city clear authority to provide economic incentives to retain or attract businesses. The city already provides numerous incentives to developers and businesses, but the charter is unclear on the city's authority. Currently, incentives require City Council approval. Measure E would have clarified the charter and permitted city staff to offer incentives. Skeptics cited a city controller's report that found the city does a poor job of ensuring subsidized developers provide promised public benefits.

Voters in the San Gabriel Valley city of Glendora endorsed the rezoning of the site of a former Hyundai dealership located in the Glendora Marketplace shopping area. Previously, the site was reserved for automotive-related uses. The Measure C zoning approved by 70.0% of voters permits up to 100,000 square feet of general and specialized retail, including restaurants and department stores.