California's Redevelopment Agencies Seek Allies

Mar 15, 2010

The primary takeaways from last week's California Redevelopment Association conference was unambiguous: stakeholders and public officials alike must know the true impact of reduction of redevelopment funding in communities and statewide.  Panels on the final day of the conference sent attendees home with some idea of the steps that both local agencies and the state association must take to achieve this goal and keep the state's redevelopment agenda on track.

Representatives from law enforcement, labor, environmental, real estate development, and social service organizations emphasized the need for broad-based coalitions to work together to communicate this message.  Chair of the California League of Conservation Voters Tom Adams noted that the "paradigm shift in the environmental community based on the passage of SB 375" has made "environmentalists recognize that redevelopment is an essential tool" to reduce the state's carbon footprint.  Leaders Christine Minnehan (Western Center on Law & Poverty) and Chief Susan Manheimer (California Association of Police Chiefs) confirmed the need for other groups to identify commonalities and represent the different perspectives of redevelopment, social services and law enforcement, respectively.  On the policy side, the private sector, represented by Renata Simril, senior vice president at Forest City Enterprises, urged greater flexibility to address sustainability issues rather than "imposing artificial constraints – such as requiring LEED silver certification on any commercial building over 50,000 square feet in the City of Los Angeles."

Former legislators Dede Alpert and Jim Brulte underscored the importance of working with groups outside of the redevelopment world and also of the need to educate legislators and staffers on the relevance of redevelopment. Brulte noted that "so many of the legislators don't really know what redevelopment does. Send in the interest groups whom legislators benefit from…to show them the impact of these cuts."  Brulte contended that "every dollar taken from redevelopment affects public safety," or the irony of Republicans who might typically scoff at redevelopment spending who then hold fundraisers in venues that benefited by redevelopment funding.  Good fodder for local agencies who will need all the help they can get in holding on to their funds from the state.

Overall, the conference addressed both the basics and complexities of climate change, from baseline discussion of SB 375 and AB 32, identifying impacts of vehicle trip reduction, to financing programs for green development.  Similar to the reaction of planners on climate change regulation (CP&DR Insight, Vol. 23 No. 01 Jan 2008), those in the redevelopment field are incorporating more green and transit-friendly elements into their projects.  Finally, the national economic climate was felt as sessions on federal foreclosure assistance programs and financing projects through ARRA funds were well attended.

CP&DR attended some of these sessions and for the first time attempted to relay key sessions via a live twitter feed.  You can access the public twitter feed on the conference here: without having to register for a twitter account.   

-- Allison Joe