California is usually full of surprises. But we at the California Planning & Development Report -- like almost everyone else involved with California land use -- already know what the story of the year is.

In fact, we knew it on January 10. That's the day that Gov. Jerry Brown released his budget proposal, which includes the elimination of the state's 400 redevelopment agencies. That announcement has prompted one of the most impassioned debates in the history of California cities. 

CP&DR has dedicated as much ink as possible to this discussion in the past two months. Herewith is our blow-by-blow chronicle of the Great Redevelopment Debate. This page will be updated frequently.

Fight Over Redevelopment Funds Not Done Yet

28 December 2010

When 5.7 million people say they want to shield local funding from grabbing hands – as they did in November -- that should be the end of the story. At least, that's what California's redevelopment agencies would hope after this annus horribilis in the redevelopment world.

Governor Proposes Elimination Of Redevelopment Agencies

10 January 2011

As expected, the budget proposed today by Gov. Jerry Brown calls for the wholesale elimination of redevelopment agencies.  This dramatic move would free up roughly $5 billion in annual tax increments that redevelopment agencies control and would redirect those increments to fund a range of local services. The proposed budget's chapter on Tax Relief and Local Government includes a wide-ranging indictment of redevelopment. The budget lists several reasons why redevelopment fails to live up to its promise, notes the relative detriments of diverting the tax increment, and proposes the following steps for disbanding redevelopment agencies and redistributing their tax increments. 

Governor's Budget Calls For Further Cuts Affecting Land Use

11 January 2011

The dissolution of redevelopment agencies may be the biggest bombshell that Gov. Jerry Brown dropped on the land use community. But it is not the only one. He is also targeting the Williamson Act, Enterprise Zones, and fire safety in order to help close the state's $28 billion deficit. 

CRA Leadership Vows Not to Compromise with Governor

20 January 2011

While redevelopment might once have been considered a key weapon in the War on Poverty, redevelopment officials now find themselves gearing up for a different kind of battle. They rallied the troops today, laying out a strategy for opposing the elimination of redevelopment in order to help close a $24 billion budget gap. In a videoconference today the leadership and legal counsel of the California Redevelopment Association vowed that the organization would not compromise in its effort to turn back Gov. Jerry Brown's bid to eliminate redevelopment in the state.

Brown Forces Robust, Necessary Debate Over Redevelopment

27 January 2011

What would life be like in California without redevelopment? This is not a question that most cities, planning consultants, or urban developers in California have ever wanted to ask. But now Gov. Jerry Brown has forced the issue. Cleverly skirting the long-standing legal skirmishes over whether it's constitutional to take money away from redevelopment agencies, Brown has proposed simply abolishing the entire system, which can be accomplished via statute. 

Loss of Redevelopment Set-Aside Could Decimate Affordable Housing

27 January 2011

The core of California redevelopment law tells redevelopment agencies what they can fight against – blight – and it enables them to identify project areas in which to do so. Generally, the law does not, however, indicate what blight should be replaced with. As a result, critics have charged that redevelopment often funds vanity projects such as stadiums at the expense of what they consider more socially beneficial developments.

Proposal to Eliminate Redevelopment Incites Frenzy

27 January 2011

In the two weeks since Brown announced his intention to eliminate redevelopment in California as part of his proposal to cut the state's $24 billion deficit, what used to be a relatively obscure system intended to eradicate blight has been thrust into tumultuous debate.

Brown Pleads for Bipartisanship, Affirms Bid to Kill Redevelopment

1 February 2011

 Governor Jerry Brown's "State of the State" speech last night was probably so familiar that you might have thought you'd written it yourself. He outlined, in remarkably plain terms, the crisis that the state faces and, unlike his predecessor, took an adult approach to bipartisan cooperation. In his eyes, there were no girlie-men in the chamber. Instead, his rhetoric suggests that he was speaking to a group of public servants with different ideologies and a common challenge. 

Agenda for Senate Redevelopment Hearing Released

4 February 2011

 In advance of the Feb. 9 Senate Governance and Fi­nance Committee hearing on the fate of redevelopment, the Legislative Analyst's Office has produced an extensive briefing paper encouraging senators to ask some hard questions about Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to eliminate redevelopment and redistribute its tax increment.  The briefing paper encourages senators to consider six broad categories of concern: Dissolving Redevelopment Agencies; Budget-Year Effects. 3. Out-Year Effects; Affordable Housing; Measuring Outcomes; and, Economic Development Alternatives.

Threat to Enterprise Zones Compounds Cities' Anxieties

14 February 2011

Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed state budget will do more than merely plug a $24 billion deficit. According to some, it will also lead to shuttered factories, recidivism among ex-convicts, and the flight of companies and jobs to rival states such as Arizona, Nevada, and Texas. At least, that is if Brown's proposal to do away with Enterprise Zones is adopted along with the proposed elimination of the redevelopment program.

Brown's Plan Prompts Search for New Approach to Redevelopment

20 February 2011

Ever since Gov. Jerry Brown first announced his intention to eliminate redevelopment agencies the redevelopment establishment – led by the California Redevelopment Association – has taken a hard line: no elimination, no compromise, no relinquishment of the tax increment. The CRA is even preparing for a legal battle based on its interpretation of both the State Constitution and Proposition 22.

Mayors Reportedly Devising Loan Scheme to Save Redevelopment

21 February 2011

After meeting, apparently unsuccessfully, with Gov. Jerry Brown several weeks ago to ask him to back off of his plan to eliminate redevelopment, the mayors of the state's ten largest cities are reportedly lobbying for a compromise. The mayors' plan would preserve redevelopment while also generating $1.7 billion to help offset the state's deficit. That is roughly the amount of property tax increment that the governor hoped to recover by doing away with redevelopment entirely. 

Legislative Analyst Gets Testy With Calif. Redevelopment Association

22 February 2011

The debate over the usefulness of redevelopment has relied on a handful of studies against redevelopment (most prominently Michael Dardia's 1998 PPIC study, "Subsidizing Redevelopment in California") and a single study in favor of redevelopment (the California Redevelopment Association's 2009 study, based on earlier work by the private firm Time Structures [doc]). Last week, Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor put the smack-down on the CRA's study in a letter that sets out three key flaws in the pro-redevelopment studies. 

Forget Redevelopment, Prop 13 Is The Real Issue

24 February 2011

Proposition Thirteen. There, I said it. But I'm not the only one uttering those words during the ongoing discussion of the State of California's enormous budget gap. Just maybe, we can no longer ignore the elephant in the room. The state's fiscal problems are as big as an elephant, and the reasons for them are legion. But, make no mistake, the largest contributor to those problems -- by far -- is the system created by and in reaction to Prop 13.

Gov. Brown Releases Bill Language to Eliminate Redevelopment

24 February 2011

As debates and hearings over the fate of redevelopment have raged on, the Governor's Office has been drafting legislation that would eliminate redevelopment much as the governor has proposed. A strongly worded preamble lays out the case for the governor's position, and, in anticipation of potential legal battles, it claims that "the Constitution does not explicitly state that redevelopment agencies must exist and, unlike other entities such as counties, does not limit the Legislature's control over that existence." 

The Case For Subsidizing the Mermaid Bar

28 February 2011

George Skelton, the venerable Los Angeles Times political columnist, recently came out in favor of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to eliminate redevelopment. Skelton's Exhibit #1 is the Dive Bar, a hangout on derelict K Street in downtown Sacramento that is now one of the city's hottest nightspots – complete with a mermaid tank – thanks partly to the redevelopment subsidies provided to the project's developer.

Fight Over Redevelopment Could Stifle Efforts to Curb Climate Change

28 February 2011

If California's redevelopment agencies vanish on July 1, as Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed, it's clear the task of mending the state's blighted neighborhoods will likely grow more complicated. Less obvious is the fact that California's effort to clean up the Earth's atmosphere may grow more difficult as well.

Dueling Polls Muddle Redevelopment Debate

4 March 2011

With apologies to Sir Isaac Newton, we may finally find out what happens when an irresistible force runs headlong into an immovable object.  

Controller Issues Stern Criticism of Redevelopment Agencies

7 March 2011

Throughout the now eight-week battle over the fate of redevelopment, both sides have issued claims about the efficacy -- or lack thereof -- of redevelopment but have relied on scant data to do so. Today the empirical analysis of redevelopment has, according to the office of State Controller John Chiang, become quite a bit clearer. 

CRA Fires Back at Controller

7 March 2011

 As expected, supporters of redevelopment in California wasted no time responding to ascathing report released today by State Controller John Chiang. This afternoon California Redevelopment Association re-iterated its longstanding contention that redevelopment creates jobs, stokes local economies, and provides a net economic benefit to the state despite what Gov. Jerry Brown claims is a $1.7 billion annual drain on state coffers.

Redevelopment Supporters Gird for Legal Battle

13 March 2011

If Gov. Jerry Brown gets his way in the Legislature in the coming days, he and the state will face a conundrum to make a Zen master's head spin: Is it illegal to transfer funds from agencies that no longer exist? The governor has thus far been unyielding in his effort to eliminate the state's redevelopment agencies. In doing so he hopes to recoup up to $1.7 billion to help offset the state's estimated $26 billion deficit. Negotiations are ongoing at the Capitol, with a handful of Republican legislators--the so-called "GOP 5"—still in discussions with the Democratic governor. A vote is expected any day now.  

Cities Shield Funds, Face Liquidation of Redevelopment Assets

As the clock ticks down to an imminent -- but as yet unscheduled -- vote on Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal, localities and their respective redevelopment agencies have been taking frantic evasive measures to try to shield funds and properties from liquidation and transfer to the state.  

CRA Proposes Compromise on Budget Plan

15 March 2011

After weeks of stalemate and tough talk -- on both sides -- the California Redevelopment Association has announced an alternative to Gov. Jerry Brown's intention to eliminate redevelopment. The CRA announced today a compromise plan that would preserve the architecture of redevelopment while allowing the transfer of certain funds to schools (at the expense of affordable housing), thus easing the state's deficit.  

Land Use Features Prominently in Republicans' 'List of Demands'

Gov. Jerry Brown entered office three months ago with a vow to close the state's $26 billion budget gap as pragmatically as possible. What started out as an exercise in accounting has now risen to high political drama, most recently with the issuance of a 'list of demands' from state Republican lawmakers. 

Redevelopment Reform Measures Move Ahead During Budget Deadlock

6 May 2011

A flurry of activity this week suggests, however, that the fight to save redevelopment is very much alive. In particular, the rallying cry has been to reform, and not eliminate, redevelopment. Recently introduced legislation attempts to do just that.  

Brown Signs Budget Bills, Forces Redevelopment Agencies' Hand

29 June 2011

After six months of debating and negotiating, Governor Jerry Brown today signed AB 1x 26/27, the pair of bills that would compel redevelopment agencies to make voluntary contributions to the state or else face elimination. Opponents of the budget trailer bill contend that the requested contributions would be so burdensome--totaling $1.7 billion this fiscal year--as to effectively end redevelopment in the state by putting all but the most financially solvent agencies out of business.  

Redevelopment Debate Stirs Up 33 Years of Discontent

Since January we have witnessed the unusual spectacle of elected local officials throughout the state expressing intense and emotional anger and frustration about the possible end to redevelopment -- and no reaction at all from anybody else. 

Redevelopment Agencies Prepare to Fight for Their Lives

After an agonizing six-month prelude, the curtain has finally risen on the drama that is redevelopment in California. Agencies are now forced contemplate the costs of staving off their own demise.

Redevelopment May Survive, But Will It Be Stronger?

The new rules of redevelopment – if the courts agree – are now clear: You're dead, but you can buy your way back to life. That's probably enough to keep most redevelopment agencies in business. But is it enough for cities to continue to do redevelopment deals?

CRA, League Sue to Overturn Redevelopment Remissions

Here we go again. 

In 2009 the redevelopment agencies of California, represented by the California Redevelopment Association, filed suit to block the state's requisitioning of over $1 billion of tax increment financing. That suit failed. 

Kennedy to Guide Redevelopment Association While Lawsuit is Pending

3 October 2011 

Jim Kennedy may have taken the most thankless job in all of California planning. The former planning director of Contra Costa County and longtime board member of the California Redevelopment Association, Kennedy succeeds former executive director John Shirey, who recently became city manager for the City of Sacramento.

Redevelopment Agencies' Worst Nightmare Discussed before Supreme Court

11 November 2011 

After yesterday's California Supreme Court oral argument in California Redevelopment Association vs. Matosantos – the lawsuit challenging the state's new pay-ransom-or-die redevelopment system – it's still hard to tell where the court will go. But the biggest question that emerged was: What happens it the court upholds AB 1x 26, which abolishes redevelopment, but strikes down AB 1x 27, which permits redevelopment agencies to continue to exist if they pay a "remittance" to the state?

Redevelopment Will Be Back -- But At What Price?

29 December 2011

The California Supreme Court killed redevelopment this morning, but that doesn't mean it's dead. At first glance it would seem as though redevelopment agencies have no bargaining power at all. After all, it's hard to imagine a weaker position than a state Supreme Court ruling saying you don't exist.  

How AB 1x 26 Will Pick the RDA Carcass

RDAs Try To Push Stay of Execution Past February 1, But Don't Know Which Projects Will Be Killed

Brown: Funding Redevelopment Requires Offsetting Cuts


RDA Timeline: Hatchet to Fall Feb. 1

RDA Ruling Just In Time for Gov. Brown's Budget

Redevelopment Should Be Reincarnated in Cities' General Plans

City, County, State Play Hot Potato with Los Angeles RDA


CRA Claims Significant Flaws in Legislation to Dissolve RDAs

Moody's Downgrades California Redevelopment Bonds (Updated)

Fitch Gets Nervous About Redevelopment Bonds

State Releases How-To Guide for Redevelopment Dissolution

Legislative Attempt to Delay RDA Dissolution Fails

Lawsuits Seek 11th-Hour Reprieve for Redevelopment (Updated)

Handful of Cities Refuse to Serve as RDA Successor Agencies

Demise of Redevelopment to Remain Work in Progress, Even after Feb. 1

31 January 2012