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Big-City Mayors Make Last-Minute Plea to Save Redevelopment

The debate over the fate of redevelopment has called into question the usefulness of redevelopment in places such as, say, Coronado or Palm Desert. But there is no doubt that blight still infects large swaths of the state's major cities -- and that those cities are deeply concerned about the fate of their redevelopment agencies. 

In response to the release of a draft bill that would make the elimination of redevelopment official, the mayors of the state's nine largest cities today sent a stern letter [.pdf] to Gov. Jerry Brown asking him once again to reconsider his intention to eliminate their redevelopment agencies -- along with nearly 400 others across the state. 

This is not the first time that Brown, once mayor of Oakland, has heard from his former counterparts. Mayors met with him in Sacramento several weeks ago, before the bill language was released. But apparently their pleas have run headlong into the overwhelming fact that looms over Brown's governorship: a $26 billion budget deficit. 

While Brown sees the dissolution of redevelopment as a way to liberate $1.7 billion, the mayors argue that the loss of redevelopment will have "disastrous impacts on cities, counties and the entire state economy." The mayors' letter focuses mainly on perceived administrative and logistical flaws in the governor's plan. 

The mayors cite the following dangers of eliminating tax-increment financing and the 6-decade-old bureaucratic structure that administers those funds: 

 

  • "Successor agencies" that would assume RDA debt are ill-defined and could lack proper oversight, thus squandering funds dedicated to paying off existing debt obligations. 
  • Proposed oversight boards would not be sufficiently transparent or accountable to city governments. 
  • The immediate elimination of redevelopment agencies would amount to a hasty, poorly planned shakeup of local government: "This legislation effectively begins the realignment conversation in a piecemeal, tactical fashion with no strategic understanding of balance or sustainability."
  • The legislation would prompt a "fire sale" of assets and put countless redevelopment deals in jeopardy, as private partners would be prompted to pull out. Likewise, agency employees with longstanding knowledge of existing and proposed deals would be let go. This would, say the mayors, damage the entire state real estate market. 
  • Finally, the mayors reiterated their substative objections to the governor's plan: that it would decimate needy communities, stunt the production of affordable housing, and make California an even chillier business climate. 

 

The letter was signed by the mayors of Anaheim, Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, and Santa Ana.  

For complete coverage of Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to eliminate redevelopment, please visitCP&DR's Redevelopment Elimination Resources Page.

--Josh Stephens