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.
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.
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 night spots -- complete with a mermaid tank -- thanks partly to the redevelopment subsidies provided to the project's developer.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
As with so many trends, the use of tax-increment financing for redevelopment began in California. Since being created here in 1952, this vital aspect of redevelopment has spread to 48 other states. And yet if Gov. Jerry Brown's current budget proposal passes, it may very well die in the state where it was born.
It is not going quietly.
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.