Over the past month, California cities have been learning the fate of countless redevelopment projects—touching everything from graffiti-removal programs to nine-figure transit-oriented developments to billion-dollar stadiums. For many, the news is not good – especially now that the California Department of Finance has gotten into the act.
With the American Planning Association National Conference arriving in Los Angeles tomorrow, it's likely that more planners than usual will not just be attending lectures and idly networking but rather will be actively, and sometimes desperately, trying to remain in the profession.
Perhaps more quickly than anyone would have thought, the California Legislature is already considering a collection of bills designed to both smooth the process of dissolving redevelopment agencies and to introduce new tools that cities can use in redevelopment's absence.
SAN DIEGO -- Seeking to make up for lost redevelopment funds, the City of San Diego has decided to require downtown developers to pay processing fees for the first time in decades. But it remains to be seen who will process the permits and get the money – the city's planning department or the city's nonprofit downtown redevelopment entity, the Centre City Development Corp.
Though most cities maintained full-time redevelopment teams, not all the work was done in-house. That would be hard to do in a $5 billion annual industry, with countless moving parts in hundreds of agencies across the state.
Even as the redevelopment wind-down process continues, the Legislature is beginning to play around with possible ways to bring it back in a more limited form. Many of the ideas involve tinkering with tax-increment financing in ways that will hold the state financially harmless. Others would allow cities to keep some or all of their former redevelopment agencies' cash and land assets, which are likely worth several billion dollars.
LOS ANGELES -- For the wind-down of redevelopment to be anything short of a train wreck, successor agencies and oversight boards are going to need a keen understanding of real estate, public policy, economic development, and, of course, accounting. They're also going to need a lot of coffee and patience. But, according to Timothy McOsker, a member of the three-person board serving as successor agency for the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency, the successful completion of the wind-down process is going to require something more subtle.
As cities across the state are contemplating if and how they can spur economic and real estate development in the absence of redevelopment, the Los Angeles County city of Alhambra has taken early steps towards a self-help plan.
Last week the Alhambra City Council heard a first reading of an ordinance that would empower the city to employ a range of economic development tools and to pursue funds to pay for them now that tax increment financing is no longer available. The ordinance would vest in the city many of the powers that the redevelopment agency held.