As we approach the February 1 deadline officially shutting down all community redevelopment agencies in California, there will be much scuttlebutt this week as some state and city leaders try to find a way to preserve the agencies or to delay their closure.
Redevelopment agencies have been around for decades, created as a tool to address blight, preserve historically-relevant areas, reduce crime and give communities a chance to reinvent themselves. Taxes generated by development in an area designated for redevelopment were used to pay the debt that financed these projects. In addition, updated RDA legislation required a 20 percent set-aside for affordable and senior housing.
In many cities across California, it worked and transformed communities. In my hometown, Cerritos, and in other areas of the 4th District, this resulted in new jobs, services, and increased property and sales tax revenues for the city.
Some have suggested that redevelopment agencies did not have enough oversight, resulting in bloated staff and mismanagement of funds. Yes, it’s true that there have been problems with some agencies and those must absolutely be addressed. Tighter controls, more accountability for taxpayer money and strict oversight are critical. Unfortunately, the behavior of a few will result in the stoppage of vital projects that are critical to communities in these tough economic times.
So let’s be honest here. This isn’t an effort by the state and the governor to clean up redevelopment. As with realignment and the move of state prisoners to county jails, this is one more attempt by the state to balance its budget on the back of local government. Unraveling the work of organizations that have been in existence for decades needs a thorough impact assessment. They cannot be simply unwound without serious consequences in those neighborhoods that need them most.