Monday, February 28, 2011
Negotiations continue over what to do about redevelopment in California. Specifically, Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to dissolve local redevelopment agencies and use the freed up property tax dollars elsewhere.
SAN DIEGO Negotiations continue over what to do about redevelopment in California. Specifically, Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to dissolve local redevelopment agencies and use the freed up property tax dollars elsewhere. That plan has led to a race in some cities to commit those dollars now. San Diego is going to extreme lengths to keep the redevelopment dollars flowing.
Imagine you’re in a store and it’s filled with things that are hard to get anywhere else. You’ve heard the store may be closing. But you think that, if it closes while you‘re shopping, you’ll still be able to buy whatever is in your cart. So what do you do? Well, San Diego wants to throw $4 billion worth of redevelopment projects in its basket.
Mayor Jerry Sanders doesn’t make any apologies for the massive amount of money the city is trying to lock down. Sanders is adamant that eliminating redevelopment would be disastrous.
“If this desperate proposal passes, Governor Brown will be remembered as the governor who crippled the economic progress of California cities rather than make the tough reforms California obviously needs,” Sanders said.
San Diego’s $4 billion wish list of redevelopment projects runs 79 pages long. It includes everything from affordable housing to a downtown dog park. Some of the projects aren’t scheduled to be completed until 2050. By comparison, the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles, the state’s largest, has a wish list of about $1 billion. In San Diego, the mayor insists the projects have been publicly vetted. But the sheer price tag of them is shocking to some.
“Wow, talk about Santa Clause coming to town!” said San Diego Mesa College political science professor Carl Luna. He said the city is trying to maintain as much local control as it can. But he questions the sincerity of leaders committing to projects decades in the future.
“It’s not administratively that responsible,” he said. “It’s a fiscal ploy to grab what you can now. And what will happen is over time they’ll change the plans.”
If the governor’s proposal moves forward it would divert about $1.7 billion to fund state programs in the first year. After that the money would be split among schools and other local services.
Not everyone in San Diego is ready to go on a spending spree. Councilman Carl DeMaio has taken on the role of the more cautious shopper.
“Legally we don’t really understand what are the rights and responsibilities of the redevelopment agency, the city of San Diego and, of course, the state of California,” he said. “I think we need to get some clarity on that before we go running out with a checkbook and start spending a lot of money.”
And even though the city may have some items in its shopping cart, it’s not certain it’ll be able to complete the transaction. The governor’s proposal allows projects already underway to continue. But projects proposed after January 1, 2011 would face increased scrutiny and possible cancellation. Even so, San Diego is prepared to forge ahead with its wish list, which the city council will consider today.