Friday, March 18, 2011
SAN DIEGO The city of San Diego will explore other options to fund construction projects if Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to eliminate local redevelopment agencies is approved by lawmakers, a city official said Friday.
San Diego City Council President Tony Young said that even without redevelopment funds, the city will move forward with various projects, including building a new sports stadium for the San Diego Chargers, expanding the downtown convention center and supporting the Southeastern Economic Development Corporation's plans for Valencia Business Park.
Brown wants to get rid of the agencies and use their funding to reduce the state budget deficit. He said municipalities sometimes use redevelopment money as slush funds to cover their own deficits.
Young said losing redevelopment money will make it harder to build a new downtown stadium for the Chargers, but that there are other options, including receiving funding from the NFL or partnering with San Diego State University on construction.
He also suggested putting the decision of whether to build a new stadium to the voters.
"One thing that we have not done and that we should do is give the opportunity for the Chargers and the citizens and the council and the mayor to vet this issue out in a public way, and eventually put something on the agenda to have a discussion,'' Young said.
"We can also at some point in time decide to put it on the ballot,'' he added. "I think ultimately the public has to make a decision: Do we want or not want a stadium in San Diego?''
Young said the discussion would continue this year and that a measure could go on the November 2012 ballot.
The threat of Brown's redevelopment elimination also prompted the city to take ownership of 133 properties previously owned by the city's redevelopment agency, because those properties could have been passed on to other agencies, Young said.
"The properties would actually go to a successor agency, but we don't know who that is,'' he said. "It could be the county, the school district, it could be any other entity.''
The properties are worth about $250 million, Young said.
He said to ensure the properties stay city-owned, the City Council transferred them from the redevelopment agency to the city.
"It was not the ideal thing to do, but it was something we had to do,'' Young said. "Because if we didn't, we could have lost $250 million to the school district, which would have been untenable for me.''
If the governor's bid to eliminate redevelopment agencies fails, Young said the City Council would consider transferring ownership of the properties back.
"It's not the most ideal policy that we could come up with, but there was no other option,'' he said.
Although some of the properties will lose money for the city, it was still necessary to take over their ownership, Young said.
"We had to make those decisions, and I wish we could have just paired them out and gave the state all the crappy properties, but we just couldn't do that,'' he said.
Brown has led a push to eliminate local redevelopment agencies and divert their funds to debt payments, education, health care and the courts. Approval of the governor's plan fell one vote short in the state Assembly Wednesday, but Brown said he will continue to fight for it over the weekend.
Young said he did not know which lawmaker Brown was hoping to get for the final vote, but if he found out, he would consider calling that person over the weekend.