It's Doomsday for Redevelopment Agencies

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Where we are on some recent Southern California stories:

Redevelopment's End. Efforts to get a stay of execution for the state's 400 or so redevelopment agencies have failed. Senator Alex Padilla's SB 659 would have postponed today's deadline until at least early summer. But Governor Brown spurned delay, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg told reporters last week that holding up doomsday was "not going to happen."

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In the meantime, cities were failing on a second front. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly rejected a plea for injunctive relief sought by a dozen cities. They had asked Judge Connelly to suspend doomsday until their suits against the state were resolved.

On the same day as Connelly's ruling, the League of California Cities begged the governor to consider the bond defaults, loss of taxpayer funds, and potential violations of federal law that could follow the end of redevelopment. The Governor wasn't moved. As a result, the big bond-rating agencies are worried about the billions in redevelopment debt formerly covered by property tax revenues that now will go to the state for redistribution. That might make it harder for cities to borrow.

A largely symbolic effort to preserve $1.3 billion in redevelopment funds that cities set aside for the construction of affordable housing failed to get the two-thirds vote in the state Senate needed to put the measure in effect now. When it does in January 2013, the money will have long been spent to cover some of the state's deficit.

Ironically, many cities, including my own, used some of their redevelopment funding to fix streets and install or replace sidewalks. Los Angeles (see below) didn't, and that's going to cost.

Sidewalks on Trial. Back in September, SoCal Connected and UpDaily highlighted the sad condition of the city's sidewalks. Now the L.A. Times reminds readers of the troubling backstory to the KCET reports. Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuits are pending resolution that would put the city on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in sidewalk repairs.

The city already has settled two earlier cases for $85 million. That money will be used over the next 20 years to install access ramps at intersections. The pending suits demand the repair of broken and heaved sidewalks and the removal of obstructions - like poles and guy wires - that block the right-of-way.

The city claims that property owners are responsible for their chunk of sidewalk under existing ordinances (which were rarely enforced). The ADA suits claim the city must act because the city council accepted responsibility for sidewalk maintenance back in 1973 (to get federal grant money).

As the city's sidewalks continued to crumble, the County Board of Supervisors updated its development code with the goal of encouraging more walking. The revision requires new developments in unincorporated areas to have expanded, five-foot sidewalk widths, among other features. The county believes that wider sidewalks will create "a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly environment."

Until the tree roots take over.

Orange Line Success Story. Mayor Villaraigosa, as current chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, was pleased to announce earlier this week that the project to extend the Orange Line busway has about $180 million in unspent funding that can be used for other transportation projects in the San Fernando Valley.

No word from the Metro if the unspent busway money can be used for sidewalk repairs.

D. J. Waldie, author, historian, and as the New York Times said in 2007, "a gorgeous distiller of architectural and social history," writes about Los Angeles on KCET's SoCal Focus and 1st and Spring blogs.

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