Will Redevelopment Be Resurrected?

Public Policy Debate
Public Policy Debate | Photo: born1945 | Flickr: Creative Commons License

Ron Kaye, writing in the Burbank Leader, highlights more head-spinning chaos in the state's dissolution of local redevelopment agencies.

(You'll remember that the end of redevelopment was the "nuclear option" the state used as a lever to pry some property tax revenue out of cities so that those "new" dollars could be backed out of the state's county and school funding commitments. Foolish cities sued to prevent the state from taking anything and as the result of a state Supreme Court decision, lost everything.)

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Cities are now deep into the dissolution of their agencies, scrambling to meet deadlines the state never intended to impose under rules that were never formalized (to be litigated forever, once the damage has been done). Some cities have set up their own "successor agencies" to oversee the sale of redevelopment assets and to pay creditors. Other cities -- including Los Angeles -- have given that power to a successor assembled by the county.

As Kaye wryly notes, "The state Legislature provided no road map for how to dismantle redevelopment agencies, so city, county and state officials are making it up as they go along against impossible deadlines for audits, debt payment schedules and the uncertainties of funding."

The gears are turning in this creaky and untested machine, but the legislature (less so the governor) may now want to redesign the apparatus on the fly. There is a consensus forming -- driven by several constituencies -- that perhaps something like redevelopment should be resurrected, to operate at the local level to provide some incentives for job creation and encourage the construction of new, affordable housing.

After all, the legislature suddenly discovered, the state has never had an economic development plan that reached down to the municipal level, nor has the state ever built the kind of housing that's currently infilling existing suburban neighborhoods.

The way out, the legislature thinks, is to give cities the work to do, but give the legislature executive control over how cities do it and how much they can spend (in fact, the state's goals at the start of this mess).

My bet is that the breakneck speed of agency dissolution will beat the lethargy of legislative action and that the second coming of redevelopment will arrive in the midst of half-undone projects and partially completed tax sharing deals.

Imagine a train wreck staged inside a demolition derby.

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