Arrested Redevelopment?

Governor Jerry Brown's veto of the California budget leaves the fate of community redevelopment agencies hanging.

Earlier this year, the governor proposed eliminating the agencies altogether, but he failed to win the Legislature's approval. Instead, Democrats came back with a plan to reach deep into CRA pockets to enrich state coffers by an estimated $1.7 billion. But that plan was linked to the recently vetoed budget, so redevelopment agencies have eked out a second reprieve.

On the face of things, redevelopment agencies collect a portion of property tax revenues and city bonds and then use the funds to restore blighted neighborhoods and help stimulate the local economy through job-creation — read construction, new business enterprises, etc. New development is also supposed to encourage private investment. But at issue, at least in part, is how effective these agencies are in doing just what they were created to do.

Now stop. Let's back up. It's September 1998. The University of California in Los Angeles had just released a report largely praising the Community Redevelopment Agency here on its 50th anniversary. Life & Times anchor Hugh Hewitt interviewed Glenn Hoiby of the Project Area Committee to get his take on the report. And Hoiby wasn't just critical of CRA/LA. He was already suggesting, more than a dozen years ago, that it should be abolished (video below).

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Show: Life & Times
Originally Aired: September 2, 1998
Interviewer: Hugh Hewitt

A Case Study
Hoiby claimed that CRA/LA often takes credit for increasing the market value of the properties it sets out to redevelop, even though the areas remain largely blighted afterward. This sort of tendency to get mixed results seemed apparent several years later when Life & Times visited the neighborhood of North Hollywood, a redevelopment project area first designated as such back in 1978.

Correspondent Toni Guinyard reported that several local residents and business owners were frustrated with the lack of progress, though many still harbored some optimism about what the neighborhood might become, with a little work, and with a little more investment (video below).

SoCal Connected on KCET


Show: Life & Times
Originally Aired: August 29, 2003
Reporter: Toni Guinyard

Since 2003, North Hollywood has seen its share of successes. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called it a model for "smart growth" in 2006. Indeed, things were looking up then.

"I am elated to see North Hollywood finally have its turn to shine," Robert "Bud" Ovrum told the Daily News. Ovrum, who was head of CRA/LA in 2003 and featured in the story above, later became deputy mayor for economic development.

But North Hollywood has also been hit hard by the recent economic crisis. A $500 million project for Laurel and Valley plazas in the East San Fernando Valley fell through just a few months ago when an investor group defaulted on its note. The project likely never will amount to what was initially envisioned, according to the Daily News.

Even if new investors swoop to the rescue, projects like these now look like they could become a thing of the past as redevelopment agencies themselves come under attack. Whether that's bad news or good will depend on how you see these taxpayer-funded redevelopment projects: wasteful spending, or much-needed stimulus.

This post is second in an on-going series bringing you past reports on the issues of today. By drawing on KCET's extensive archive of Southern California news, culture and public affairs, we'll seek to inform current events by providing a little historical perspective, and maybe answer the question: Is there anything new under the SoCal sun?

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