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Opinion: Cheers for the Death of Redevelopment Agencies

Columnist Colleen O'Connor applauds Gov. Jerry Brown for killing redevelopment agencies. Now, can they stay dead?

Jerry Brown ran for governor arguing that his experience would serve the state well.

While his actions thus far (kicking the costs and the prisoners from state facilities to the local jails; not touching the prison guards’ hefty contracts; avoiding a real “no gimmicks” budget; and neglecting a truly honest conversation about the budget deficit) have not served the state well, his decision to put a stake through the heart of the redevelopment agencies deserves high praise.

What Brown knows from experience (and not just as the former mayor of Oakland), and only a few insiders will acknowledge, is that the redevelopment agencies in most cities have indeed become “boondoggles” for private developers.

Forget the moaning about the loss of monies for affordable housing in San Diego. Only 20 percent of the redevelopment funds are required for that admirable purpose. And few of those funds get spent with enough transparency or oversight to call them "affordable” for the taxpayers.

The better question is why has so much money gone into the pockets of developers while starving education?

Forget the moaning about losing the new stadium for the San Diego Chargers or Escondido’s loss of funds for a minor league baseball field.

If the really big league teams—such as the New England Patriots—can build their stadiums using private money, why can’t San Diego? Why should the taxpayers in San Diego be put on the hook to make the already rich players and the rich owners, richer?

Talk about 1 percenters.

Everyone knows the usual whining and wringing of hands will proceed apace.  Read: devastation; higher unemployment; more blighted neighborhoods, less affordable “non-affordable” building permits, etc.

All of which is hyperbole and mostly nonsense.

For a non-partisan, in-depth rebuttal of all of these inflated, near-hysterical, claims: read the California Legislative Analyst’s opinion here.

For those interested only in bullets, here is a summary of negatives regarding redevelopment agencies:

  • There exists no evidence that redevelopment increases overall regional or statewide economic development.
  • It diverts revenues from other local governments and increases state education costs.
  • It has limited transparency and accountability.

Add to this the increasing use of these funds to exercise eminent domain against private property owners—in less-than-blighted areas (such as waterfronts); an expansion of the original zones (i.e., the old Horton Plaza) to encompass new high rise projects along the bay; or the subsidies for a new football stadium or a minor league baseball park (Escondido); and one sees why Gov. Brown called the practice boondoogles.

According to , Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky applauded the California State Supreme Court’s decision formally ending redevelopment agencies, remarking that the agencies stopped being a catalyst to reinvigorate blighted neighborhoods a long time ago.

“Unfortunately, over the years it evolved into a honey pot that was tapped to underwrite billions of dollars worth of commercial and other for-profit projects that had nothing to do with reversing blight, but everything to do with subsidizing private real estate ventures that otherwise made no economic sense," the supervisor was quoted as saying.

Contrast that to San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders : “This is a sad day for San Diego. Plain and simple, this money grab by the governor will have severe negative impacts on our neighborhoods and our economy for decades to come.

And Sanders’ pick to replace him as mayor, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, echoed that opinion, remarking, “San Diego is America’s Finest City today in no small part due to the success of our local redevelopment efforts.”

Evidently, she has not been in the truly blighted, crime-ridden, pothole-filled streets in “America’s Finest City's” truly neglected neighborhoods.

All of the candidates for mayor are begging for a compromise, a re-do for more redevelopment money. After all, it is fund-raising time for the campaigns. 

Look for a leader among the pack who says, “The state is broke. The city is broke. More money is not coming. Let’s deal with it instead of inventing new ways to give it away to our contributors.”

Brown is right. The money coming back to the state from these redevelopment agencies (that often served as pass-throughs to campaign contributors) is over $1 billion in the first year. That now goes to education. Additional funds will go to local firefighters and police.

How good is that?

The end of eminent domain abuses, and the end of using taxpayers’ dollars without a taxpayers’ vote is closer to reality with the demise of the redevelopment agencies.

Another campaign promise Brown has kept.

More transparency. More accountability. More funds for education and safety.

More democracy! Bravo Brown!

But, beware, Governor, the warning of the Middle Ages. If you are going to kill the king, be sure to drive the stake through his heart—and keep it there.

Don’t let up. Don’t compromise. Lest the defeated rise from the ashes.

Bonnie Russell January 04, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Maybe they could send redevelop money to CPS and develop some personnel who actually protect children. Recently I was told that when supervisor Robert Young was told that a CPS worker said, "That's abuse" but after speaking to the child abuser, decided it wasn't, his only solution was to suggest calling the hotline and getting another worker. Meanwhile, the police report is gathering dust. Why should H&HS receive federal funding for this type of "service?" Maybe someone could ask NIck Macchione why CPS continues harming children, as first reported by the 1992 San Diego Grand Jury.

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