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Posts Tagged ‘RDA’

In theory, California’s experiment with redevelopment agencies had good intentions. In practice, it was just a corrupt way for subsidizing auto-centric development.

During the latest budget crisis, Governor Brown killed off all the redevelopment agencies. They were sucking too much money out of the General Fund.

A bill under consideration in the State Senate would revive the concept in a more limited form. SB-1, authored by Darrell Steinberg would authorize tax increment financing for building “sustainable” communities around transit stations.

So would this bill avoid the mistakes of the past? Would the new development be walkable, bikable, and transit-oriented as proponents are claiming? Here is the actual text from the bill, defining parking requirements for commercial developments:

“Infill project” means a project that meets the following conditions:

30(ii) Retail or commercial, where no more than one-half of the project area is used for parking.

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CA Redevelopment Still Not Dead

California’s Redevelopment Agencies gave us 50-years of hellish autocentric development, all subsidized by the taxpayer. That is, until Governor Brown had them killed in last year’s Legislative session.

Now the Legislature is trying to revive the concept, and some soi disant environmentalists are going along with it:

Governor Brown needs to sign Senate Bill 1156. SB 1156 gives local governments a way to finance the projects and plans mandated by S.B. 375, save Californians money and help stop global warming. For example, projects within a “transit priority area” that received different benefits, approvals and government funds would have to be within a half-mile of a transit stop.

So RDA is Ok so long as it is near a transit stop. Because the really awful RDA projects have never, ever, ever, ever happened near a transit stop.

And for those naive enough to think SB-1156 will provide safeguards to ensure walkable communities: note that the only parking requirement in the bill is for parking to make up no more than one-half the project area.

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It has only been a few weeks since California’s Redevelopment Agencies were killed, but Legislators are already dreaming up ways to re-incarnate the beast.

One approach under study is to loosen the rules governing “infrastructure financing districts,” which can issue bonds and repay them from increases in property taxes in project areas. That’s similar to redevelopment, but the districts are more limited in scope and, under current law, require approval of two-thirds of local voters.

Two pending bills, including one to underwrite the upcoming America’s Cup boat races in San Francisco, would eliminate the voter approval requirement, but Brown is unlikely to go there. Backers of the concept are hoping, however, that he might accept lowering the voter threshold to 55 percent, similar to that for school bonds, or even to a simple majority.

While the current two-thirds threshold for local bond measures sounds like a lot, it guarantees all interests are represented. Without it, advocates for bikes, peds, and transit don’t get a seat at the table. Reducing the bar to 55%, or even simple majority, would allow cities to revert to their bad old ways of subsidizing parking garages, and other auto-centric crap.

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Redevelopment Court Challenge May Backfire

California’s Supreme Court will be ruling on a court challenge from redevelopment agencies (RDA’s). That lawsuit seeks to block two bills passed to scale back redevelopment agencies. One bill puts in place a new revenue-sharing agreement, and the second bill just kills the RDA’s outright.

The RDA’s were seeking to overturn both laws, but it appears that strategy will backfire:

Justice Joyce L. Kennard suggested that the agencies’ challenge of both laws could backfire. She said the court could find the abolition constitutional but the revenue-sharing law invalid, a prospect that an attorney for redevelopment agencies called the worst possible outcome. Justice Marvin R. Baxter observed that it would be ironic if Proposition 22, which redevelopment agencies had promoted, ended up requiring the court to overturn the compromise and cut the lifeline that the revenue-sharing law provided. Baxter also appeared dubious that the proposition gave the agencies “perpetual existence.”

Killing the rotten RDA’s would be the best possible outcome. In case there was any doubt:

In a move that California Gov. Jerry Brown might see as L.A.’s “let them eat cake” moment, the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency has set aside $5.5 million in public help for Watts — yet earmarked $52 million for a garage for Eli Broad’s museum.

Los Angeles city officials released a list of their 275 supposedly must-have “redevelopment” projects, which can be downloaded here. The list shows:

– All of South Los Angeles, population 550,000, where unemployment among young minorities is said to exceed 30 percent, would get just $32 million from the CRA — $20 million less than Broad would get for his garage.

– More than $1 in every $10 of the nearly $1 billion in “redevelopment” money controlled by Los Angeles is to be spent in pursuit of Eli Broad’s dream of glitzing up the Civic Center’s Grand Avenue area (which is neither poor or blighted) with luxury condos, a luxury hotel, and his architecturally stunning museum.

– Watts, devastated by the recession, would get only $5.5 million from the CRA, compared to $102 million for the Grand Avenue luxury project and Broad’s museum.

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Can a parking lot at a Caltrain station be “blighted”? That was the logic behind a convoluted Redwood City plan to build a transit-oriented development project.

The most important things are that the project be very successful and that it supports downtown as a whole, for example, by creating a lot of sidewalk activity on nearby streets. For that kind of flexibility, however, the land must fall under the redevelopment agency before it can be transferred to a selected developer.

Good grief. If a city wants a walkable neighborhood, then just sell off the parking lot and re-zone the neighborhood for higher density.

But noooo, that would be too easy. And even worse, it means the City sells to the highest bidder!

Unlike its redevelopment agency, Redwood City would have to sell the property to the highest bidder “without consideration of other factors, such as who is most experienced with similar developments, who is proposing the best project for downtown, or whether the buyer even plans on building anything,

To recap: the City Council believes it knows better than a developer how to best utilize the parcel. And they want taxpayers to subsidize the politically-juiced developer. No wonder Governor Brown wants to shitcan the redevelopment process.

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Blighted Farmland

Is it possible for farmland to be blighted?

That was how San Jose described the North First Street corridor, an area that was farmland not too long ago. Thanks in part to efforts of the San Jose Redevelopment Agency, it has now been paved over into office park hell.

North First Street is another example where RDA’s fail to consider neighborhood livability and sustainability in development plans. The VTA built a billion-dollar light rail line along 1st St, but the development is purely auto-oriented.

Most galling of all is the RDA parcel at Holger Way, at 237/North First interchange.

A pretty good Class I bike/ped trail runs alongside highway 237. Some of it was built as part of the Bay Trail project, other segments were built as mitigation for the highway 237 construction. One annoying gap is between North First and Zanker. How easy would have been for San Jose to have fixed this gap, as part of redevelopment. Problem was, their staff had no idea the trail even existed.

Not only was this gap not filled, but for 10 years a fence was thrown up across Holger way, forcing cyclists to make an unnecessary detour.

The reason I bring up this planning clusterfuck is because the annual meeting of the California Redevelopment Association is being held in — of all places — San Jose. And this may be their last meeting ever, because Governor Brown wants to eliminate Redevelopment Agencies for good.

As reported in the Mercury News, the conference was more of a confessional:

Is it an Irish wake or an old-fashioned revival meeting? At this week’s annual meeting of the California Redevelopment Association, it’s been hard to tell. The three-day conference, which ends Friday at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, may turn out to be the final gathering of almost 400 of the state’s active redevelopment agencies if a proposal by Gov. Jerry Brown to eliminate them comes to pass. Or, as the roughly 600 attendees are hoping, their last-minute efforts, counterproposals and reform pitches to state legislators may be enough to pull redevelopment from the grave. With crisis, some say, comes opportunity — and maybe even redemption. “We have to admit to ourselves that we have sown some of those seeds of our own destruction,” John Shirey, executive director of the association, told a general session audience.

San Jose has been one of the worst abusers of redevelopment process. What better place to bury RDA?

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