Redevelopment debate: California mayors duke it out with Gov. Brown
When it comes to cleaning up California's budget mess, halting funds to the 400 municipal redevelopment agencies is really unfortunate, but it's the lesser evil when you consider all of the other things we need to pay for. Gov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday, "The money's not there." Moreover, he argued, here's an opportunity to save $1.7 billion.
In the other corner, we have the mayors from the state's biggest cities saying that redevelopment agencies incentivize developers to build in less-than-ideal areas; eventually that drives up property tax revenues, and, in the case of Hollywood, increases tourism, which is the example Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa gave during Wednesday's meeting. Here's a snippet from a segment on KPCC with Julie Small on Thursday morning:
"Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa recalls that not too many years ago, the average tourist visit to Hollywood lasted 23 minutes. Then redevelopment dollars flowed into the area to pay for improvements.
'You can go downtown in L.A. and go to Hollywood today and you see a different place, a vibrant place,' said Villaraigosa. 'Today the average stay is two days.'
Villaraigosa says L.A. would never have achieved that 'Hollywood ending' without the redevelopment agencies the governor wants to scrap."
If the editorial board was the referee in this match, it'd come down in favor of Gov. Brown. It's not that it would like to see a halt to redevelopment, but that concessions must be made. Drastic times call for drastic measures. Here, from the board's editorial "Facing the budget music":
"City governments like to think of redevelopment money as their own. But for more than three decades it has been the state's job to allocate property tax funds among the 5,000 or so local government entities. Twenty years ago, the state propped up schools by shifting to them millions of dollars in tax revenues that otherwise would have gone to cities and counties — and redevelopment agencies. A few years later, it shifted the costs of trial courts from counties to itself. But there was never enough for everyone. It's like a game of musical chairs, with the chairs being all the available pots of state revenue and the players being cities, counties, school districts and so-called special districts and redevelopment agencies. The players outnumber the chairs, and the music has stopped.
Naturally, city leaders would rather sell redevelopment bonds without an election; it's often difficult to persuade voters to back redevelopment projects. But Brown's proposal at least offers a solution. It shows a way forward for cities as well as the state. Now the burden should fall to Los Angeles, and hundreds of other cities and redevelopment agencies whose budgets and programs are intimately intertwined with the state's, to craft workable solutions and alternatives that keep California solvent, keep Californians working and put local residents back in charge of their civic destinies."
Where they've left for now: Gov. Brown challenged the mayors to come up with another solution if they don't like this plan.
--Alexandra Le Tellier
Photos: Top, Gov. Jerry Brown. Bottom, from left, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press