Officials Decry Plan to Cut Redevelopment

By EGP News Report

Concerns are growing in the city of Bell Gardens, where officials are worried that the governor’s proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies and shift those funds to other areas could have a chilling effect on development in the southeast city.

The city says redevelopment has “played a major role in the evolution” of cities like Bell Gardens.

“Using redevelopment money, cities like Bell Gardens have revitalized some of those neglected areas while also increasing the local job base and boosting property and sales tax revenues,” explained Aldo Schindler, Bell Gardens’ Director of Community Development in a written statement.

“But if Gov. Jerry Brown’s newly proposed state budget is approved, local redevelopment agencies will be eliminated.”

The city’s mayor, Jennifer Rodriguez, says the governor’s proposal would bring redevelopment to a halt in Bell Gardens.

“Most of the major projects we’ve done wouldn’t have happened without redevelopment money. Our residents desire quality affordable housing, parks for their children to play, attractive streets and nice places to shop. Redevelopment has allowed us to work toward meeting our community’s goals.”

Several of the city’s largest developments have come about because the city had redevelopment money available to fund them, said the mayor.

The improvements to the Market Place Shopping Center, the development of the Los Jardines and Village Square Shopping Centers, were all funded with redevelopment revenue, as was the relocation and construction of El Pescador Restaurant to its current location, and the Parkview Terrace affordable senior housing development near the corner of Scott Avenue and Florence Avenue, as well as several other affordable housing projects for seniors and working families, according to the city.

City officials note that redevelopment funds have also funded loans to local small businesses and the remediation of contaminated properties, which will be converted to parks.

In a letter to Gov. Brown this week, Rodriguez explained, “As local elected officials, we understand the difficulty of passing a budget in these times of limited resources and worldwide economic recession. We too in the City of Bell Gardens have been forced to make difficult decisions to bring our own budgets into balance. However, even in difficult times, the Governor’s proposal to eliminate or curtail redevelopment will cause great damage to our community.”

John Shirey, executive director of the California Redevelopment Association, said Brown’s proposal to eliminate redevelopment “will bring little financial gain for the state, but will cause widespread and significant economic pain in communities throughout California.”

Shirley said litigation is likely if the governor’s plan is approved.

Redevelopment is one of the few tools state and local government have to stimulate the economy, according to Shirley. “Redevelopment is already a locally governed service which generates hundreds of thousands of jobs and puts people to work at a time when unemployment is soaring over 12 percent.”

Rodriguez doesn’t think the governor’s plan will be popular with most people.

“The voters recently said they wanted to keep local money local,” she said. “Now we’re seeing the state shifting funds away from what the voters just approved.”

Nancy Sidhu, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., says redevelopment agencies fill an economic need that might otherwise be tough for cities to tackle.

“Much of what redevelopment agencies do are long-term projects, especially in areas where there can be blight and redevelopment is needed,” she said.

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January 27, 2011  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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