San Diego is planning almost $4 billion in future redevelopment projects, the most audacious effort of any California city to combat Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to eliminate redevelopment.
The draft proposal, which was circulated around City Hall today, includes nearly $2.5 billion targeted for downtown. The list includes projects that wouldn’t start until as late as 2048.
San Diego’s proposal boosts the month-long fight between cities and Brown to unforeseen heights. Cities around the state have scrambled to protect redevelopment dollars from a potential state axe by selling bonds and, like San Diego is proposing, entering into complicated agreements to secure future property tax dollars without actually spending money now.
In his plan to kill redevelopment, the governor has said he will honor existing agreements. That’s caused municipalities across the state to accelerate projects in the works — though San Diego officials aren’t even sure if their plan will work.
Previously, Los Angeles and Long Beach have moved to put about $1 billion aside for future projects in their cities. Four billion dollars is something else.
“If it’s $4 billion in San Diego, I can’t think of anybody that would be bigger,” said John Shirey, head of the California Redevelopment Association, which represents redevelopment agencies statewide.
The largest single item on San Diego’s list is $1.1 billion for unspecified affordable housing built with downtown property taxes. Other high-profile projects long-targeted for redevelopment dollars won’t receive as much support as could be needed for them to be built.
The $800 million downtown Chargers stadium didn’t make the list, but an additional $150 million to clean the proposed site did. Also, the list includes only $14 million for a Convention Center expansion now estimated at $750 million.
Janice Weinrick, a city redevelopment official, said the list remained in progress.
“I’m still working on it,” she said.
But no more money could be added for projects like the Convention Center or the Chargers stadium because of public noticing requirements, she added. (A Chargers official has said he was OK with the stadium’s exclusion.)
Neighborhoods other than downtown will receive big slices of the redevelopment pie, too. North Bay in the city’s Midway district is targeted for $311 million in improvements, including $63 million to develop the Sports Arena site and $107 million for commercial development along Pacific Highway.
City Heights also is targeted for $220 million and the city’s southeastern neighborhoods $181 million.
City Council is scheduled to discuss the move on Feb. 28, and other redevelopment projects a day later.
Redevelopment siphons property taxes away from schools, counties, cities and other local governments to improve rundown neighborhoods. Brown is arguing that the state cannot subsidize development at a time when schools and other core government services need money. But redevelopment backers argue that the process allows for job creation, affordable housing and stimulating growth that wouldn’t happen otherwise.
The Governor’s Office criticized San Diego’s rush to secure the money.
“It is unfortunate that cities across the state are rushing to commit hundreds of millions of dollars to redevelopment at a time when they are also considering cuts to core services in order to close large budget deficits,” said Brown spokesman Gil Durán in a statement.
“State and local governments are in a severe budget crisis, and every available taxpayer dollar should be used for the highest priority core services.”
Shirey, the redevelopment association head, said he’s been telling local agencies to try to lock up as much funding as possible, but within reason. The plans should be for real, well thought out projects, he said.
Still, he understands why cities are acting as they are.
“These redevelopment agencies are responding to what the governor is proposing, which is death,” Shirey said. “Death is something you don’t recover from.”