How would you like to spend your dime of every dollar from your property taxes? In San Diego region, 10.7 percent of $3.8 billion in property taxes overall goes to fund redevelopment. As the state of California moves closer to eliminating redevelopment, there are some of us who still believe that public investment is a necessary tool for rebuilding the middle-class through good jobs, affordable housing, quality public education and sustainable infrastructure.

For or against redevelopment? There are two main camps of thought: one that claims redevelopment is a local revenue source for projects that the state should leave alone, and the other that claims that redevelopment is short-changing education. There seems to be little room for compromise.

Cities are relying on legal posturing (such as the $4 billion project wish-list adopted by city of San Diego). But, there is no real “plan B,” grounded in true policy reform. For those of us whose jobs, housing and community improvement are critically dependent on redevelopment funding, this is no consolation.

Meanwhile, the community is divided on whether downtown redevelopment agencies are truly serious about investing in good jobs and infrastructure equitably.

What Gov. Brown has initiated, has national consequences in financing urban development, even more than the Kelo decision in 2005. In Kelo v. City of New London, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the City of New London could use eminent domain power to take private property to pave way for new development.

This spurred a national wave of opposition and reform of redevelopment, and has exposed the practical meaninglessness of the term “blight” that originated in post-World War II urban renewal and reconstruction.

Blight findings have become a cottage industry for highly-paid consultants, an anachronistic vestige from the mid-20th century, where slums were cleared to build skyscrapers and freeways. Try explaining blight to a worker that is unemployed for a year or to a family in foreclosure.

The benefit of redevelopment is not just in direct spending, but in the leverage it brings from other public and private sources. In this column, I have frequently talked about jobs created in downtown redevelopment. The California Redevelopment Association estimates that there are over 25,000 jobs at risk in our region if redevelopment is eliminated.

Redevelopment is often the foundation, without which the entire structure of financing urban infill development gets shaken. Turning off the flow of public investment into some of our barren communities may dry up the nascent sprouts of recovery in jobs and housing.

As a community, we expect our elected leaders to move beyond insular rhetoric and getting the system fixed. Here are some questions to move us to a disciplined reason on spending the public dime:

(1) How much of the $424 million in property tax that was spent on redevelopment in San Diego region last year is inflationary; that is, how much would have occurred without redevelopment? How much could be used to fund education?

(2) How much of the $86 million of new tax increment spent on affordable housing (last reported in 2008) in the region needs to continue, and if so, through what alternate revenue sources?

(3) What are the supplemental revenue sources (e.g. facility benefits assessments, infrastructure districts) that will be tapped to fund redevelopment, to ensure that those benefiting are paying their fair share, and priority projects get built?

(4) How would public funds be leveraged with the private sector to ensure good careers in construction, and self-sufficiency in downtown low-wage workers?

(5) How could San Diego redevelopment lead the way in reform? How would downtown funds be invested in non-downtown neighborhoods? Would affordable housing set-aside be increased to 30 percent? Would pass-through agreements with schools be re-negotiated?

For those of us who consider property tax dollars to be the foundation for community investment, we would like our state and local elected officials to spend the dime wisely.

Murtaza Baxamusa is the Director of Planning and Development for the San Diego Building Trades Family Housing Corporation. He lives in Bird Rock.

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    Written by Murtaza Baxamusa

    Murtaza Baxamusa works for the San Diego Building Trades Family Housing Corp. and volunteered as a special policy adviser for Bob Filner.

    14 comments
    Cindy Conger
    Cindy Conger subscriber

    I was shocked to see you'd changed 'employment'..you're now working 'for' your arch enemy, the BIA?

    Wake Up San Diego
    Wake Up San Diego

    I was shocked to see you'd changed 'employment'..you're now working 'for' your arch enemy, the BIA?

    Bob Jones
    Bob Jones subscriber

    How else can the Mayor and his associates justify spending your tax dollars on a NEW STADIUM DEAL?

    rwj5125
    rwj5125

    How else can the Mayor and his associates justify spending your tax dollars on a NEW STADIUM DEAL?

    Bob Jones
    Bob Jones subscriber

    The Chargers and the NFL must be in a state of BLIGHT. How else can according to the Mayor and his associates who want your tax dollars

    rwj5125
    rwj5125

    The Chargers and the NFL must be in a state of BLIGHT. How else can according to the Mayor and his associates who want your tax dollars

    Janet Shelton
    Janet Shelton subscriber

    The example of people being kicked out of homes and businesses they had lived in for years so a city could collect more taxes on redevelopment seems like an extreme example. Yet, I saw the same thing happen 46 years ago when poor people (mostly black) in my hometown were kicked out and moved to affordable housing in the black section of town. Then businesses and expensive homes were put in. Redevelopment may have good things about it, but it has been misused since it was invented. Sometimes one man's blight is another man's small neat bungalow which happens to sit on desirable property that is coveted by developers and government.

    myearth
    myearth

    The example of people being kicked out of homes and businesses they had lived in for years so a city could collect more taxes on redevelopment seems like an extreme example. Yet, I saw the same thing happen 46 years ago when poor people (mostly black) in my hometown were kicked out and moved to affordable housing in the black section of town. Then businesses and expensive homes were put in. Redevelopment may have good things about it, but it has been misused since it was invented. Sometimes one man's blight is another man's small neat bungalow which happens to sit on desirable property that is coveted by developers and government.

    Linda Wilson
    Linda Wilson subscriber

    I vote for Plan A as in Abolish. Too many things wrong on too many levels. All the attempts to oversee, reform, make transparent, etc. won't change anything. It needs to go.

    Linda J Wilson
    Linda J Wilson

    I vote for Plan A as in Abolish. Too many things wrong on too many levels. All the attempts to oversee, reform, make transparent, etc. won't change anything. It needs to go.

    Brian Peterson
    Brian Peterson subscriber

    scrap it and start over with a new process for community revitalization that makes sense in the 21st Century.

    Brian_T_Peterson_DVM
    Brian_T_Peterson_DVM

    scrap it and start over with a new process for community revitalization that makes sense in the 21st Century.

    Dave Martin
    Dave Martin subscriber

    My "Plan B" would improve our schools, and preserve our city's only real economic tool to attract investment, businesses, and commerce.

    Captain_Suburbia
    Captain_Suburbia

    My "Plan B" would improve our schools, and preserve our city's only real economic tool to attract investment, businesses, and commerce.


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