San Diego’s City Council isn’t attending Mardi Gras, but it sure does like the reason for the party.
The council voted 7-1 on Monday night to send Gov. Jerry Brown a letter opposing his plans to eliminate redevelopment agencies statewide.
“Redevelopment in San Diego does translate to jobs,” said City Councilwoman Marti Emerald. “It translates to safer neighborhoods. It translates to affordable housing and I would like to see that progress continue.”
Councilman Kevin Faulconer represents the city’s most robust redevelopment area, downtown. He brought forward the resolution, but did not request that the city follow in the footsteps of other municipalities around that state.
They have rushed to squirrel away redevelopment funds in the wake of the governor’s proposal. We’ve been referring to the moves as redevelopment “Mardi Gras”, a redevelopment spending party before the ability to spend goes away.
Faulconer didn’t rule out joining the party, saying he’s still exploring the option. The city has numerous plans for downtown redevelopment dollars including expanding its Convention Center, building a new football stadium and developing a waterfront promenade.
Redevelopment siphons property tax dollars that would otherwise go to schools, counties and cities’ day-to-day operating budgets to improve rundown neighborhoods. The theory is that redevelopment benefits everyone by creating higher property tax values than otherwise could have happened without public assistance. San Diego has 17 redevelopment project areas and the Union-Tribune has reported those areas collect more than $180 million in property taxes in 2009, accounting for about 40 percent of all city property taxes.
The council heard numerous testimonies from downtown residents explaining how redevelopment has been a benefit to their neighborhoods and council members took pains to emphasize that redevelopment also assists in affordable housing and neighborhood beautification programs aside from big buildings.
But Faulconer and other council members also repeated the misleading argument that Brown’s proposal constitutes a taking of local tax revenues by Sacramento. Instead, Brown’s proposal would allow the state to stop subsidizing schools for property taxes lost through redevelopment, saving an estimated $1.7 billion next year.
Councilman David Alvarez said there were tradeoffs.
“It’s really easy to engage in the rhetoric of sending this money, it’s going into a ‘black hole,’ Sacramento’s keeping it,” Alvarez said. “In reality, if we did away with redevelopment agencies, the tax increment that’s been created because of all the positive development would come back to help us fund our general fund and helps us fund our schools.”
Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, who represents La Jolla and other northern coastal communities, voted against the resolution. She pointed out that if the governor didn’t cut redevelopment, he might have to make deeper cuts to higher education, firefighting and social services. Lightner’s district also has no redevelopment areas.
Here are a few other redevelopment items of note.
• Over the weekend, the U-T did a good job explaining how cities around the county are reacting to the governor’s proposal and also quoted the Chargers stadium point man saying a downtown stadium is dead if Brown succeeds.
• State Controller John Chiang is auditing 18 redevelopment agencies around the state to evaluate their effectiveness. Coronado is the only San Diego agency on the list.
• California Watch’s Chase Davis pointed out the series of ironies in Brown’s proposal. For one, Brown lives in a redevelopment-subsidized loft in Sacramento.
• A columnist for the Contra Costa Times delivers one of the most coherent anti-redevelopment articles I’ve seen.
• Finally, our own Scott Lewis frames the debate as redevelopment vs. schools.