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CPD&R News Briefs, January 26, 2015: Infrastructure Districts; Ontario Airport Squabble; S.D.'s $3.9 Billion Problem; and more

CP&DR Staff on
Jan 25, 2015

In the latest step towards an alternative to redevelopment in Los Angeles, city officials are considering the creation of an "infrastructure district" to fund a $1 billion revitalization plan for the Los Angeles River. The district has been made possible by a new tax-sharing law designed to replace tax-increment financing that had been used by the hundreds of redevelopment agencies shut down by Sacramento in 2012. The Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District will funnel a portion of future property taxes in the district into the revitalization project. Funds will go towards creating wetlands and wildlife habitats, landscaping near the interstate and constructing a new tributary. However, the districts will likely only be able to collect about 60 percent of what the now-defunct redevelopment agencies collected, partially because, unlike with redevelopment, funds cannot be diverted from schools and other special districts without the districts' approval. Acknowledging the limitations of this type of financing, attorney Jon E. Goetz told the Los Angeles Times, "Redevelopment was a power tool, and this is more like a hand tool."

Court Validates Sale of Ontario Airport to L.A.; Dispute Rages On
In the ongoing battle between the City of Ontario and Los Angeles World Airports, a San Bernardino county judge tentatively ruled that the regional airport should not have been sold to Los Angeles in the 1980s. However, the statute of limitations governing the sale ended in 1989, thus validating Los Angeles' ownership. The decision is a setback for Ontario, which is trying to regain control of the airport. The city has offered LAWA $250 million while LAWA is asking for nearly double that amount, contending that it has outstanding liabilities from a 1998 renovation of the airport. Litigation will continue as Ontario claims that LAWA breached its contract by allowing traffic to drop precipitously, from 7.2 million annual passengers in 2007 to 3.9 million in 2013.

San Franciscans Win Fight Against Shadows
Residents in San Francisco concerned about access to daylight scored a victory this month. For residents near Victoria Manalo Draves Park in San Francisco, sunshine is a precious resource. So when a developer proposed a six-story residential project that would cast a shadow on the park, residents pleaded with the Recreation and Park Commission to reject the project. Officials voted 5-0 to reject the project, recommending that the Planning Commission do the same. It is the one multi-use park in the neighborhood, which has much less acreage of green space than other San Francisco districts. Residents who spoke out against the development also cited gentrification as a reason for their opposition to the development. "Some may laugh about the importance of sunlight and the relevance of a shadow on land processes," San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim told the S.F. Examiner. "But let's face it, San Francisco is a cold city and affected by sunlight."

Results Unclear in L.A.'s Longstanding Cash for Transit Program 
A 23-year-old law designed to get Los Angeles workers to stop driving alone to work may not be as effective as lawmakers hoped. The law, passed in 1993, requires companies with at least 50 employees and with leased parking spaces to offer cash to workers agree to give up their parking spaces in favor of commuting methods such as walking, biking, or taking mass transit. Twenty-one years later, the California Air Resources Board, which is in charge of overseeing the program's implementation, has not kept track of many employers and workers are participating in the program. Critics say that the eligibility rules have only applied to about 3 percent of free parking spaces provided by employers in California. In areas where the program has been implemented, though, researchers have shown that the program has been effective, dropping the percentage of employees who drove to work from 76 percent to 63 percent. According to the Los Angeles Times, roughly 90 percent of commuters in Los Angeles and Orange counties receive free parking at work.

San Diego Faces $3.9 Billion Infrastructure Backlog
The City of San Diego has released a comprehensive report estimating that the city needs $3.9 billion in infrastructure upgrades including roads, sewers, and storm drains. The report contends that, over the past several decades, the city's infrastructure has crumbled as politicians have dragged their feet in creating any long term plans for repairs. Officials now face the task of finding sources of funding for the repairs, with only $2.2 billion available, leaving a $1.7 billion gap. A significant portion of the needed funding comes because of new state rules requiring upgrades to storm drains to decrease pollutant discharge.

Lemon Grove Planning Commission May Dissolve
The mayor of the San Diego County city of Lemon Grove is seeking to dissolve the city's Planning Commission, saying that the City Council can do the job of the planning commissioners and save the city time and money. However, the city council has been hesitant to carry out this request. This week it called on city staff to determine the costs and effectiveness of the planning commission. Mayor Mary Sessom claims that having the City Council perform the duties of the planning commission could save the city thousands of dollars in wages. However, Former Planning Commissioner Racquel Vazquez said that it was important to have an additional "layer between special interests and those who are in elected office" in the city through the planning commission.