With the economy humming along, innovative ideas sprouting up around the state, and, of course, the occasional dispute, 2015 was as lively a year for land use as any other in recent memory. To mark the new year, CP&DR presents its most-read stories of 2015.
In an important victory for local governments, the Third District Court of Appeal has ruled that the state Department of Finance improperly rejected Emeryville’s action to re-enter into several redevelopment agreements with its successor agency.
The case is perhaps the first big win in the post-redevelopment era for local governments, which have battled DOF daily since the elimination of redevelopment three years ago.
The end of redevelopment has never turned into a cash cow for the state, as Gov. Jerry Brown hoped back in 2011. And while the 2012 cleanup law – AB 1484 – has clarified the rules, cities are still losing most lawsuits against the state that seek to retain former redevelopment funds.
Raw fish will not singlehandedly save urban California. But it can still help.
Sending the first signal that he is open to re-establishing some form of redevelopment, Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed changes to the Infrastructure Financing District law that would expand the allowable uses for IFDs and lower the voter threshold required to create them. But he would permit the expanded use of IFDs only for cities and counties that have settled out all redevelopment cash payments to other agencies and settled all redevelopment lawsuits against the state – moves that may accelerate the redevelopment wind-down process.
Two years ago, when Redevelopment 1.0 ended, it was widely viewed as the end of an era – but maybe not the end of redevelopment. Maybe it would no longer be possible to use tax-increment financing to solve all urban development and infrastructure problems. But surely a new set of techniques would emerge, either as a result of state law (after all, Gov. Jerry Brown promised a replacement) or because local officials and developers would get creative. Redevelopment 2.0 might not be as powerful, but something good would come along.
We’re still waiting.
As the California legislative session winds down, both CEQA reform and the revival of redevelopment appear headed to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.
Both bills are being carried by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. They both passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee last Friday. The redevelopment bill – SB 1, virtually unchanged since last spring -- passed 12-5, presumably on a party-line vote. The CEQA bill – SB 731, the subject of endless wrangling in August – passed 17-0.
After a variety of setbacks, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, is doggedly moving forward with bills to reform the California Environmental Quality Act and revive redevelopment. Both bills – SB 731 for CEQA and SB 1 for redevelopment – have cleared the Senate and are now pending in the Senate.
Less than a day before trial, the California High-Speed Rail Authority and Madera/Fresno farming organizations announced they had reached a settlement -- dissolving the last legal challenge to the first segment of California’s HSR. According to Anja Raudabaugh, executive director of the Madera Farm Bureau, the rail authority offered significant concessions including increased mitigation for agricultural impacts and compensation for landowners who are affected by the project.
Like the plot of the Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day, Sacramento politicians are back to the same story on redevelopment this year. It's a re-run of last year, with proponents of redevelopment re-introducing many of the same bills as last year.
Attempts to resurrect redevelopment were a flop in 2012 when Governor Jerry Brown vetoed most redevelopment-related bills. This year, there is hope for a different ending, where Brown and his Democratic allies can find themselves in agreement on future steps to aid economic development at the local level.