Redevelopment Agencies Circle the Wagons, Fight for Funding

 

For many cities, redevelopment relies on public-private partnerships, innovative financing, and design integrated with existing surroundings which, in turn, often support the hot topics of smart growth, transit-oriented development, and climate change adaptation.  However, in the recent downturn, the tools that are typically available to redevelopment agencies have been limited -- partially because of economic constraints…well, actually all because of economic constraints.  

Here at the 2010 California Redevelopment Association conference in Pasadena, attendance has been strong.  Over 1,000 people are expected to attend, making this the 4th highest attendance in CRA conference history.  Not bad for a group whose tax increment revenue has slumped in the current cycle of decreased sales tax revenues and property values - and then threatened by the state for a possible “raid“ of $2.5 billion in local redevelopment dollars over the current and upcoming fiscal years.  

The conference led off by call to action by CRA Executive Director John Shirey.  Already in litigation with the state over the its takeover of redevelopment funds, CRA appears to be on the defense.  The CRA has developed a strategic plan, which really seems to be a call to arms, the main components of which are: 

1) Fight to Protect Redevelopment Funding.  This is reflected in the CRA’s current litigation with the state.

2) Support Statewide Ballot Initiative(s) to Protect Redevelopment Funding.  CRA is partnering with the League of California Cities, California Transit Association, and the California Alliance for Jobs to support the Local Taxpayer, Public Safety, and Transportation Protection Act of 2010, currently in the signature-gathering phase for qualification on the November 2010 ballot.

3) Broaden Base of Support for Redevelopment.  Increased outreach to business groups, labor, environmental groups, and other advocacy groups.

4) Increase Awareness of Redevelopment Benefits and Accomplishments.

5) Increase Participation of Local Elected Officials in CRA.   Many electeds and city managers/administrators do not actively participate in Association advocacy efforts.

Other thoughts from the panel following the presentation of the strategy were particularly strong from Cal Hollis, interim director of the Community Redevelopment Agency Los Angeles, and Cecilia Estolano, former head of CRA/LA and now working with the nonprofit Green for All. They focused on the need for redevelopment agencies to shift priorities for long-term sustainability.  Hollis noted that CRA/LA staff are actually working with Small Business Association staff in a greater economic development capacity - the current need is not to build - but to fill buildings and put people to work.  Estolano is taking her new position at Green for All to heart - emphasizing that redevelopment agencies need to place a greater emphasis on sustainability, addressing inequalities and ensuring equal access to good development.  Estolano stated that “making redevelopment about people and talking about creating opportunities for new Californians” will bring redevelopment to the forefront of the conversation.  

Other highlights of the day….

The annual awards luncheon highlighted accomplishments of some prominent projects, some unknown projects.  More on those to come. 

Green financing session summary:  there are lots of financing programs available - when cobbled together, projects can happen.

On deck tomorrow: 

  • Keynote Lunch:  Peter Calthorpe 
  • Climate Action Plans and Redevelopment
  • Redevelopment and ARRA

I’ll be live tweeting the Calthorpe talk and other tidbits.  Follow CP&DR at @Cal_Plan or read the archived twitter feed at http://twitter.com/cal_plan.

 

-- Allison Joe