Death Watch for Redevelopment

 

The redevelopment system in California was still standing when the Legislature broke for the weekend Thursday night. But that’s only because the bill has gotten caught up in the partisan wrangling over the budget as a whole.

The Legislature will return on Monday, and the betting in Sacramento is that redevelopment will be killed early next week. And discussion around the Capitol is quickly turning to what Gov. Jerry Brown will propose as the “replacement tool” for redevelopment.

SB 77, the bill that would eliminate redevelopment, fell one vote short of passage in the Assembly on Wednesday night – but that was only because the Democrats had introduced the bill, along with a number of other budget bills, with a two-thirds vote requirement in hopes of luring Republicans over the line. The 53-23 vote went down on straight party lines with one exception: Assemblymember Chris Norby, R-Fullerton, voted with the Democrats. Norby, of course, has based his entire political career, from the Fullerton City Council to the Orange County Board of Supervisors to the Assembly, on his ideological opposition to redevelopment.

In fact, there are many Republicans who are ready to kill redevelopment, just as there are some urban Democrats who would like to save it. So two possibilities exist for early next week: Either the Republicans and Democrats strike a budget deal and there’s an overwhelming vote to kill redevelopment, or the Democrats bring the idea back in a way that allows a simple-majority vote and kill it separate from the overall budget deal. Either way it looks dead.

One question is whether the Legislature will seriously consider the alternative served up last week by the California Redevelopment Association and the League of California Cities.  The alternative would set up a voluntary system allowing redevelopment agencies to extend the life of their projects if they offer up money to school districts. Supposedly it holds the potential to provide $2.7 billion in funds for schools.

Unlikely. The general sense in Sacramento on Friday was that the proposal was too little, too late – especially after the scorched-earth approach taken by the CRA and the League since January. Among other things, the alternative seemed designed to plug this year’s budget gap without worrying about future years – whereas the Brown Administration seems intent on a permanent shift of tax-increment funds away from redevelopment agencies. And the Democrats – whose urban constituencies should lead them to favor redevelopment – have expended an awful lot of effort in the last two months criticizing redevelopment as fraud-ridden and useless. It would be very hard for them to shift gears and say, “Oh, never mind.”

--Bill Fulton