The Post-Redevelopment Continuum

 

Though painful, the unwinding of redevelopment would seem to be a pretty straightforward process for most cities: Designate yourself as the successor agency, negotiate with your oversight committee to keep as much stuff going as possible, and try to keep the state Department of Finance from vetoing the whole situation.

But don’t overlook the opportunities being created by a forced reorganization of planning and economic development functions. “The chaotic process of unwinding redevelopment has been painful and difficult,” said Paul Silvern of HR&A at a panel Tuesday at the annual conference of the American Planning Association, California Chapter, “But it presents interesting opportunities, especially for planners playing a new role – more connected and better connected to the implementation side, particularly in smaller cities.”

Silvern of HR&A a “continuum” of post-redevelopment strategies, while Kevin Keller of L.A. City Planning – and the current president of APACA – talked about how Los Angeles was moving away from redevelopment to more conventional planning anyway.

Silvern laid out the varied strategies of four cities: Alhambra, Oakland, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Although all except Alhambra are large, the examples could be instructive. He emphasized that the end of tax-increment might actually allow cities and counties to view economic development more broadly again. Among other things, he noted that many cities that are now receiving increased general fund property taxes as a result of the end of redevelopment – a 15% bump on average – are considering setting aside all or some of those funds for redevelopment-type purposes.

The Alhambra Approach

As CP&DR reported last spring, Alhambra was the first and most aggressive small city to move on redevelopment – following the longstanding approach of City Manager Julio Fuentes, who was the last president of the California Redevelopment Association before it folded. Within a few days, Alhambra had granted the city and its economic development division all the specific powers of a redevelopment agency except that of tax-increment, including eminent domain for economic development purposes, writing down land, and so forth.

The Oakland Approach

Oakland was especially hard hit by redevelopment because the city had, over time, increasingly used tax-increment funds to pay for positions in general fund departments such as police. The city has used the end of redevelopment as a way of reorganizing a huge number of city functions – consolidating planning and building into one department, and economic and workforce development into another. The city has also created an Office of Neighborhood Investment, which staffs the successor agency.

The San Diego Approach

As CP&DR indicated last spring might happen, San Diego has retained its unusual structure of farming out development/redevelopment activities to nonprofit agencies created by the city. Center City Development Corp. was often viewed as a highly successful example of an innovative approach – a nonprofit development entity that contracted with the city to execute redevelopment plans, process permit approvals, and conduct planning. Southeast Development Corp. followed the same model.

CCDC and SEDC have been merged into a new entity called “Civic San Diego,” which retains the permitting functions, serves as the successor agency, provides economic development services in the two areas, and operates the downtown parking management district. Though tax-increment is gone, Civic San Diego is funded by a wide variety of revenue sources including the new post-redevelopment administrative fees, permit application fees, and parking revenues.

The Los Angeles Approach

For decades, the mayor-controlled Community Redevelopment Agency ran the show, while a variety of other agencies did bits and pieces of economic development and the city council largely sat on the sidelines. That’s part of the reason the council, in dramatic fashion, rejected the idea of the city serving as a successor agency.

While the governor-appointed board of the successor agency winds down redevelopment, the city is looking at consolidating all other functions into some kind of central economic development office or division. Meanwhile, the Department of City Planning had already begun to take over some functions downtown, where redevelopment project areas were scheduled to expire beginning in 2013 anyway. Keller said the city has already adopted new design guidelines for downtown and expanded its transfer of development rights ordinance (known in Los Angeles as TFAR, for Transfer fo Floor Area Ratio). “We were already taking on ‘Bringing Back Broadway’,” he said, and noted that the city is looking to other new sources of funding such as business improvement districts and planning funds from Measure R, which are funneled through L.A. Metro.