When Jerry Brown first proposed killing redevelopment -- back in January 2011, when he released his first budget -- he said he would replace it with some other economic development tool. After Brown succeeded -- when he released his second budget, in January 2012, just days after the Supreme Court killed redevelopment – his tune changed, ever so slightly. He said he would consider bringing redevelopment back if it didn't affect the state's general fund.
Anecdotally, the answer is clearly yes. But it’s a little hard to say based on the data that’s available. The Great Inversion is the title a new book by Alan Ehrenhalt, the longtime editor of Governing magazine and author of several insightful books about cities. (Disclosure: Ehrenhalt was my editor at Governing for 20 years.)
Now that the California state budget is mostly out of the way, it’s time to see what – if anything – the state will do this year to plug the redevelopment gap.
And as redevelopment bills move forward, it’s pretty much shaping up like this: The legislature is likely to pass something. The question is whether Gov. Jerry Brown will sign anything.
Against all odds, redevelopment isn’t quite history yet in California. Some projects continue. Most cities are engaged in a long wind-down process that is consuming considerable time and attention. And the state legislature is considering a variety of options to revive redevelopment, or at least get it back on life support.
For now, redevelopment in California is dead. But that hasn’t eliminated the need for public policy to support urban revitalization. Indeed, Gov. Jerry Brown still supports aggressive policies in this vein – for example, implementing the SB 375 regional planning law passed in 2008 as part of the climate change effort, and streamlining environmental review for infill projects.
This month – October 10, to be exact – marks the 100th anniversary of initiative and referendum in California. It’s hard to imagine that Gov. Hiram Johnson, the godfather of the constitutional amendment, could have imagined all the different ways that the initiative process would be used – especially by the moneyed interests that were his target in 1911. But it’s equally hard to imagine that Johnson could have foreseen the way the initiative and referendum process would transform planning and development in California.
Well, local governments around California finally got their wish: The staff at the state Department of Housing & Community Development that reviews housing elements has been cut to the bone. So what does this mean about state review of housing elements – and, by extension, state law about housing elements as well?
The new rules of redevelopment – if the courts agree – are now clear: You’re dead, but you can buy your way back to life. That’s probably enough to keep most redevelopment agencies in business. But is it enough for cities to continue to do redevelopment deals?
That’s not clear, though redevelopment agencies have gotten accustomed to doing deals with less and less money over the years. Also not clear is whether this is the end-game on redevelopment or the first step in an effort to truly reform redevelopment – a possibility that seemed far more likely in January than it does now.
The midpoint of 2011 is rapidly approaching, and that means the first glimpses of the “Sustainable Communities Strategies” created under SB 375 are beginning to emerge. In particular, the “Big Four” metropolitan planning organizations – those from the Los Angeles Area, the Bay Area, San Diego, and Sacramento – are all moving forward with their SCS processes, and discernable trends are beginning to emerge.
Since January we have witnessed the unusual spectacle of elected local officials throughout the state expressing intense and emotional anger and frustration about the possible end to redevelopment -- and no reaction at all from anybody else.
Nothing from the people in blighted neighborhoods, who supposedly benefit from better housing and more jobs and more retail choices.