LOS ANGELES -- Yesterday's "California's UrbanScape" conference on redevelopment, presented by UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate and UCLA Lewis Center, was kicked off by perhaps the member of the California Legislature most sympathetic to redevelopment--and therefore most remorseful about the current state of affairs.
State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Los Angeles) was one of the only Democrats in the Senate to break ranks with Gov. Jerry Brown and vote against the dissolution of redevelopment. Yesterday he offered some optimistic words for the future of redevelopment, assuring the audience that "both houses support some sort of re-creation of economic development at the local level."
Padilla has co-sponsored Senate Bill 659, which would restore some of the affordable housing funding that disappeared with the demise of redevelopment.
The current situation arose in part because the Legislature that voted for Brown's plan failed to understand what redevelopment meant for low-income neighborhoods, according to Padilla. Having represented a low-income area of Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley Padilla said, "even without tools like redevelopment…there's going to be an interest in the Westside. But without redevelopment, would communities like the Eastside, like South Los Angeles even be on the radar for developers, for retailers, for housing investors?"
"That is a point of view and factor that, I think, fell on deaf ears last year in the State Capitol," said Padilla.
Even if the Legsilature did not appreciate what it was doing, Padilla reinforced one of the chief arguments advanced by its supporters doing last year's legislative and legal battles: "the Legislature intended for an alternative mechanism to continue local economic development activity at the local level." In other words, redevelopment's death was accidental, due to legislation -- AB X1 26 and AB X1 27 -- that was crafted hastily and poorly last summer. That haste is in stark contrast with how Sacramento usually works.
"It's not like the state of California was born yesterday," said Padilla. "The public policy challenges that we've had before us are either the new things or the very complicated things." Killing redevelopment was in the latter category, according to Padilla.
As cities and successor agencies try to implement the provisions of AB X1 26, Padilla said that people in the Capitol are already thinking about the equally complicated task of replacing redevelopment. He insisted that a new program might also be based on tax increment financing but with "significantly less dollar amounts than what we were accustomed to, and more structured and, in some ways constrained, by new policies that have been adopted." Padilla said that state policies such as those to reduce greenhouse gas emissions might guide the next incarnation of redevelopment.
While Padilla said that the Legislature would support such a move, he said that the biggest obstacle may be the governor.
"He got what he wanted," said Padilla. "I don't see the policy pushes and pulls for him to really engage here."
Nevertheless, Padilla exhorted supporters of redevelopment to embrace the complicated discussions that are likely to ensue.
"There's a lot of excitement about what that could and should look like and very few people interested in dealing with the muck that has been created," said Padilla.