Redevelopment: It’s aliiiiiiiive!

by CalWatchdog Staff | August 29, 2012 8:14 am

[1]Aug. 29, 2012

By Katy Grimes

SACRAMENTO — The California Redevelopment Agency was given the ax in February by Gov. Jerry Brown. Since then, lawmakers have been working as diligently as Dr. Frankenstein to breathe new life back into the monster.

Many Californians said good riddance to the abusive, over-reaching agencies, notorious for taking private property through eminent domain.

But many never believed that redevelopment would really end.

The state’s redevelopment programs came under intense scrutiny as California’s budget problems worsened. Agency abuses were widespread and notorious. In 2010 one Senate committee found that many of the redevelopment affordable-housing programs spent more on employee salaries than building low-income housing.

[2]Given that 20 percent of all redevelopment funds went toward subsidized housing projects, it became evident that taxpayers were footing the bill for an expensive bait-and-switch.

But even with the well-documented abuse, many lawmakers never gave up hope for continuing the low-income housing programs.

Almost immediately after Brown killed the redevelopment agencies, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, authored legislation[3] that would allow cities and counties to keep the low-income housing dollars from redevelopment agencies. However, Steinberg was unable get his bill passed.

By March, there were already 14 bills[4] authored by legislators to save or restore redevelopment agencies.

‘Sustainable’ low-income housing

Steinberg introduced SB 1151[5] and SB 1156[6], which would allow cities and other local agencies to form new redevelopment agencies, and have access to billions of dollars in former RDA assets, with a focus on green, “sustainable communities.”

“Sustainable” is the 21st century code word for publicly subsidized, high-cost construction.

Simultaneously, Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, introduced AB 1585[7], which would transfer the remaining balances in redevelopment low-income housing funds to local housing agencies, for new earmarked spending on yet more affordable housing.

Both of these bills[8] passed the Assembly Tuesday, paving the way for the restoration of California redevelopment programs, but with a new face on the monster; this face is green.

“Affordable-housing advocates believe that poor people should be housed in brand-new apartments or houses, which is silly,” my colleague Steven Greenhut wrote[9] when Brown killed redevelopment. “Thanks to the housing bust, there’s more affordable housing available than ever. The market does a great job providing homes and apartments. Government ‘affordable housing’ breeds dependency, as people who live in housing at below-market cost lose any incentive to ever move out of those subsidized places.”

“This bill funds the green dream,” Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, opined during Assembly debate Tuesday. “This is an encroachment of our freedom. We killed it last session, and are bringing it back this session!”

Convenient flip-flopping

The speeches made by lawmakers Tuesday defending Steinberg’s bill[10] were made by the same lawmakers who supported Brown killing redevelopment. Apparently the satisfaction of a temporary money grab has lost its luster—the budget certainly wasn’t balanced on the back of redevelopment.

“I don’t want to re-litigate the demise of redevelopment,” said Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento. But Dickinson quickly provided an alibi for the Legislature: “It was the Supreme Court that the eliminated redevelopment. We were interested in preserving the ability of redevelopment on a voluntary basis.”

Dickinson said that critics who say that the Legislature is imposing something on local government are wrong. “It is completely voluntary. It will recreate the opportunity for local communities to build in a sustainable manner as they see fit,” Dickinson said.

“There is nothing in this bill reconstructing redevelopment,” Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, and added, “There is no freedom without private property.”

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