Governor Jerry Brown revives redevelopment agencies

Governor Jerry Brown revives redevelopment agencies

Redevelopment is back in California.

Four years after Governor Jerry Brown led the effort to eliminate redevelopment agencies, the governor has changed his mind, signing legislation to restore the controversial institutions and their power to use eminent domain.

Earlier this month, Gov. Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 2, which grants local governments the power to create new entities to stimulate economically-depressed and crime-ridden areas. Beginning January 1, community revitalization authorities will have broad powers to issue bonds for the purpose of investing tax funds in infrastructure, affordable housing and economic revitalization projects. These new government entities formed by cities, counties and special districts will also have the power to use eminent domain and could resurrect the abuses made possible by the Supreme Court’s controversial Kelo decision.

In addition to reviving redevelopment agencies, Brown signed into law Senate Bill 107, which amends the dissolution process for the old redevelopment entities.

“These important new measures enacted today will help boost economic development in some of our most disadvantaged and deserving communities,” Governor Brown said in a press release. “California owes a debt of gratitude to Speaker Toni Atkins for her leadership on these issues over the years. Without her tireless efforts, these bills would never have passed.”

Property rights advocates disappointed with Brown’s decision

Eminent DomainProperty rights advocates, who had hoped for a veto, expressed their disappointment with Brown’s decision.

“Unfortunately, the powerful have prevailed over the vulnerable,” the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights posted on its Facebook page. “As in the past, the combination of eminent domain and the potential for profit will only lead to abuse, wasteful spending and public corruption.”

Under the new law, local governments can create community revitalization investment authorities in areas where the annual median household income is less than 80 percent of the statewide median. Additionally, three of the following four conditions must be met:

  • Unemployment that is at least 3 percent higher than the statewide median unemployment rate;
  • A crime rate that is 5 percent higher than the statewide median crime rate;
  • Deteriorated or inadequate infrastructure such as streets, sidewalks, water supply, sewer treatment or processing, and parks;
  • Deteriorated commercial or residential structures.

The California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights warns that this criteria is ripe for abuse by big developers.

“Community Revitalization Investment Authorities introduce the worst form of corporate welfare,” the group said. “They allow taxpayer dollars to be used to forcibly seize private property from unwilling sellers to make way for private development. Today was a major setback for private property rights in California.”

Bipartisan support for Redevelopment 2.0

The measure to revive redevelopment agencies received bipartisan support in both houses of the state Legislature. AB2 passed the State Assembly on a 58-15 vote with the support of a half-dozen Republicans, including outgoing Asssembly GOP leader Kristin Olsen.

“Today, we celebrate a major victory for our state’s most disadvantaged communities with the governor’s signature of Assembly Bill 2,” said Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, the bill’s author. “For three years I have worked diligently with the governor’s office and Assembly leadership to create policy that will serve as a new effective tool to help and uplift disadvantaged communities throughout the state. I want to thank the governor for his leadership and thoughtful consideration on redevelopment. This is the right thing for jobs, economic development and affordable housing in California.”

The bill passed the state Senate on a 29-10 vote — with the support of four Republican Senators: Tom Berryhill of Twain Harte, Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, Sharon Runner of Antelope Valley, and Anthony Cannella of Ceres.

Only one senator, Republican Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, spoke in opposition to the bill.

“This is the resurrection of the redevelopment agencies – the failed redevelopment agencies,” he said. “They absolutely exploited and will continue to exploit – under the provisions of this bill – the seizure of private property under eminent domain.”

Eminent domain mentioned 21 times

Eminent domain is mentioned in the bill 21 times. The Legislative Counsel’s bill digest explicitly states, “The bill would authorize an authority to acquire interests in real property and exercise the power of eminent domain.”

Although the bill subjects private property to eminent domain, government agencies will receive a special carve-out from the practice.

“Property already devoted to a public use may be acquired by the agency through eminent domain, but property of a public body shall not be acquired without its consent,” the bill states.

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. New London that government agencies have the power to seize property for economic development. The decision was widely criticized across the political spectrum and inspired states to pass tougher laws limiting governments’ eminent domain powers. Here in California, the momentum for property rights reached its zenith in 2011, when Gov. Jerry Brown pushed through a plan to end redevelopment as part of his plan to balance the state budget.

9 comments

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  1. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 1 October, 2015, 06:22

    Slush funds for connected developers, all they have been, all they are and all they ever will be

    Reply this comment
  2. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 1 October, 2015, 09:02

    Moonbeams little housing project forcing everyone to live is a beehive crowded and crampted Fools who voted for Moonbeam bend over and kick yourselves in the backsides

    Reply this comment
  3. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 1 October, 2015, 09:14

    Smell the money……..hmmmmm.

    Santa Ana licking chops…..slum housing meets new empty glitzy buildings.

    Reply this comment
  4. Dyspeptic
    Dyspeptic 1 October, 2015, 10:58

    Once again Commiefornia proves that it is run by the absolute worst politicians in both parties.

    Once again Commiefornia Repulsivecans prove how utterly corrupt, debased and useless they are.

    Once again Commiefornia voters prove that they are the most ignorant, morally depraved and brain dead bunch of suckers this side of Greece.

    Once again Jerry Clown proves what a two faced, hypocritical, elitist, pathetic, lying weasel he is.

    Once again the politically connected, filthy rich, crony capitalist, money grubbing developers get to screw the rest of us for fun and profit.

    Just when you think Commiefornia can’t suck anymore it proves you wrong. Again.

    Reply this comment
  5. Just Another Disgruntled Citizen
    Just Another Disgruntled Citizen 1 October, 2015, 11:44

    Now that the Eminent Domain Abuse machine is back and badder than ever, it is absolutely essential that those of us who want to put it out of its misery understand what it is. The reason it is back is because there was a lot of confusion about what we were dealing with.

    It is just a modern version of an ancient practice of tyrants. Tyrants are bullies in public office. They tend to believe they are endowed with power to override the Laws of God and Nature (Ten Commandments, Golden Rule, Cause & Effect).

    In the United States, to make Redevelopment possible, Congress had to pass a law (The Housing Act of 1949) suspending the Constitutional Rights of citizens on the pretext that Blight is a dire and imminent threat to the People. Blight is physical, social and economic decay. Which means that the people who live and work and pay taxes in a Project Area are declared by the officials who represent them to be the cause of the blight, menaces to the community.

    I am not making this up.

    In law, blight is chimerical, but those of us who have seen the curious legal definitions, court rulings upholding it, and justifications by Redevelopment practitioners can tell you its legal meaning can be boiled down to this: private property that isn’t generating as much tax revenue for local government as public officials think it should.

    California signed onto Redevelopment back in the early 1950’s. The Legislature passed the State’s Community Redevelopment Law [Health & Safety Code Section 33000 et al] based on federal Redevelopment Law. Then California voters approved the Redevelopment Financing Authority [Article XVI, Sec. 16]. Then, California voters approved Prop. 22 which put more power for Redevelopment Agencies in the State’s Constitution (not sure where that went).

    From there, city and county governments signed onto Redevelopment one by one until in 2011 there were more than 400 active agencies statewide.

    For information about the these agency operations, both statewide summaries and single agency activity, go to the State Controller’s office website and look for their annual reports in PDF. After sixty years, the record showed that Redevelopment did not do what it was supposed to (eliminate blight, boost local economies, create new affordable housing).

    The Kelo Decision was widely criticized as a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Which it is if you are talking original principles of American government as envisioned by the Founding Fathers. But, it was, in fact, correct in law because the State of Connecticut had adopted its own version of Redevelopment based on federal law. All the legislature had to do when they did that was say the entire State was blighted. They were now saying that the people of Connecticut were not its greatest asset, but its greatest liability. After that, local governments did not have to declare blight every time they turned around, like they had to do in California. What California has now is pretty much like Connecticut had all along and still has, I think, unless the voters there passed a law abolishing Redevelopment after Kelo.

    And they would have had to pass a law that removed Redevelopment Law from their State Constitution and anywhere else in the Code it was placed. In a state with Redevelopment, you can’t pass a law that just says eminent domain shall not be used for private projects because, and this is something a lot of eminent domain and land use attorneys do not understand, when a State or local government adopts a Redevelopment Law, they have created a system that is immune to the Constitution because blight is a dire and imminent threat to the people–just like an enemy attack or natural disaster.

    Because Congress said so.

    Congress could vote to do away with all their federal Redevelopment laws, or the People could launch a campaign to get an amendment to the Constitution banning the use of public money and eminent domain for private projects and affordable housing (there is a better way to make sure low-cost housing is available for poor people).

    What California has now is a far more dangerous tool for local officials than any other available in law to them.

    The only way we can get rid of Redevelopment is to elect men and women to local, state and national office who will act to abolish it.

    You can help make this happen by contacting the people who represent you and start educating them. Call their offices & talk to their aides, speak at one of their meetings (often committee meetings are easier because they are smaller), visit their offices.
    Make an appointment to talk to them. Then when you send an email, you’ll be able to CC their staff and it won’t just end up in the Trash. Tell your friends to do the same. Start a blog.

    If the focus is on state and nationwide abolition, we can get somewhere. And the effort to do away with this multi-partisan special-interest bulldozer will act like a tonic on government policy for other issues, too.

    It can be done. Redevelopment is a very bad thing, like slavery.
    It deprives people of their God-given rights. It goes against the principles of American government. It is not free trade.

    Remember that ten years after the Dred Scott Decision, the people of the United States ratified an amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery in America forever.

    But that happened because the abolitionists, who had been fighting to stop slavery for at least a century already, argued that it was an unfair system because it was immoral and unconstitutional and that it why is should be abolished.

    That’s how we can win this time.

    Argue that the fundamental issue isn’t whether Redevelopment works or doesn’t work, but that it is immoral and unconstitutional.
    And that is why it doesn’t work. And that is why it should be abolished.

    Argue that any government program established on an assumption that the people are not the nation’s greatest asset but its greatest liability is doomed to failure. It serves special interests. It is un-American.

    “The Duty of a Senator is to Protect the Liberty of the People.”
    California Senate Motto

    Reply this comment
    • Jack Human
      Jack Human 2 October, 2015, 15:40

      One of the best comments I’ve ever read anywhere. Cogent analysis, well-researched, and an instructive call to action.

      A call that will go largely unheeded, I’m afraid.

      Slavery was an easy institution to oppose. Anyone, even a child, could understand what slavery was and why it was bad. You had to post a lengthy definition of redevelopment and the arguments against it to make your case. That doesn’t fly in this soundbite era.

      There are more reasons why your call to action is doomed, but you sound plenty smart enough to already know what they are. It’s depressing and I don’t know what the solution is. Many problems like this require citizens to expend time and effort just to understand them, let alone work to correct. Only a handful of us are willing to do that. It’s not nearly enough.

      I’m sorry to be such a downer about this. I agree with what you wrote and I will write my elected representatives about it. They will respond that they appreciate my position and thank me for writing but I’m full of ish and here’s why, as they always do. This is Kalifornia, you know.

      Reply this comment
      • Just Another Disgruntled Citizen
        Just Another Disgruntled Citizen 2 October, 2015, 17:49

        Thank you for the kind words.

        Yes, back in 1989 when I discovered the legal definition of blight in California’s Redevelopment Law and decided to dedicate my life to abolishing it, I knew it was something that would be a long time coming. But, from that day to the day the U.S. Supreme Court announced their stupefying ruling in the Kelo Case, I wasn’t the only citizen in California who was fighting redevelopment agencies. And, those who were could only see the possibility of reform, which always made things worse. For years I was about the only one who advocated abolition. But I had learned from an old-timer that victory is possible if you do what has to be done. He always told me that we have to elect men and women to public office who will vote to shut the local redevelopment agencies down. I just applied it to the drill for a statewide or nationwide abolition movement. All the little local battles and some statewide reform measures are opportunities to advance the cause and increase the numbers of people who will fight. Redevelopment is an inherently self-destructive practice because the more local officials use it the more people turn against it.

        We used to call redevelopment the “Corporate Welfare-Eminent Domain Abuse Machine”. Nothing has changed there.

        People can understand that in a sound-bite and the opposition hasn’t figured out a way to undo the damage it does to their precarious image.

        The pro-redevelopment lobby stands for something that is inherently not only morally-wrong but destructive of its own existence. The redevelopment abolition cause stands for something that is morally-right and self-fulfilling: true Liberty.

        That is why although many times I have been so discouraged I felt like giving up, I never did. Maybe our generation won’t see victory against this evil, but whatever we can do will make a difference in both the short and the long run. We are gaining ground for the next generation.

        People have been fighting tyrants for thousands of years, in large arenas and small. Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose. But, when you fight on principle, and fight fair, and fight to win, even if you lose you can hold your head high. Some of the best stories in history are about these fights. Sometimes you walk out of a defeat stronger than when you went in. But you live to fight another day.

        This is another day. We learned a lot from the first sixty years of fighting the Tax-Guzzling, Community-Wrecking Redevelopment Bulldozer. Now, we know to use every little battle against redevelopment’s abuse of power to advance the Cause of abolition.

        Always remember that we are not in control of outcomes. Don’t worry about what you can’t do. Just do what you can, wherever you can, whenever you can. Whatever you do will make a difference.

        Speak up! Speak out! Spread the Word!

        Reply this comment
  6. bob
    bob 1 October, 2015, 20:23

    It’s a Brown Clown world and we are all just visitors.

    Bend over and grab yer ankles, boys….Jerry’s coming.

    Reply this comment
  7. desmond
    desmond 2 October, 2015, 04:38

    Are we at a point where development built with redevelopment funding is declared blight( I see it all over greater Stockton), let’s do it again?
    No matter what one’s view, that is a sign of something. Greed, crony capitalism, Satan, climate change, fall of an empire?
    Maybe, God is playing a joke, his way of saying F. You.

    Reply this comment

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John Hrabe

John Hrabe

John Hrabe spends his time traveling the world as a freelance journalist. When he isn’t on an international flight, John writes about California politics for CalWatchdog.com and CalNewsroom.com.

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