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Sonoma County Supes Criticize Dissolution of Redevelopment Agencies

Twenty two redevelopment zones around county will now be cut off from funding

On Tuesday, Sonoma County's Board of Supervisors today criticized the dissolution of redevelopment agencies in California and the impact it will
have on three redevelopment projects in the unincorporated area of the county.

The state Legislature voted last summer to dissolve the 400 redevelopment agencies statewide effective Wednesday. Gov. Jerry Brown, who favors the dissolution, said it would reduce the state budget deficit, save the state $1.7 billion in the 2011-2012 budget year, and redistribute property tax revenue to cities, counties and special districts, and to schools, police and fire.

State Controller John Chiang released a report last year criticizing 18 redevelopment agencies he reviewed, citing audit violations, reporting deficiencies, and ineligible charges made against low and moderate income housing funds among other shortcomings.

California redevelopment agencies were formed in 1945 to allow cities and counties to address blight. As of 1976, the agencies were required to apply
20 percent of redevelopment funds toward affordable housing.

"Under current legal standards, virtually any condition could be construed as blight," Chiang said in his report.

Under a complex formula, cities and counties will become the "successor agencies" to the defunct redevelopment agencies. All non-housing assets and liabilities of the redevelopment agencies will be transferred to the successor agencies, which will complete the business of the dissolved redevelopment agencies.

A seven-member city or county Oversight Board will oversee the successor agencies and a housing authority will take over housing assets and operations from the dissolved redevelopment agencies if a city or county decides not to assume those operations.

There were 10 redevelopment agencies in Sonoma County -- the county's, the town of Windsor's and the agencies in the county's eight cities and 22 redevelopment project areas in Sonoma County throughout the county.  

"The project areas still exist," said Sonoma County Redevelopment Manager John Haig. "What is immediately dead are the redevelopment agencies and our ability to enter into new agreements for funding conditional projects," Haig said. "And the 20 percent for affordable housing in California is no more."

Board of Supervisors Chair Shirlee Zane said because of the Supreme Court ruling that abolished California's redevelopment agencies, "17 million dollars and hundreds of jobs in Sonoma County have come to a screeching halt."

Both Zane and Supervisor Valerie Brown said "it is a very sad day" for city and county redevelopment agencies that addressed blight and affordable housing.

"It was working and we were doing what we were supposed to do," Brown said. "We got drawn under the bus by people who didn't use the (redevelopment) funds in an appropriate way. We played by the rules and got the short end of the stick."

"This is the biggest mess I have ever seen in front of us," Brown said. "I'm flabbergasted about how many things were not thought out in this (dissolution) process," Brown said.

One of the three county redevelopment projects is in Brown's First District -- improvements to state Highway 12, and parking and the construction of sidewalks in the Boyes Hot Springs, Agua Caliente "Springs" area just outside the city of Sonoma.

Haig said the Highway 12 improvement project was the only highway improvement project in the state financed 100 percent with local
redevelopment money.

"The contract is dead in the water," Haig said. The two other county redevelopment projects include a public plaza, parking and mixed-use development in the Roseland Village Shopping Center on Sebastopol Road in southwest Santa Rosa, and business, tourism and housing revitalization and public safety and sewer system improvements in the Russian River area.

The Roseland and Russian River projects are in Supervisor Efren Carrillo's Fifth District. He said the county has had success eliminating blight and improving economic development in those project areas.

"There was a significant amount of momentum and potential these projects would come to fruition. The significance was real and businesses were thriving," Carrillo said.

He said he does not know why the state saw redevelopment as broken
and dysfunctional.

-Bay City News

Dee Baucher February 06, 2012 at 04:02 AM
These slush funds and the corruption associated with "redevelopment" have long been an egregious part of California government. The state controller was correct in his assessments. Over-development of our communities with substandard housing and poorly planned infrastructure have been the real "blight" we have suffered. The greedy developers and others with personal profit motives are screaming the loudest, now that their ability to suck off the taxpayers has been halted. For others with a genuine commitment to improve their communities, there will be other opportunities to obtain transparent funding for needed projects.

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