Sooner or later, the bills come due in all our lives –
even in the lives of government agencies.
Just ask the people who bought a house they couldn’t afford or city officials
who got addicted over the years to draining vast amounts of tax dollars from the
state, from schools, from their own funds for general services to put them in a
kitty called community redevelopment.
What began after World War II as a modest way to
rehabilitate blighted neighborhoods became, after passage of Proposition 13
three decades later, a way for cities and counties to build parks, libraries,
affordable housing, shopping malls, entertainment complexes, luxury condos and
apartments, and a $52-million parking lot for a billionaire’s art museum in
downtown Los Angeles without the annoying problem of having to get two-thirds
of the people to support higher taxes.
All too often, blight came to mean anything officials wanted, an entitlement of
government to do whatever it wanted for whatever reason. Abuses by government
agencies — like seizing one person’s private property to give to another or
massive public subsidies that mainly enriched the rich — became as common as
successes that benefited communities by creating jobs, generating new revenues
or improving the quality of life.
A year ago, Gov. Jerry Brown sought to put an end to all that by abolishing the
state’s 400 Community Redevelopment Agencies. No sooner did he win the fight to
kill them than the Legislature provided a loophole to allow their resurrection
if they turned over a combined $1.8 billion of their $5 billion in annual tax
revenue to the state this year and a modest $400 million in future years.
Just before Christmas, the state Supreme Court ruled the loophole
unconstitutional and set a Feb. 1 date for the death of the agencies.
Now, Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena and cities across the state want another
replay through legislation that would extend the drop-dead date to April 15 or
maybe next year or maybe never.
The irony of another resurrection of redevelopment agencies on Feb. 2,
Groundhog Day, and the movie of that name in which events replay and replay
over and over with changing scenarios was not lost last week on Glendale’s new
City Manager Scott Ochoa at a teleconference meeting of the San Fernando Valley
Council of Governments.
“Some folks would say good riddance, now we can start all over,” Ochoa told
staff and business leaders in a City Hall conference room last week and city
officials in Los Angeles, Burbank and Santa Clarita listening on phone lines.
“The problem is the dysfunctionality of the state hasn’t been rectified. We are
going to continue to have this problem. It will be like Groundhog Day until all
the money is gone.”
Cities are pulling out all stops to get the Legislature to give them a 10-week
reprieve despite the governor’s adamant opposition and the knowledge that they
will need one reprieve after another to actually work out the complexities of
how redevelopment will work in the future.