Twenty months after Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature abolished community redevelopment agencies statewide, local officials have gone through all the stages of grief — from horror to anger to confusion.
Now they have reached the point where all they can see is darkness at the end of the tunnel of their experience, uncertainty over whether the revised redevelopment law and its interpretation by state Finance Department officials will be the same in six months or six months after that as it appears to be today.
For all the successes that cities like Glendale and Burbank claim in terms of using the property tax dollars they kept under redevelopment to create projects like the Americana at Brand with new jobs and long-term revenue streams, regenerated neighborhoods, upgraded infrastructure and affordable housing, there were endless examples of abuses.
Take Los Angeles, where the CRA was little more than a slush fund providing welfare to the rich and to giant corporations — not as the law was intended, to remove blight and support a healthy economic future for the community.
“When you look at the communities that abused the program, yes it’s cleaner, but a lot of cities used redevelopment appropriately and did some good work, as we did in Glendale,” said Phil Lanzafame, chief assistant director of community development.
“I’m not asking for the redevelopment law back; I’m not asking for a new tool. I’m just asking for some surety going forward so that we don’t get into the same bind again where for 60 years everybody recognized what was lawful and then in one year cities were told, ‘OK, you’re on your own. It’s over.’
“We fought it. We challenged it. The court didn’t agree. We lost. So now we’ve bit the bullet. But going forward, we don’t know if we can rely on the law they’ve given us. How we can plan anything when we don’t know what the rules will be in six months or the six months after that.”
The heart of the financial problem for Glendale is that in order to expedite projects, the city lent its redevelopment agency $78 million and was being paid back $6 million to $7 million a year with interest from the increased tax revenue that otherwise would have gone to the state.