With California attempting to balance a $26 billion budget shortfall, redevelopment agencies across the state have become targets for elimination. As of mid-August, California cities are fighting back, filing suit against the state, the governor, and legislators for forcing them to pay what some term a high ransom to preserve their redevelopment agencies.
The state is attempting to remove $1.7 billion in funding this year from nearly 400 local redevelopment entities as part of a state budget solution proposed by Governor Jerry Brown earlier this year. He and state lawmakers believe that tax funds from redevelopment zones should go to basic needs, such as schools, rather than returned to those zones to stimulate development.
Ron Loveridge, mayor of Riverside, be-lieves that redevelopment agencies are critical to the ability of cities to compete for jobs and improve the lives of residents. “As mayor, I can confidently state that redevelopment benefits every resident of Riverside,” he says.
Loveridge’s vision of turning Riverside into a green, tech-savvy city was well underway by 2005, but he set the bar even higher that year with a new management team and commitment to transforming Riverside with more high-tech jobs and a higher quality of life. The city began attracting new businesses, building stronger relationships with education institutions such as the University of California, and created an economic development plan to guide the city for the next 50 years. As is the case for many cities, one of his strongest tools was the redevelopment agency.
Key commercial areas—Riverside Plaza, the Galleria, Marketplace, University Avenue, Arlington Village, and the historic downtown—have seen blighted buildings removed, as well as restoration of historic structures such as the Mission Inn, which began as a two-story, 12-room adobe boarding house in 1876 and is now the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Redevelopment in our neighborhoods has funded libraries, parks, community/senior centers, and affordable housing, not to mention the Riverside Renaissance, [a $1.6 billion public investment program] created with a team of education and business leaders,” says Loveridge. “The breadth, diversity, and importance of this work have been verified by independent analysis, showing us a catalog of improvements in the quality of life through successful economic initiatives.”
With the fate of California redevelopment agencies up in the air, Loveridge does not mince words. He believes much work remains to be done.
“This is not the time to end redevelopment. It is the most important way we have to increase jobs and to hasten economic development,” he says. “Unemployment in the area is still over 13 percent. Significantly weakening redevelopment will certainly handicap the economic recovery of our region by reducing jobs and stalling economic growth.”