ULI San Francisco, in conjunction with the district councils in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Orange County, and San Diego, has issued a 22-page report recommending a comprehensive set of tools to promote economic development and build sustainable and healthy communities.
The report, titled “After Redevelopment: New Tools and Strategies to Promote Economic Development and Build Sustainable Communities,” was written in response to the end of redevelopment programs in California in February 2012 as a consequence of the state’s tight budget situation and state legislation enacted in 2011. Termination of California’s 60-year program in redevelopment dismantled about 400 city and county redevelopment agencies.
“In light of the demise of redevelopment in California in 2012, we need leadership at all levels of government to put in place a more flexible set of tools, without creating a financial burden on the state or other taxing agencies,” says Elliot Stein, executive director of ULI San Francisco.
At the top of the list of recommended new tools are the ability to assemble sites and negotiate sales, use of tax increment financing on a voluntary basis by affected taxing agencies, and the ability to deploy these tools with local control, flexibility, and accountability.
“One critical fix needed is for housing,” says report coauthor Joseph E. Coomes, a lawyer in the Sacramento firm Best Best & Krieger. “California’s population is growing faster than the supply of housing. In particular, the amount of multifamily housing, which is more affordable to the state’s workforce and growing senior population, is not keeping pace. Access to affordable housing, job opportunities, and quality education are critical components of any economic development strategy.”
Other areas that need longer-term solutions than are currently available include infrastructure, such as city roads and utilities; economically disadvantaged neighborhoods; and underused former military bases that need longer-term solutions than are currently available, according to the report.
“California’s infrastructure is crumbling, and we are facing significant climate change issues that threaten our urban areas, where most of our state’s population lives,” says Gail Goldberg, executive director of ULI Los Angeles and former planning director of both Los Angeles and San Diego. “Furthermore, the lack of affordable housing leads to overcrowding and long commutes, which in turn contributes to increased greenhouse gases and climate change.”
“The loss of redevelopment means there is no longer any coherent set of tools to encourage infill development, build affordable housing, and facilitate economic development in a smart and balanced fashion,” says Libby Seifel of Seifel Consulting. “The replacement of these tools would also help local jurisdictions promote transit-oriented development and remediate contaminated sites.”
The dissolution of redevelopment agencies (RDAs) statewide removed a program that helped develop thousands of housing units annually and invested millions of dollars in economic development and infrastructure throughout California.
While the report acknowledges the end of the prior RDA system and its ultimate financial burden on the state, it urges action be taken in California because communities need a proactive set of tools to facilitate proper, balanced growth and economic development. The recommended program does not call for the restoration of independent redevelopment agencies, nor for the use of tax increment financing (TIF) without the consent of affected taxing agencies, nor for any dedication of property taxes needed to fund schools.
In addition to Stein, Coomes, and Seifel, members of the working group behind the report were Jesse C. Smith, Office of the San Francisco City Attorney; Claude Gruen, Gruen Gruen + Associates; William A. Barnes, Barnes Advisers; Terry Freeman, Terry Freeman & Associates; Jerry Keyser, Keyser Marston Associates; Stephen R. Koch, Baker Street Associates; Tom Lockard, Stifel Nicolaus; Charles A. Long, Charles A. Long Properties LLC; Chris Lynch, Jones Hall; David M. Madway, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton; James R. Musbach, Economic & Planning Systems Inc.; Jay L. Paxton, Buchalter Nemer; Lydia Tan, Related California; and Robert A. Thompson, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton.