by Larry Forester
Mayor of Signal Hall
The City of Signal Hill has a long history of redevelopment successes. The Agency was created in 1974 to deal with the blight created by 70 years of oil field operations and to induce development in order to create a tax base for the City. The Agency is the financial engine that has assisted the City in creating financial stability and has led to the development of our wonderful community.
The oil field created soil contamination, irregular lot sizes, pipelines that are no longer in use and wells that needed to be abandoned. The Agency was instrumental in creating the Signal Hill Auto Center, which commenced in 1989 and now encompasses six dealerships and involved land consolidation, demolition and soil remediation to make the center possible. The Agency’s ability to assemble property, clean it up and market it led to the development of Town Center East, West, and North, which include Costco, Home Depot and Fresh & Easy. Not only do the Auto Center and Town Centers generate sales-tax dollars, which allows the City the ability to provide a high level of service to its residents, they generate many private jobs. The Agency also played a crucial role in the development of the hilltop homes. The Agency has also been responsible for the development of six affordable housing projects, such as Las Brisas I and II.
In light of these successes and those successes of the other 400 agencies across the state, the Legislature passed two pieces of legislation in its 2011-12 session that would eliminate agencies (ABx1 26) unless agencies made payments to the State (ABx1 27). The California Redevelopment Association, together with the League of California Cities, sued the State as to the constitutionality of these laws and their violation of Proposition 22, passed by the voters in November 2010 to prohibit future “raids” from redevelopment. The worst-case scenario occurred, and the California State Supreme Court ruled that ABx1 26 was constitutional and that ABx1 27 was unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court decision was announced on Dec. 29, 2011, and all agencies will cease to exist on Feb. 1, 2012. The law provides for a successor agency to work with an oversight committee to dissolve the agency of its assets and property. In the meantime, Signal Hill’s Redevelopment Agency will have to cease its property clean-up program, including the program to re-abandon leaking oil wells. There were other projects in the works, including the development of additional retail, that will be terminated.
Agencies and cities alike, along with supporters of redevelopment, will be working with the California Redevelopment Association and the League of California Cities, along with members of the Legislature, in the coming months to determine if there is a way to reinvent redevelopment in California. Redevelopment and economic development are crucial for Signal Hill and its ability to continue to be “the little City that could and did.”