The City of Long Beach has just a few short weeks to finalize and submit a report detailing a long-range management plan for property that belonged to the City’s former redevelopment agency (RDA).
Since the redevelopment program was dissolved more than a year and a half ago, the future of its large amount of real estate had been managed by two groups: the Oversight Board, and city council members who make up what’s called the Successor Agency.
California’s Department of Finance has set an Oct. 23 deadline for the City to submit a long-range plan that details how to dispose of about 259 properties that belonged to the Long Beach RDA.
When it was first created, Long Beach’s redevelopment agency and hundreds of other agencies like it throughout California had been charged with taking what was considered blighted land and transforming those properties into land uses that benefitted the community.
There will be two key meetings in the upcoming weeks during which Long Beach residents will have a chance to voice their opinion and publicly reject or support the City of Long Beach’s plans for the properties of the former redevelopment agency. The long-range management plan that will be due to the State’s Department of Finance will be discussed at length at the next Successor Agency meeting scheduled on Oct. 1. If the plan is approved by the Successor Agency, it will be forwarded to the Oversight Board for approval at its meeting on Oct. 7.
Michael Conway, the director of the City of Long Beach’s Business and Property Development Department, is a key person who has been working closely with the Successor Agency, the Oversight Board and the other former redevelopment staff to craft the long-range management plan.
In anticipation of these meetings, local residents and community leaders who belonged to an advisory group to the City’s former redevelopment agency gathered Sept. 25 to hear Conway at Roxanne’s Lounge, Bar & Grill.
“I’ve spent a lot of my prior years acquiring these properties for the redevelopment agency,” Conway told the group of about 20 people who had gathered in the lounge area. “So it’s a little odd that I’m now charged with disposing of them.” He said he is familiar with the sites that the City’s redevelopment agency had acquired.
There are about four possibilities for each of the 259 sites. The properties could be slated for government use, kept for future redevelopment, retained to honor an enforceable obligation that existed before the redevelopment agency was dissolved or sold. Conway said that the Department of Finance has stated in the past that the proceeds from property sales will be given to the State, not kept with the City. He added that the City will propose to keep the money for the City.
“We are hopeful we will prevail, but we don’t know,” Conway told the group, adding that the State is already formulating its position. “We’re laying out ours in our plan. We want to keep that money. We want to reinvest it in Long Beach, so we’ll see how that argument goes forth.”
He also explained other parts of the plan that will be considered first by the Successor Agency that may prove controversial for advocates who are hoping that the City won’t settle for a low price on property for sale.
“Other elements of the plan [propose] to allow us to sell the [properties] at less than fair-market value,” Conway said, “so if we want to see a particular use on that property, we will RFP (request for proposal) it for that use. If it is supportable through the strategic plan of that project area, then we will look at a reuse value as opposed to a fair-market value. If there is a development that can’t be supported by fair-reuse value, we will look at land-residual value, which is another less-than-fair-market-value approach to evaluation. So we’re trying to instill some tools in that plan that will allow us instead [to focus] on value and focus on use, which I think everyone wants really to do.”
The details of the potential sale of the various properties raised the ire of a few in the group.
Annie Greenfeld serves as president of the Long Beach Central Project Area Council (CPAC), the nonprofit group that hosted the Wednesday-evening event. The Council had previously acted as an advisory group to the RDA. Greenfeld said she wanted a portion of the money from the property sales invested in the project areas. She said she would not be happy if the money went into the City’s general fund.
“That was never the intention,” Greenfeld said after the meeting. She highlighted the original purpose behind the City’s desire to acquire particular properties. “It was to get rid of blight in the neighborhoods.”
Jack Smith, another board member with CPAC, also wasn’t pleased about how the property could be sold.
“First of all, we’re worried about how much they’re going to sell these properties for,” Smith said in an interview after the meeting. “We’re worried about what kinds of businesses [that] they’re going to let go in there.”
Smith added that there is also potential state legislation that could allow the City to sell the property for any price, regardless of the market value.
“Now, yeah, that gives the City some flexibility, but that means that we can get ripped off,” Smith said. “And we [the people of Long Beach] own those properties. We paid for them. They happen to be former RDA properties now, but we paid for them.”
Beyond whether the City or the State will ultimately lay claim to any proceeds from the sale of the redevelopment properties, there is also one major question that has yet to be answered. When asked how much the City originally paid for these properties, Conway would not offer an estimate.