By CJ Dablo
Signal Hill City Councilmembers voted Tuesday to adopt a resolution stating opposition to Governor Jerry Brown’s intention to end redevelopment agencies (RDA) in the state. In his “State of the State” address on Monday, Jan. 31, the governor had underscored his desire to end redevelopment agencies as part of his overall budget plan.
Cities have argued that the “redevelopment funds leverage other funds and create jobs,” Brown acknowledged.
“But I also understand that redevelopment funds come directly from local property taxes that would otherwise pay for schools and core city and county services, such as police and fire protection and care for the most vulnerable people in our society,” Brown said. “So it is a matter of hard choices, and I come down on the side of those who believe that core functions of government must be funded first. But be clear, my plan protects current projects and supports all bonded indebtedness of the redevelopment agencies.”
Signal Hill City Councilmember Michael Noll joined the voices of the other members of the council who criticized the governor’s plan.
Noll said that at a recent meeting of the League of California Cities he and other city representatives from around the state attempted to send a message to legislators that these redevelopment funds were used for the public good.
“We worked very hard to. . .use this money to develop the city, clean up blight and increase revenue,” said Noll. “And for every dollar that we get, the state gets $7. And we create jobs with this also. So it’s the worst thing that we could see. And we tried to explain this to them.”
Signal Hill City Manager Ken Farfsing’s report on Tuesday highlighted the RDA’s achievements over nearly 37 years since its inception in 1974. The agency has developed five affordable housing projects since 1999, according to the report.
And since Signal Hill has a significant tie to the oil industry, the City has been charged with a special environmental problem– the clean-up of the area’s numerous oil wells. Farfsing noted that funds will not be available for testing leaking oil wells, the clean-up of contaminated soil, or overseeing abandoned wells if redevelopment ends. The city manager noted that there are 2,800 active and inactive oil wells.
In addition to the resolution opposing the governor’s plan, the Council adopted another resolution to recognize that the library is of benefit to the redevelopment agency. No library bond was proposed at the meeting Tuesday. The community several years ago recognized the need for a library, and the city officers acknowledged the library’s relationship to the redevelopment project area.
“Our intent tonight is basically to build a record and let the administration know, to let Senator [Alan] Lowenthal know, and Assemblymember [Bonnie] Lowenthal know that ending our redevelopment project in Signal Hill would probably be the end of the library and other things,” Farfsing explained.
The library will be added to the list of what’s at stake for the local area if the governor’s plan moves forward. This was a point that was made to Senator Lowenthal in a meeting on Wednesday.
Senator Lowenthal scheduled time with Farfsing and Vice Mayor Larry Forester to discuss the problems of shutting down the city’s redevelopment agency. According to Farfsing, Lowenthal seemed sympathetic to the city’s problems if the redevelopment agency shuts down by July.
Lowenthal acknowledged Signal Hill’s success with their redevelopment projects, said Farfsing. However, according to Farfsing, there will be many factors that will determine the future of redevelopment agencies.
In a special election this summer, California voters will decide whether they will approve legislation to extend taxes. The state senate, assembly and the governor must agree to legislation by early March in order to print it on the ballot for a June election.
Until the legislation is drafted and approved, there will be uncertainty over the future of redevelopment agencies and their projects.
“Redevelopment is definitely in jeopardy,” Farfsing said. “And the next six weeks is going to be wild.”
Other City Council highlights:
Deputy City Manager Charlie Honeycutt presented an update of the construction progress of the new police station and emergency operations center. So far, the project is staying on budget.
The Council adopted a resolution to use Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, which are federal funds distributed through the Los Angeles County Small Cities program, according to Farfsing. Several projects proposed under this grant include a senior food distribution program. They also proposed a sidewalk construction project and other Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements.