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Santa Monica Officials Alarmed by Governor's Plan to Axe Redevelopment Agencies  

By Ann K. Williams
Lookout Staff

January 13, 2011 -- Jerry Brown may kill one of Santa Monica's largest cash cows if his budget makes it through the State Legislature.

City officials were quick to raise the alarm, sending out a press release Tuesday protesting the governor's plan to eliminate redevelopment agencies throughout the state.

“While the need to take dramatic action to address State budget difficulties is understandable, eliminating redevelopment agencies is counterproductive,” said Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom said.

“At a time when California is desperately in need of job creation and affordable, sustainable, and community-oriented development, redevelopment is essential,” he said.

For his part, Governor Brown told California citizens Monday that “(t)he cuts will be painful requiring sacrifice from every sector of the state, but we have no choice.”

While the Santa Monica Redevelopment Agency would be able to pay off existing debts under the governor's plan, it's still unclear where the rest of the tax monies that fund the agency's projects would wind up, city staff told The LookOut Tuesday.

Most of the city's losses would come from the elimination of the Santa Monica Earthquake Recovery Redevelopment Agency. That agency culls monies from tax bills when property values go up.

Borne out of the rubble of the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the earthquake redevelopment agency currently accounts for most of the gross taxes going into the Santa Monica Redevelopment Agency coffers according to city staff.

The stated goals of the earthquake recovery agency “include addressing the revitalization needs of the commercial, residential and institutional structures damaged or impacted by the earthquake,” according to the city's website.

But Earthquake Redevelopment Agency monies are used for myriad purposes going far beyond earthquake repair, and the projects city officials say are in jeopardy all fall within the Earthquake Redevopment Project's boundaries, which enclose most of Santa Monica.

Gone will be hundreds of “affordable residences,” improvements to athletic facilities at Santa Monica High School, the proposed Palisades Garden Walk and a library in the Pico Neighborhood if the governor has his way, say city officials.

Civic Auditorium renovation and a six-acre park next to the landmark building will be lost.

Improvements to Expo Line stations will be on the block.

The city plans to use future earthquake redevelopment revenues to guarantee up to $283 million in loans but it has to commit to these loans by 2014 or the money will be lost, according to a staff report reviewed by the City Council on December 14.

That's on top of the nearly $300 million of redevelopment funds the city has already spent over the past ten years.

Affordable housing accounted for the largest slice of the pie, while the public swimming pool at Santa Monica College, the Annenberg Beach House and seismic retrofits of downtown parking lots account for much of the rest.

City official speculate that if the redevelopment agency is cut, 5,000 jobs related to new construction will be lost along with 40,000 jobs stimulated by the projects.

“The Governor’s proposed action to eliminate redevelopment is shameful,” said Andy Agle, Santa Monica’s Director of Housing and Economic Development.

“Californians are fed up with the State of California’s budgetary games and maneuvers, and the proposed elimination of redevelopment is another attempt to circumvent the letter of the state constitution while violating its spirit and voter mandates,” he said.

 

“The cuts will be painful requiring sacrifice from every sector of the state, but we have no choice.” Jerry Brown

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