City Councilman and chair of the Redondo Beach Redevelopment Agency Steven Diels was not happy about yesterday's ruling from the State Supreme Court that upholds state legislation to abolish redevelopment agencies.
"It's just silliness to the nth degree," Diels said. "The legislature really just passed some bad policy."
Redevelopment agencies use special funding from local property taxes to work with developers to create projects that are intended to abolish blight in cities and help create affordable housing. The agencies came under fire last spring as certain abuses came to light throughout the state. In addition, the agencies have been criticized for using money that could go to schools and other public projects.
A law passed last summer allowed the state to abolish redevelopment agencies throughout California, which also means that the funds provided by local property taxes for those agencies will revert back to the state's general fund. The law was promptly challenged in the State Supreme Court, but upheld by the Thursday ruling.
"The news that the California Supreme Court decided to support the Governor in dissolving local redevelopment agencies was disheartening to us all," wrote Redondo Beach City Manager Bill Workman in an email to Patch.
Diels, for his part, said that he understood the ruling, even if he didn't like it.
"It held up the legislature's right to make bad policy," he said.
When asked about the abuses that other agencies had been accused of, including spending redevelopment funds inappropriately, Diels said that such abuse doesn't justify dismantling the agencies overall.
"I'm not making excuses for abuses," he said. "If things are being done inappropriately or illegally, they need to be corrected. That's not to say that all RDAs are bad."
As for the criticism that money from the agencies could fund other needs such as schools, Diels pointed out that one affordable housing project, Heritage Point, is on Redondo Beach Unified School District property.
"Our schools received something like $1.5 million from that project," Diels said. "That's the irony, that [funding the schools is] exactly what we've been doing. In the end, they're really taking money from schools."
Supporters of redevelopment agencies point out that the projects provide jobs and build tax revenues for cities, some of which also funds future redevelopment projects. Workman pointed out in his email that dissolving the agencies will work against job creation and other state mandates.
"As a consequence of the ruling, California's governments have on overall economic development programs to address needed job creation, business expansion-retention and production of State mandated affordable housing," Workman wrote.
Diels said that perhaps one affordable housing project in Redondo Beach is currently threatened by the dissolving of the agencies, since all the other projects in the city are currently under contract, and thus not affected by the ruling. Workman wrote that city staff members will be assessing "known programmatic and fiscal impacts," and will provide the city council with an evaluation in January.
Diels, for his part, said that he is calling for the state legislature to undo the law dissolving the agencies, both as an individual and as the incoming chair of the California League of Cities, Los Angeles Division.
"There may still be time for the state legislature to unwind it," Diels said. "I'm going to write a letter to my state senator. It's an open request to just unwind the law."