Column: Budget blight means end of redevelopment

Friday’s column (read it here) expresses some thoughts on the demise of redevelopment, particularly in Ontario and Rancho Cucamonga, offering a splash of reality for some pro-redevelopment local officials. Also, I reflect on the passing of Claremont’s Judy Wright.

If you have a long MLK holiday weekend, enjoy it. I’ll be taking Friday off — and Metrolinking it to L.A. — but back at my desk Monday.

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  • shirley wofford

    It’s a tragedy, for the economy, of this area, and for many other local areas, in CA. I hope the legislature will come up with a remedy, soon.

  • shirley wofford

    I hope you are having fun, metrolinking today, David. While you are walking around the Bunker Hill and Music Center areas, you could be thinking to yourself, “Wow, if Redevelopment hadn’t come along and ruined everything, I’d still be able, to walk among old dilapidated houses, and more areas, of Skid Row.”

    [Ha ha! -- DA]

  • John Clifford

    Hope you’re having fun in Downtown LA. Looking forward to reading about your adventures.

    As to the column and Redevelopment.

    I’ve long thought that Redevelopment was a scam to line the pockets of developers and political friends. RDAs are supposed to bring development into blighted areas. I have a long history with the RDA in Hollywood and while there was some blight in the ’70s, the RDA continued to siphon off tax dollars from the area through today.

    RDAs get what’s called Tax Increments. That is, if a property pays $100 in taxes, when a redevelopment project is built, and the taxes are increased to $1,000, the RDA gets the $900 for its future projects. Of course, with that incentive, it’s not about clearing blight but maximizing what the RDA can get. And to do this, they give millions of dollars to private companies to come in and build stuff. I thought that a “free market” would determine what needs to be built and where. But it seems that no city can get any developer to develop anything without those big “loans” (which often don’t have to be repaid) from the tax money that should be going to the benefit of the citizens.

    While RDA’s do make infrastructure improvements, it’s mostly to benefit the business environment (parks for employees, sewers for the new projects, street improvements for the new projects or ones they’re trying to get, etc.). Thus, the tax funds don’t come into the general fund for police, fire, schools and the other things that benefit the entire city, but for more give-aways to big developers.

    Sorry to have gotten so political, David, but you started it :-) .

    [No, I'm glad to have your thoughts on the subject, John. To me, redevelopment has accomplished some good things, but also some middling things, and some awful things. It seemed worthwhile to share a contrary viewpoint in print amidst the caterwauling and carping by local officials. -- DA]

  • shirley wofford

    Those, “give-aways”, to big developers, result in jobs, jobs, jobs!

    [Many paying minimum, minimum, minimum wage! -- DA]

  • shirley wofford

    No, David. You have construction jobs, confused with fast-food service. I don’t think those people working, in the financial district, of Bunker Hill, are minimum wage earners. Also, we have Costco, in Montclair, which employs many people, who are paid more than minimum wage. If Costco were not where it is now, in Montclair, we would be looking at a rundown, old strip mall, with lots of minimum wage earners. And, what do we have to look forward to now? A Wal*Mart Supercenter, with hundreds of minimum wage earners.

  • John Clifford

    Yes, Shirley, they do result in jobs. I’m certainly not anti construction, but if taxpayer funds are going to jobs, shouldn’t those jobs be building infrastructure? Is it the job of the taxpayer to provide the jobs to build a Walmart?

    This is where I get so confused by conservatives. They say that the “free market” will determined what get built and where and that they don’t need government interference. But then they all want government giveaways to participate.

    David, I agree that some good things have had redevelopment funding. But would they have happened without it? Was the project so big that private funding couldn’t do it? Again, the idea of “free market” but with public giving business “incentives” always needs to be looked at with a jaundiced eye.

  • shirley wofford

    John, redevelopment funds have been used to build infrastructure–the jobs created from such, are both private and public. There are plenty of examples in the area, the 10 freeway improvments, being one.

    I did not say that taxpayer funds would be used to build the Wal*Mart–of course taxpayer funds will be used to put in the public improvements that will be necessary–I am not saying that any Redevelopment funding would be used there–I don’t know. I was just venting, and decrying the fact that the only thing, we have to look forward to right now, while everything else crumbles around us, is the Wal*Mart and its resulting, “Minimum-wage City”.

    The end of Redevelopment is going to result in an increase of unemployment, in both private and public sectors–like we needed that right now. I enjoy your commentary, by the way.

  • John Clifford

    Shirley,

    I appreciate the vent. But I still maintain that redevelopment agencies did more to suck dry city tax funds than to make actual improvements. To me, redevelopment funds were usually used to benefit only developers. While infrastructure improvements were made (at taxpayer expense) they were mostly for the benefit of the new development. Yes, taxpayers should pay for infrastructure. But why through an extra layer of bureaucracy that doesn’t take other infrastructure needs into account? Cities will continue to build roads, sewers, etc. Why do it at the direction of those whose goal is only to benefit the newest development?

    I do believe that we need to increase jobs by fixing our infrastructure. I’m just not sure that RDAs are the answer.

    [Let's consider this argument a draw. Thanks to John and Shirley for their comments. -- DA]