Santa Barbara County officials and business owners met Friday to defend the endangered redevelopment agencies that will lose their state funding if Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed 2011-12 budget is passed by the California legislature.
Municipal RDAs provide local governments with funding for refurbishing run-down areas and implementing low-income housing projects. The press conference began at the Goleta Valley Community Center at 10 a.m. and included discussion from Goleta Mayor Margaret Connell, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, Lompoc Mayor John Linn and Buellton Mayor Ed Andrisek about specific issues and projects the RDAs address.
According to Towbes Group President Craig Zimmerman — a business that has developed housing and commercial structures in the greater Santa Barbara area for over 50 years — the Goleta RDA’s projects grant economic stimulus for the city.
“Goleta RDA funds create jobs, they improve infrastructure and create affordable housing,” Zimmerman said. “The funds keep tax dollars at the local level and allow local officials to allocate those funds, and we believe that that is good for everyone.”
The Goleta RDA’s funds have improved 49 storefronts in Old Town and contributed to 37 low-income houses. The Santa Barbara Redevelopment Agency invested $31 million into the construction of the Paseo Nuevo Mall and invested $65 million in over 1,500 units of affordable housing in the past 30 years.
The governor’s budget proposal will halt three infrastructure redevelopment projects in the city of Goleta — including a redesign of Hollister Avenue — if it is not amended to spare cuts to RDAs.
Connell said the RDA money is necessary for the city’s continued prosperity.
“Old Town is in serious need of affordable housing, and the ability to provide that decent low income housing is dependant upon these redevelopment funds,” Connell said. “We are all united on the issue; we can move forward in a positive way, it can be done.”
Schneider said the RDAs are integral resources for maintaining a city’s vital infrastructure.
“It is a tough job that Sacramento has to do,” Schneider said. “Brown is doing everything he can to assess the budget, but cutting RDA’s does not make sense. Cities need a strong state; there are a lot of ways to save money, but not through redevelopment.”
Ventura City Councilmember Carl Morehouse said the agency’s money is the only outside source of revenue remaining for city development projects.
“There is not any money left, not federal money, not state money, not local money,” Morehouse said. “The only thing left is the RDA funds. It allows our community to create the infrastructure to give people jobs and spark the economic growth that we need.”