The California Supreme Court issued a mandate on Dec. 29 ordering counties to dissolve any Redevelopment Agencies under their jurisdiction by Feb. 1, 2012.
The RDAs are local organizations designed to fund community infrastructure improvement projects such as the Isla Vista Master Plan. The court’s decision requires the state’s 400 agencies to pass on existing projects and duties to “successor agencies” within their respective regions.
According to Isla Vista Director of Redevelopment Errin Briggs, eliminating the Goleta agency’s funding will terminate a significant number of the area’s projects.
“Technically we did not know we would be shut down until Dec. 29,” Briggs said. “We are meeting furiously to figure out how to best transition the agency into what they call the successor agency. [The difference is that] the RDA has a budget they can spend on projects in Isla Vista. The successor agency will not be carrying out any projects; it is just winding down the assets of the agency.”
After months of legislative gridlock over the state’s financial budget last year, CA Gov. Jerry Brown signed California ABx26, allowing the state to gut redevelopment agencies and use the funds to balance its finances. Additionally, Brown passed ABx27 in an attempt to compromise with local governments and to allow organizations to remain if they shared part of their future funds.
In response, California voters passed CA Prop. 22 in the Nov. 2010 election to prevent the state from seizing local government funds to finance its budget. Although the RDAs started a lawsuit to overturn ABx26 and ABx27, the California Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in December upheld ABx26. The court also voted against ABx27’s legality, eliminating the RDAs’ ability to remain even under certain guidelines.
Vyto Adomaitis, Director of Redevelopment and Neighboring Services for the City of Goleta, said the decision will create a significant hole in local development capabilities.
“The problem, for us, is that while the source of funding is being taken away, those needs in the community remain,” Adomaitis said. “The funding for some of the projects for Old Town amongst others becomes very challenging. Our ability to fix homeowners’ residences and business owners’ storefronts goes away because those are all projects funded by the agency right now.”
One of several major Goleta RDA projects is the 2007 Isla Vista Master Plan, which was drafted to fix public infrastructure problems, revitalize I.V.’s downtown area and decrease automobile dependency, according to Briggs.
Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District General Manager Jeff Lindgren said Goleta’s RDA helped the IVRPD purchase land on the bluffs, construct Pelican Park and fund Little Acorn Park’s lighting, among other projects.
“The park district and RDA had plans for several cooperative projects that would improve public safety and make general improvements to several of Isla Vista’s parks,” Lindgren said. “If the RDA ultimately goes away, we will not be able to fund those activities as we had been planning on doing. Without RDA support we are in quite a bit of a pinch to support rehabilitation of some of the parks and we have some parks that need help.”
Lindgren also said the agency directly assisted in developing I.V.’s downtown including some renovations to local stores.
“The RDA has actively supported I.V. businesses by remodeling their store fronts, such as Chino’s, the place occupied by South Coast Deli, the new sidewalk in front of Deja Vu Cafe and Rosarito’s as well as the sidewalks all up and down Pardall Road,” Lindgren said. “Unfortunately, other future businesses will no longer have that opportunity.”
According to Santa Barbara City Councilmember Randy Rowse, the council voted itself as the successor entity for the SB RDA on Jan. 17 with a pledge to finish its existing contracts.
Rowse said the court’s decision will set back local industry that benefitted from the funding.
“One thing that is unfortunate is that the RDA acts like a mini stimulus for these local communities — you get to hire contractors and design people and all the different support services to complete projects,” Rowse said. “So you are creating employment within your jurisdiction … that is the part that is going to hurt.”
However, Santa Barbara City Councilmember Cathy Murillo said the agency’s elimination will not end development within the city.
“There was a time for redevelopment, before the RDA program was put into place in the 1970s, so my question to the administrators is what did we do before the redevelopment agency?” Murillo said. “The city has planning and finance professionals and we are going to find the solution.”