Alhambra: "a regional example of redevelopment done right"

In a detailed article on the effects of redevelopment funds which could be slashed in Governor Brown's budget, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune's Rebecca Kimitch points to Alhambra as a regional success story, but notes that critics "say redevelopment creates competition between cities that largely serves only developers and retailers." (More on how the governor's budget could affect Alhambra can be found here.)

Alhambra Mayor Gary Yamauchi takes Kimitch on a tour down Main Street, which she writes 20 years ago he never visited because it had suffered like so many American cities from a growing mall culture. "The difference has been 20 years of redevelopment efforts on the part of the city," Kimitch reports. "Those efforts have made Alhambra a regional example of how the tool of redevelopment was intended to be used. The city's redevelopment agency has used a portion of property tax revenue to attract private developers and retailers with financial incentives, such as direct grants, below-market rents, and property acquisition."

Kimitch notes, nonetheless, that there are also vocal critics of redevelopment agencies, who say developers — not taxpayers — benefit, and that there is frequent abuse potential, citing when Irwindale taxpayers lost $10 million when that city's redevelopment agency attempted to build an NFL stadium. They also say that the development of cities like Alhambra, have come at the cost of others and that there is no quantitative proof that the redevelopment agencies lead to overall economic wellbeing.

Kimitch reports the latter is a finding that the Legislative Analyst's Office supports: "'The state's costs associated with redevelopment have grown markedly over the last couple decades, yet we find no reliable evidence that this program improves overall economic development in California,' concludes an LAO report analyzing Brown's budget."

Alhambra City Manager Julio Fuentes also shows Kimitch on around town, pointing out various project and disputing critics of the program. "Fuentes says the San Gabriel Valley is so built out and property here so expensive that developers wouldn't make the investment in many areas here without help," Kimitch reports, and that while redevelopment projects create sales tax revenues for cities, they create even more for the state, at 7% of all sales taxes collected. "It's frustrating to be penalized for budgetary problems we can't control," he told Kimitch.  

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