OPINION: Has Alhambra contributed to Governor Brown's push to abolish redevelopment agencies?

The Alhambra Redevelopment Agency, which has partnered with developers to build numerous retail and mixed-use complexes, has grown to be the envy of other local, cash-strapped governments. Indeed, over the past two decades, the ARA has grown into a mini-empire for Alhambra’s local government. Along the way the resulting tax increment revenues went to further feed the ARA which were then put towards the purchase of more property, cash incentives to lure more developers, and salaries for ARA staff who also happen to be city employees.

The point we need to consider is whether Alhambra contributed to recent actions taken by Governor Brown to abolish redevelopment agencies. Given that the main charters of such agencies are to cure blight and provide affordable housing, I would have to say yes we did.For example, the Alhambra City Manager is compensated $69,500 a year from the ARA since he also serves as its executive director. This is a significant portion of his total compensation of $278,000.  In terms of financial incentives to aid businesses, the ARA provided $425,000 in assistance to the owners of 38 Degrees Bar and Grill. And it plans $552,000 in assistance to Babies ‘R Us next yearThe list goes on.

Taking the above examples, 38 Degrees Bar and Grill was formerly occupied by the newly renovated California Brewing Company, and Babies ‘R Us is part of the existing Freemont Plaza, both of which are far from being blighted. And the transferring of significant amounts of city staff salaries to the ARA comes at the expense of taking tax revenues from other regional and state programs. These parochial actions, when taken together across many redevelopment agencies, have no doubt contributed to the state’s financial crisis.

Even from the isolationist viewpoint, the tangible fruits of the ARA’s efforts are questionable. Some residents are thrilled with the availability of the new shopping and restaurant options. Others who are less thrilled cite the lack of planning, quality of life impacts, and lack of affordable housing. And there’s the classic argument about whether such development would have happened anyway without paying out so much incentives to developers. Case in point is when in 1997 Alhambra offered Starbucks $136,000 in direct payment in addition to reduced rent to open up one of its ubiquitous coffee houses.

The other criticism cited by non-partisan studies is that redevelopment agencies only shift economic activity and do not significantly add to overall revenue and jobs. We continue to throw good money after bad. The ARA has concentrated on a piecemeal, tactical plan that is often based on the ideas of a close circle of individuals: staff, developers they team with, and their architects. Sole proprietorships are encouraged to open one year, only to be decimated by the big-box store down the street in the next. As businesses go under, the ARA continues to throw money at them in an effort to bring in more of the same.  Meanwhile, many businesses outside of the designated redevelopment zones such as those on Valley Blvd. continue to thrive even without cash incentives to business owners.

The core of the problem is not too much development. It’s that there’s been too little. Development is more than throwing money at something, even if it is coming from other sources (read: it is NOT ok to build a Gateway Arch just because you have grant money to do it).

Governor Brown’s proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies is especially pertinent to Alhambra.  What we’ve done with redevelopment funding is not consistent with its mission. What the Governor’s proposal offers is a return to local control. It will attempt, via constitutional amendment, to return the decisions for large developments back to the citizens by requiring a 55 percent majority vote. Hopefully, a compromise will be reached. Based on the experiences in Alhambra, I would offer the following suggestions for a state-wide reformation:

1. Establish a regional board that adjudicates the deeming of blighted areas.  A regional entity offers the best chance at a fair determination of blight.  It can compare different cities and get help to those areas most in need.

2. Establish a regional board to aid cities with redevelopment administration and tax increment financing. Many cities suffer from a lack of knowledge on how to establish and use redevelopment agencies. A regional board would level the playing field across cities and set strict limits on overhead expenses.

3. Increase the set-aside for affordable housing from 20 percent to 30 percent. The money saved by limiting the overhead costs and salaries charged to a city’s redevelopment agency should be put toward affordable housing.

4. Go forward with proposing a constitutional amendment to allow local voters to approve tax increases and bonds for economic development purposes with a 55 percent majority.

Such reforms, for all practical purposes, would effectively end the ARA as we know it. But that may not be such a bad thing.

Eric Sunada is the executive director of the San Gabriel Valley Oversight Group. A longer version of this article can be found on the organization's website.

11 thoughts on “OPINION: Has Alhambra contributed to Governor Brown's push to abolish redevelopment agencies?”

  1. Nice. ARA gave $ to a Subway.

    Just re-read the pdf and the 38deg basically opened thanks to the $425K grant. Further editing myself, it’s apparent the restaurant’s menu came about AFTER the RA’s money, ie, all improvements/changes have already been made. It should sadden the entire city of Alhambra (and 38Deg’s diners) that this current kitchen’s output came about with this much financial investment from the city.

  2. Mr. Sunada,

    Thank you again for your response. We at least acknowledge our unique differences in these matters.

    The success of our city manifests itself everyday in front of our eyes! The Alhambra Source has mentioned so many already. Call it a generalization if you so wish; I guess it really just depends on your mindset and how you want to look at it. I know success by experiencing it, and not only by just numbers or some other specific proof. Regional numbers are critical for analysis, but then again, numbers can also lie.

    To keep this brief, I just want to say that perhaps our understanding of these matters really reflects our own experiences (working with government) and our own moral codes that must confront the reality and complexity of our environment.

  3. Mr. Gacis,

    We do indeed disagree on many issues. Much of your argument is based on semantics, clarifications of terms, loopholes in the lawy, and verbage which is not all that accurate. e.g., you appear to defend city staff and council since they “in no way acted unethically that would constitute a VALID legal violation.” But that’s what ETHICS is all about! You really need to provide concrete proof of the benefits you speak about. Saying that the success of the city speaks for itself is nothing more than a generalization without regional numbers to back it up.

    Keep in mind that Development is part of the city’s job. Development Services is suppose to develop worn-out properties. To say that this has been a great success may be over-doing it. But when it’s been done with the People’s money via redevelopment funding, this is not deserving of such accolades. At least not from residents who are struggling to make a go in this economy.

    You’re paragraph on blight talks about a root problem being the definition and interpretation of the word. Just to clarify, I do not agree with you: the term is easily interpreted from a relative point of view when the region at large is considered. Again, you justify Alhambra’s actions by quoting the law. Yes, the state lends its trust that city’s will act for the common good. And as long as you focus very specifically on wording of the law, sure it may be legal. But it’s not necessarily the right thing to do. Our argument is untenable as long as the difference exists between us.

    The Director of Development services being paid entirely by the ARA is a huge conflict of interest. Again, semantics aside: the planning department and development department both fall under the direction of this position. Yet the planning department is the arm of local government that checks and protects the quality of life issues of its residents against the effects of development, among other things. More progressive city’s such as Pasadena have taken steps to consider separating the two departments into completely separate directorships. Yet we have them both under one, and that one is paid for entirely by the ARA.

    I take much exception to your “other items” section. The most egregious is the attempted justification of the Zen Terrace fiasco. That, Mr. Gracis, was not legal and either the developer or city will be held accountable. At the very least, the city should have opened up the sale of the affordable units to non-age-restricted groups. Why not open up the sale based on income only and not discriminate by age? Maybe that’s why they units could not sell in the first place: because demographics didn’t support the dedication of so many units to such a minority group (low income seniors)of the population.

    I usually do not respond to comments more than once, but find it necessary in this case.

    Respectfully,

    Eric Sunada

  4. Alhambra Resident

    Mr. Sunada,
    Your welcome. Although we disagree on many things, I also appreciate your time in reading my comments and opinions.

    I understand what you are trying to say about redevelopment as a vehicle to allow local government the flexibility to do what “makes sense” and how the State “trusts” that cities will follow the core mission of the program. And you’re right, just because it’s not illegal doesn’t mean it’s ethical. I’m not claiming that Alhambra has been a saint, but its redevelopment program has made efforts to follow the core mission and in no way acted unethically that would constitute a VALID legal violation. There has been so many RA projects out there under scrutiny, but unfortunately for every bad one many good ones go unnoticed. With such broad program guidelines, Alhambra does not come close to other cities that have abused the system (litigated or not). And even when Alhambra does get awarded (2010 BEST BUSINESS IN L.A. COUNTY, numerous CRA “Award of Excellence” recognition, etc.) I’m sure you will find other factors to invalidate the efforts of those accomplishments (like the ones you post on your Oversight Group website). Your article implies our city as a microcosm of a wider failed system that totally neglects the complexities of economic revitalization mixed in with social policies (ex. affordable housing). What is worse, conformist ideals for such procedural processes (as written by redevelopment law) limits our true environment to strict textbook definitions that can never truly capture the present and future socioeconomic conditions of our community. Hence, any variances conducted by the ARA becomes susceptible to scrutiny. I agree that perhaps agency members could have followed other courses of actions in their past dealings, but that is their prerogative and authority based on their interpretations on redevelopment law and their efforts for what is best for Alhambra (and not necessarily only for themselves). As of today, let the city’s current successful status speak for itself.

    Like I stated (and you acknowledged), the definition of blight and its interpretation is a major root problem. Under Redevelopment Law, blight must be PREVALENT and SUBSTANTIAL. It then goes on explaining that it must be characterized by several enumerated physical and economic conditions (At least ONE of each). Now here’s another interesting thought. How can we extrapolate our observations into a meaningful criteria that satisfies such enumerated pre-conditions when THE REAL WORLD is changing? Snapshots captured by consultants and EIRs help, but it is only a part of the process. One example is the changing real estate market conditions we have today since the last redevelopment plan of the West Main St. Corridor back in 2006. Only now do we see some of those sites being built (City Ventures, Casita Zen). And yet, its easy to criticize such projects now when they are interspersed among existing non-blighted areas. Regardless, they are still legal based on California Redevelopment Law Section 33321, which states: “A project area may include lands, buildings, or improvements which are NOT DETRIMENTAL to the public health, safety or welfare, but whose INCLUSION is found necessary for the EFFECTIVE REDEVELOPMENT of the area of which they are a part”. Furthermore, many ARA projects are NOT SHOVEL-READY until years have passed due to surveys, developer issues, EIRs, etc. Once committed however, projects do not commonly stop. When everything has been said and done however, the world has changed (for better or worse) and the critics will continue the finger-pointing wherever they can.

    You point out the conflict of interest of having the Director of Development Services sit in as the Planning Dept. leader and having his salary paid out of the ARA. If he is an ARA member, then according to California Redevelopment Law, the legislative body (city council) has the right to provide appropriate agency compensation (Section 33114). If an agency member sits in on any other agency/authority position in the community, he can (Section 33111). Are you saying that the Dir. Of Development Services/Planning Dept. is NOT an agency member? We must now ask ourselves if his position serves proxy to ARA duties. It sure sounds like it does. This makes even further sense as stated by the California Redevelopment Association website: “Because they are locally governed and their boards are COMPRISED of LOCAL ELECTED or APPOINTED officials, redevelopment agencies are in the best position to work with local citizens and businesses to identify community needs and to work with private investors on local projects to meet those needs” (see Section 33200). Your conflict of interest argument focuses too much on job titles instead of RELEVANT position duties. Finally, our community should know that redevelopment agencies DO NOT levy taxes and DO NOT have the ability to raise taxes. They receive a portion of the property taxes revenues generated, but under the goal of reinvesting such funds back into the community. That’s right, BACK TO US…

    Other Items:

    REGIONAL BOARDS: If people think community redevelopment agencies are bad now, can you imagine one at the regional level? It will be another entirely bigger beast. The problem is not just the individual agencies, but state policy implementation, training, and oversight. The California Redevelopment Association is a great organization that does make the efforts to promote agency standards, but the State needs to be the leader in this. Either re-write the laws and/or have the state provide proper oversight/enforcement. This is not bigger government but SMARTER government. Adding another bureaucratic layer (regional boards) IS bigger government. I work for the Air National Guard under a “dual status” role of working for the State (such as helping the California Dept. of Forestry/CDF put out fires) or the Federal Government (my last year’s Afghanistan deployment). My regular full-time job is a Federal civil service position funded by the Feds although my job is a State position (one must be an active State Guard member to hold this Civil Service job). I have seen the complex intricacies of this dual status (such as FUNDING ISSUES) affect my duties every day while on active or non-active duty. Going into details is beyond the scope of this argument, but from a developer’s perspective I can see that encountering such hierarchical complexity certainly affects the risk-averse factors of community investment. That is why having a State, regional, city/municipal, and then an end-user (community project area) structure (multi-tiered) for a redevelopment agency program is a bad idea. Too much red tape! If you insist on regional boards, then something else must go or be streamlined. No matter what other policies are written down or removed, you can’t neglect the fact that there will always be some sort of flexibility in the codes.

    POLICY/PRACTICE & AFFORDABLE HOUSING: I am the program manager for two programs at work. One requires a SECRET clearance and the other involves technical publications. I must adhere not only to Federal policies, but State policies as well. Most of the time, both Fed. and State policies commensurate each other and there are no problems. These experiences have taught me a lot about policy and practice, so I understand where you are coming from. Sometimes though, following policy by the letter or spirit is not always clear, cut, and dry. Neither policy nor practice can always supersede intangible external factors that may affect expected results (such as forces of nature or market conditions). You cannot force feed people’s behavior to mandate specific social/economic criteria if external issues outside the scope of redevelopment program parameters occur. In the military, we have contingency actions to meet unexpected circumstances for maintaining overall mission integrity, but should redevelopment in communities be held subject to such utilitarian demands? I would agree only if our cities were run in strict controlled environments like the military. Otherwise, flexibility in project criteria should be allowed. For example, just because the Zen Terrace Project (Atlantic/Commonwealth) was allowed a density bonus for allowing affordable housing, I feel one can’t force a developer to risk fiscal insolvency if no qualified buyers were willing to buy these “affordable” homes at the time of sales. The economic recession affected everybody INCLUDING LOW-INCOME people, not just the rich or middle-class. If the developer was in a circumstance which planning policy did not explicitly address, then his requested practice (to sell to investors) commensurate the fact that even qualified low-income people (which 25% of the project was made for) were not able to buy at the time. Should residents dive into the daily economic intricacies of city affairs and be judge and jury to our own city officials? If they have done wrong, let the checks and balances of our city government run its course. If conspiracy becomes the fear factor, let the negative results of their behavior come into clear fruition. This will substantiate a critic’s claim. Because those affordable units weren’t sold to low-income doesn’t mean we morally deprived a low-income family out of a house. If the market wasn’t conducive at the time to fit the opportunities for low-income folks, we can’t force such people to line up at the realtor’s office to satisfy policy criteria. The developer has already done his policy deed to develop and provide first OPPORTUNITY for qualified buyers to purchase so-called “affordable” homes. If he is forced to sit on it indefinitely until sold to low-income, then that should be explicitly stated. It is easy to forget that such a development has already increased the city’s housing supply, making it harder for slumlords to charge higher rents and providing more competition that actually suppresses unwarranted rental increases, thus making Alhambra’s housing intrinsically more affordable. Increasing mandated “affordable” housing from 20% to 30% is an artificial attempt that addresses only a specific issue. These unit are needed, but under what roles can they play in the context of the community? Does MORE necessarily mean BETTER? If Sam Wong was forced to sell strictly “by the books”, I can assure you the number of foreclosures in Alhambra would be much higher. We also can’t have the developer become a prisoner to a policy that may not have addressed such circumstances. If we need to re-write planning policy, then this should be the real issue instead of portraying “redevelopment” as a dirty word.

    I’ll end by saying that I do understand your concerns Mr. Sunada. However, I just want to say that we should not demonize our own city unless its truly warranted with substantiated illegal city activities. Your perspective does seem warranted on the surface level, but I don’t buy into many of your views (perhaps because of my own work experiences in government and the learning curves I went through in my own personal investments). For now, I feel redevelopment agencies play as an important arterial catalyst for community growth and development throughout our State. A role that I feel our State can never effectively do by itself. As for the “true basis” for the ARA, sure there are bad apples out there, but don’t undermine the majority of good ones that never make it into your mental landscape.

  5. OPINION:

    I disagree with this article on its perspective and how it vilifies our city manager and employees. To say that Alhambra “contributed” to Gov. Brown’s efforts to abolish redevelopment agencies (RA) does more than let us ponder on potential mistakes; it actually discredits our entire community. As this article points out, I do believe change is necessary in how RA funds are distributed and reform is necessary. However, to say Alhambra is a contributor when the larger problem is a systemic failure of policy implementation and oversight at state levels serves injustice to the people who have made this city grow and prosper.

    The root of the problem is not so much the definition of BLIGHT (you can Google it), but its interpretation. One cannot make it so strict that it does not fully address the various diverse cities across our state. By diverse, I mean the unique characteristics of cities: sovereignty of local governments, economy, demographics, geographical advantages/disadvantages, history, etc. We also cannot make it so broad that it is abused or meaningless. Unfortunately, what is right or wrong is not explicitly spelled out. It is hard to depend on a legal definition. We can only go by our own interpretations and precedence (good or bad). As one article states, “blight” is like beauty in that it depends on the eye of the beholder; blight in Beverly Hills is going to look more different than blight in East Los Angeles.

    The author points out hard facts by throwing out numbers. I will not refute this. It is sad however, to only see the numbers in the “spotlight” and not those in the “dark”. By “dark” I mean the intangible numbers not easily visible to our Alhambra residents. They require further research and/or understanding. Future tax revenues, BALANCED city budgets (when the State can’t), number of thriving businesses in the city (in constant flux), and the secondary economic spin-offs that Alhambra RA projects have generated (or yet to come) are but a few prime examples of these “dark” numbers that will never deserve credit because naysayers will tell you “unless you have the hard facts, no one will listen to you”. From this myopic perspective, hard numbers trump future vision and calculable risk. So instead, social policies like “affordable housing” become the issues of the day (almost everyday) that try to win the hearts of the voting public. It’s a popular topic and low-income households are common. Also, Mr. Fuentes’s ARA annual salary becomes an easier target because he is already making so much (>200K/yr.). I guess it’s simpler to see it this way because the article doesn’t point out all his responsibilities/ liabilities for his multiple jobs. Not to mention his years of experience, education, and the leadership he has provided for this city. If he had only taken a $1 annual salary like Steve Jobs, perhaps he good have done better? So what is the “right” amount? And all those “kickbacks” various businesses have received from the ARA? It’s a lot of money! Unfortunately, we again don’t see what could have happened if they did not receive supporting funds. Maybe they would have left? “Should have, would have, could have” is what I hear. Therefore, we are only left looking at “spotlighted” numbers because it’s easier and “dark” numbers seem much more inconvenient. We can see SOME of these “darker” numbers through empirical observation of our community and documents we can obtain online or city hall. These darker numbers can also show us a much better picture of a prosperous growing city. A balanced budget, shifting demographics, new businesses applying for membership at the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce, and a vibrant Main St. corridor (with a new larger employer – L.A. County Community Development HQ) are all things setting Alhambra up for its current growing needs and future generation. This article purports however, we have gone down the wrong moral path when the simple truth is we are all participants of a systemic problem that needs to be fixed. Calling out our own city is nothing more than a political statement of self-pity.

    The article also points out other interesting issues. There are non-partisan studies that show RA projects only shift economic activity and does not generate new revenues/jobs. I believe this is partially true; not ALL projects are bad. Perhaps we can go over these so-called studies and dissect them for what they’re worth (but this can be for another discussion). To state that the ARA has a tactical plan based on ideas from a “close circle of individuals” is an understatement of the communications process, teamwork, and stress that these large projects demand. I’ve been a resident in San Gabriel Valley for a long time also (since 1980). It is ridiculous to compare Valley Blvd with streets in RA zones like Main St. to prove a point about throwing good money after bad. Valley Blvd is a major artery that parallels the I-10 and runs for miles across Alhambra, San Gabriel, Rosemead, and beyond. I have seen Gemco, Zody’s, and the drive-thru theater (where San Gabriel Valley Square sits today) on Valley Blvd. close years ago. In more recent times the car-wash/liquor-market near Valley/Chapel Ave. has also closed shop. My point is, with or without RA funds, small proprietor or big-box, the market will prove the winners and losers. Let us respect that! I myself had a small vending machine route (downtown L.A., Pasadena, City of Industry, Covina) and half-owned a juice-bar in a bad location (inside L.A. Fitness on Lake Ave., Pasadena). I don’t have those businesses today because they weren’t profitable for me. Only I have myself to blame for these losses and even if a box-retailer had won me out, the better for me. Businesses don’t exist to make a community look good, it exists because it serves the community, viable, and brings in profit.

    I give full credit for the author in providing thoughtful suggestions for amending redevelopment agencies. However, I disagree on several issues.

    1. Establishing regional boards sounds like a good idea. However, cities in close proximity (within a region) can vary greatly. For example, Alhambra is much denser and has a different demographic make-up than its adjoining city of South Pasadena. Although Monterey Park is also next door, its southern neighbor of Montebello is just as different. What is deemed blight in one area may be subjective to the city next door. By setting up regional boards, we run the risk of defining blight broadly across several cities without respecting the unique characteristics (mentioned above) of each city. Alhambra already has representation in many organizations such as SCAG (Southern California Association of Governments) and SGVCOG (San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments). Does our city really need to fall under another regional jurisdiction? Please, let each city be RESPONSIBLE for its needs. Successful cities need not subsidize less competent ones, unless they choose too. But don’t let regional board policies mandate this. You say regional boards should COMPARE different cities and help those more in need. I sort of agree, but what actually are we comparing? Those fortunate and less fortunate? How about good leaders and bad leaders? Am I being too politically incorrect here? How about a low density high-income productive beach city near a major airport whose other side has an inland community of high-density middle-class people with a higher crime rate? It’s hard to compare apples to apples when there a lot of oranges thrown in the mix due to the reality of how cities can really differ. We need LESS government, not MORE. Perhaps a better idea is to incorporate RA guidelines into existing government structures. Otherwise, the state needs to work with cities in defining more concrete policies. Our city shouldn’t be slapped in the face to prove a point.

    2. A suggestion with good intentions. A state-wide forum where all State cities (from different regions) can learn and participate is another possibility. This keeps the entire group under a state-wide event that encourages our state leaders to participate and provide better oversight.

    3. A 10% increase in affordable housing? This is a very bad idea. First, cost savings diverted away from the ARA will not ensure they will be put into affordable housing. As a matter of fact, one of the REQUIREMENTS for developers to receive ARA funding is to provide affordable housing in their projects. Mandating more affordable housing not only forces them to factor in these costs, but exacerbates their reliance on ARA funding to cover these costs even more! Developers are not stupid and we need to stop fooling ourselves. I believe in helping low-income people, so perhaps development can be geared towards investing in human capital (job skills, education, entrepreneurial and employment opportunities) instead of just focusing on the physical capital (affordable homes) of low-income people. Schools, museums, multi-unit buildings that offer competitive rents (commercial/senior /residential) are some things that come into my mind. Not more affordable homes that superficially deflate our city’s tax revenues, increase public costs, and forces the upper/middle-class residents to subsidize a policy that does not provide a long-term solution to our public housing needs. I myself own a rental property in Moreno Valley (Riverside County). My tenant is a Section 8 tenant. The rent I receive is partially subsidized by HUD. In my opinion, poverty affects us all. Our national government is perhaps better in helping our low-income housing needs. If the city of Moreno Valley forced me to provide low-income housing to my tenant without HUD’s assistance, my tenant wouldn’t be enjoying her home there today. Increasing our city involvement in these matters creates an artificial barrier to Alhambra’s own future development.

    4. 55% majority? Sounds good but the only caveat is that what the people want may not always be the best for our community as a whole. Let our elected officials make the important decisions. They are accountable (as individuals, instead of faceless special-interest voting groups) and have the background to deal with city affairs. A 55% majority would be a voting majority and may not actually reflect the interest majority of our entire residential population.

    If Gov. Jerry Brown has the power to abolish RA’s, then he also has the power to provide leadership in amending our current RA quagmire throughout the state. Sounds like a tough job and it certainly is. I don’t even think attacking a $69,500 annual salary is the right place to even begin, let alone blaming our own city officials and discrediting our Alhambra community.

    John Gacis

    1. Mr. “Gacis”
      It sounds like you have a “dog in the fight.”

      1. To Longtimer:

        Yeah, but it’s still good to hear both sides and not only one.

        I’m sure the author has much more experience in city matters than I, but I also work for government and its not always that simple to run things the way you want it to be.

    2. Mr. Gacis,

      Thanks for taking the time to provide your comments and opinions.

      I disagree with your premises and points. The State implemented the redevelopment vehicle in such a way as to allow local government the flexibility to do what makes sense. In other words, it trusts that cities will implement the redevelopment agency according to the core mission of the program. Just because it’s not against the law doesn’t mean that the city had the right to stray from that standard. It’s called ethics, and the abuse of them undoubtedly led to Governor Brown’s attempts to abolish redevelopment agencies. The alternative is that state government would have to provide strict rules and oversight – which I believe you object to based on your statement about needing “less government” and “not more”.

      You argue about the semantics of “blight.” This is the basis for the need for a regional oversight agency to deem what areas are most in need. Only then will the state have a level playing field. For all practical purposes, this would eliminate 99% of Alhambra from every being considered for redevelopment funding. But this makes sense, because there are a lot of areas that desperately and truly need help – in other words, truly blighted.

      The public has the right to know who is on the ARA’s payroll. That the City Manager is on it shouldn’t surprise anyone. There are far greater conflicts: the Director of Development Services is paid ENTIRELY out of the ARA while also leading the Planning department. The public also has the right to know where its money is going. Funneling millions into subsidizing commercial development with money who’s primary objective is to provide affordable housing and cure blight is unethical in Alhambra’s case.

      I’m short on time. Summary:
      1. Affordable housing is not just something that is used to “win the hearts of the public.” I don’t even know how to respond to this, since a core mission of the redevelopment agency is to provide it. Obviously you are not a believer in affordable housing, which is consistent with many city staff and council. That’s fine, just don’t use the redevelopment vehicle.
      2. The state requires a balanced budget just like the city, which is why we are in such dire straits.
      3. A 10% increase in affordable housing is a bad idea?! Again, you don’t understand the true basis for the ARA.
      3. You do realize that to commit bond funding, which is what the development projects would need, requires a vote. Allowing a 55% majority is being generous, because under existing law nothing will likely get built.

  6. Michael Lawrence

    Eric you again brought some light to a subject that few understand. Providing factual information on the redevelopment process allows all of us to access a side of the argument that has more depth than the “awards” given to the city for development by organizations that support development decisions by a few. I find it difficult to understand how so called “blighted” areas receive so much money from the redevelopment agency. As you suggested, Alhambra must participate in a regional board that has a nonbiased appraisal in determining what is truly blighted. More public input on the large developments would be a change most of the public would approve and help remove the perception of too many back room deals with developers.

  7. Very interesting and different perspectives.

  8. Eric, thank you for researching and informing us about this topic and providing constructive suggestions on what the state can do to improve the redevelopment system.

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