Politics

Brown tells mayors California lacks funds to subsidize local redevelopment

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says Governor Brown agrees to working group with mayors on redevelopment.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says Governor Brown agrees to working group with mayors on redevelopment.
Julie Small/KPCC

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Mayors from California’s largest cities told Governor Brown Wednesday that they oppose his plan to scrap local redevelopment agencies. Cities rely on those entities to create jobs and rejuvenate neighborhoods.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa recalls that not too many years ago, the average tourist visit to Hollywood lasted 23 minutes. Then redevelopment dollars flowed into the area to pay for improvements.

"You can go downtown in L.A. and go to Hollywood today and you see a different place, a vibrant place," said Villaraigosa. "Today the average stay is two days."

Villaraigosa says L.A. would never have achieved that “Hollywood ending” without the redevelopment agencies the governor wants to scrap. Brown says that would save California just under $2 billion. That’s how much he expects Sacramento to spend next year by replacing property tax revenues local governments would otherwise funnel to redevelopment.

Brown – who was mayor of Oakland not too long ago – says he understands why local governments oppose his plan. “A lot of good things have been done, but have been done for decades. And now we’re facing the hard truth that when local property tax is taken from schools, public safety, county hospitals, is taken away and given to developers and projects, then the state has to backfill it."

But Villaraigosa warns that axing redevelopment agencies would also chop down job prospects at a time of record unemployment. "This is the wrong time to move away from job creation, the wrong time to disincentivize frankly, companies from coming to distressed areas of our cities that are looking at unemployment rates far beyond what the median unemployment rate is."

After he met with the mayors of California’s 10 largest cities, Governor Brown agreed to form a working group on redevelopment agencies. He also challenged the mayors to craft an alternative plan that might help to plug the state’s $25 billion deficit.