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The Star-News has a good article today on how local cities are handling the possibility that California will eliminate the redevelopment process, and, by-the-by, grab a lot of local money for itself.

One scoff-worthy item in the story is that some people criticize redevelopment agencies because they "lack oversight," meaning some state agency isn't controlling what they do.

So, the oh-so fiscally responsible State of California - which always delivers a budget on time and never ever runs a debt and never ever uses accounting tricks to "balance" its budget - wants to make sure that redevelopment agencies are being responsible. Right.

Also in the article, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer calls redevelopment agencies "vampires," sucking blood for their own purposes. I dunno, if I was a state official and therefore representative of the biggest blood-sucker in the Western United States, I don't think I'd bring up the topic of vampires.

Having said all that, I have to add that I am a bit of two minds regarding redevelopment agencies. I agree with Monrovia City Manager Scott Ochoa about their economic benefits, but what concerns me is "eminent domain," meaning that a redevelopment agency (generally a city council wearing a different hat) can buy a property within a redevelopment zone even if the owner does not want to sell.

Redevelopment historians can correct me on this if I am wrong, but I believe redevelopment was initially instituted so government could force the sale of critical property to build vital public structures, such as freeways and hospitals, but it has gone far beyond that.

Yes, there are safety measures in place. Usually the agency has to pay an above-market rate for the property, and it needs to help people and businesses relocate, and I believe the vote to force the sale of a property must be  unanimous. Also, I know that cities - Monrovia included - are reluctant to use this power, and a property-owner could challenge the agency in court, nevertheless I'm troubled that someone's property can be purchased without his or her permission, for no crime he has committed and for no debt that he owes.

If redevelopment could be reconstituted without eminent domain, I'd feel better, but that would mean one recalcitrant property owner could derail a large city-benefiting project. But still, it makes me mighty nervous letting any government take people's property just so it can get more money, nice as more money would be right now.

Here is a Monrovia statement on redevelopment from 2008:

UPDATE: See Mayor Pro Tem Tom Adam's thoughts under Comment, below.

- Brad Haugaard

1 comment:

  1. Just as a little history, government has always had the legal right to take private property. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, a part of the Bill of Rights states in part; "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation" The United States was the first government in history to make sure that when they took property, people were compensated. Prior to that governments just did what they wanted to do. Over the years, different courts have disagreed on what "Public Use" means, freeways, court buildings, schools are obvious. Does tearing down dilapidated houses to build a business that brings needed jobs to a community qualify as "public use"? One common thought is this, The property need not actually be used by the public; rather, it must be used or disposed of in such a manner as to benefit the public welfare or public interest. Another little tidbit, Arlington Cemetery, or the grounds surrounding Arlington House were taken by the Federal Government during the Civil War. The home belonged to the Robert E. Lee family. During the course of the war so many bodies were buried there that it constituted a taking. Lee's family filed a law suit for taking without compensation and won. After the property was deed back to them they sold it to the government. I guess they just wanted to make their point. Redevelopment, as used in California, has very little to do with eminent domain and everything to do with the distribution of the tax proceeds before and after the change. That is why the current Governor wants to eliminate it, not that he can or would do away with eminent domain, he just wants the money.By the way, if you ever ask if it works, look at Monrovia, then look at the business area in unincorporated Monrovia where there is no redevelopment. The difference is extraordinary.