Redevelopers to Jerry Brown: Let There Be Blight

California Gov. Jerry Brown's long-shot plan to eliminate the state's redevelopment agencies has already provided one benefit to the public: It has revealed the essentially crooked and criminal nature of the RDAs.

On Monday the city government of Fremont voted to lock in $121 million in redevelopment funds before the state budget gets approved. San Jose is also trying to pocket $58 million in redevelopment funds.

And last week the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles (CRA/LA) responded to Brown's proposal -- which is expected to realize between $5 billion and $6 billion in savings for the state and local governments -- by trying to thwart it in a meeting that was called in violation of state law and may have resulted in an illegal business deal.

Ron Kaye has the full video of the CRA/LA meeting, which features a reliably unhinged performance from plaid-suited gadfly John Walsh:

California law requires 72 hours' notice of public meetings, specifically to prevent public agencies from doing what the CRA/LA did at this meeting, which was called with less than 24 hours' notice and ended in a transfer of about a billion dollars in funding to the city of L.A. and the creation of a new city-run non-profit that will maintain the agency's existing projects and hire its existing staff.

That non-profit deal has an even more dubious legal basis. In private business an attempt to transfer assets in this way would most likely be considered a fraudulent conveyance under civil law. While fraudulent conveyance does not necessarily require malice aforethought, in this case the CRA's action is also in violation of the governor's clear intent.

Of course, the budget has not been approved yet, and it's probable that the final budget will not include the redevelopment cuts because -- although redevelopment agencies are wildly unpopular among those citizens unfortunate enough to know about them -- they have broad support among Democratic legislators.

As is often the case, support among the Democrats also means support among the mainstream media. Dig the L.A. Times trying to claim the change will hurt California businesses. Even more hilariously, check out the Sacramento Bee lamenting how the cuts will "destroy a business that's vital to California's economic recovery,” one that the Bee claims helped revive the capital city's downtown and entertainment centers (a surprising description for anybody who has encountered Sacto's unpeopled downtown and rolled-up-sidewalk nightlife).

Whether or not the deals in L.A., Fremont and San Jose are allowed to stand, and whether redevelopment agencies survive, one thing is not in doubt: Redevelopment is a complete failure. Savor the vacant lots on a project the CRA/LA has been in charge of for 19 years. Read about how the CRA forced out a successful business in order to replace it with nothing. And allow me to repeat myself by describing the mechanism by which redevelopment manages to create urban prairie:

In at least two of these cases, the developer screwed up the deal in part by planning much larger-scale projects than the local market could sustain. As a result, large parcels of land that could support modest commercial and residential buildings lie fallow, while a rogues gallery of community activists, government flunkies, gadflies, absentee landlords with bickering family members, architects, labor leaders, public policy majors and reverends gather every fiscal quarter or so to debate projects that never pencil out. (I have not looked closely into the third case: the Broadway/Manchester project currently led by developer AMCAL Multi-Housing, where "'affordable' never means less." But I see the CRA's most recent Broadway/Manchester report [pdf] has the developer "applying for Prop 1C funds for estimated project gap.")

Brown is pushing back against the sordid backstairs intrigue of the CRA/LA, and in his budget he cites a Legislative Analyst's Office finding that "there is no reliable evidence that redevelopment projects attract business to the state or increase overall economic development in California." He's right to keep fighting. For all the opposition from the media and the bureaucracies, eliminating redevelopment is both a political winner and the right thing to do. It would please the public, save billions of dollars and remove a bunch of thugs who prey on the poorest neighborhoods in the state. Go, Jerry, go!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • avsteele||

    That guy was unhinged only in the sense that his sports coat was madness. I have a lot of respect for his righteous rage, the other folks who spoke were way too timid for the CRA people be worried about.

  • Jeffersonian||

    I agree. Put him on radio or transcribe his rant and he's perfectly correct.

  • Sleeping Dog||

    Wanna know the difference between a California Politician and a Nazi?

    Nazi's actually managed to do something with their lives!

  • Number 2||

    "a rogues gallery of community activists, government flunkies, gadflies, absentee landlords with bickering family members, architects, labor leaders, public policy majors and reverends gather every fiscal quarter or so to debate projects that never pencil out."

    Memories of NYC in the early 1980's, when a similar collection of rogues declared a run-down, abandoned railroad trestle in an inner city neighborhood, that the locals wanted to remove, to be a "landmark" because "you have to remember the bad as well as the good."

    It does the heart good to see such civic-minded virtue at its finest. Thank God we have such people to protect us from the ravages of the free market!

  • l0b0t||

    Yeah... 30 years later the park on the railroad trestle is almost complete - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Line_(New_York_City)

  • l0b0t||

    "In the mid-1980s, a group of property owners with land under the line lobbied for the demolition of the entire structure. Peter Obletz, a Chelsea resident, activist, and railroad enthusiast, challenged the demolition efforts in court and tried to re-establish rail service on the Line.[1] In the 1990s, as the line lay unused, it became known to a few urban explorers and local residents for the tough, drought-tolerant wild grasses, shrubs, and trees that had sprung up in the gravel along the abandoned railway." It was actually more known to locals as a place where bums & junkies slept it off, kids got drunk, & brutal rapes took place. But yeah, we "have to remember the bad as well as the good"

  • Number 2||

    But...you would deny The People of NYC access to drought-tolerant wild grasses?? You are obviously an unreformed free market extremist tea bagging homophobe who's comments retroactively caused the Tuscon shootings!

  • ||

    Jerry Brown's long-shot plan to eliminate the state's redevelopment agencies has already provided one benefit to the public: It has revealed the essentially crooked and criminal nature of the RDAs.

    As much as I would like to believe this, I wonder if any significant portion of the public has the slightest inkling of what a corrupt money pit these "projects" are.

  • Jeffersonian||

    CRA appears to be an enormous slush fund used to funnel cash to otherwise-unemployable cronies, political supporters and other lackeys, hangers-on and flunkies.

    My suggestions: Appoint Alan Simpson to a panel to count the number of teats this sow is sporting.

  • JoshINHB||

    With the added benefit of inflating urban real estate values.

  • Mike Laursen||

    I've worked, thank god not lived in, downtown San Jose for the last twenty years, watching all its doomed ideas unfold one after the other. Small store fronts boarding up one after the other as the RDA does things like subsidizing tippy seafood restaurants to move in a block away from two seafood restaurants that were already struggling for a customer base.

  • Spiny Norman||

    Do they still have that statue that looks like a pile of poo?

  • Id||

    Sigh. Yes.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Picture?

  • Mike Laursen||

    Can't post a link now but just Goole for a website called The Soft Underbelly of San Jose. Hope it's still around.

  • ||

  • Cytotoxic||

    AHAHAHAAHAHA

    Thank you.

  • yesbaby||

    Glad you finally came

  • yesbaby||

    Glad you finally came

  • Wow||

    Your recovery time is amazing

  • Spoonman.||

    BAHAHAHAHA

  • ||

    The San Jose RDA's all-time most egregious act was the infamous "drive-by blighting" in which inspectors declared large swaths of the city center blighted without bothering to get out of their cars:

    "A key underpinning of the blight finding is some 64,338 code violations that city inspectors identified over four months in 2000 and 2001. Inspectors conducted the surveys from cars, making marks on survey sheets. The infractions are impossible to verify because inspectors did not note addresses."

    http://www.coalitionforredevel....._02118.php

  • Sal Paradise||

    Worst person in the world :

    http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/41201964

    Goodnight, sweet prince.

  • JoshINHB||

    The council needs to invest in a tripod for their video camera.

  • johnl||

    The basic idea of redevelopment is to
    1 - take land from owners at below market cost using eminent domain and regulatory enforcement abuse
    2 - give it to politically connected developers at an even lower cost
    3 - have the tax payer make up the difference

    I am glad to see Brown go after this now. But where was he when he was AG? I voted for Brown for AG so he would go after this stuff. Pretty much every city council member in every town in California is about as dirty as Rizzo, with redevelopment corruption. He should have been indicting everybody. And if the warrants were served with flashbang swat raids, a few mistakes could make the state pension crisis could vanish overnight.

  • sevo||

    "But where was he when he was AG?"
    He was weather-vaning the other way.

  • BakedPenguin||

    "Hey, ho, go with the flow"

  • ||

    John Walsh was great. Go John, go!

  • ||

    Why is everyone so mad? The CRA just did what any self-respecting criminal organization would do if it knew the government was about to shut it down.

  • cls||

    Brown deserves credit for this move. I can't help but think he's better than the Republican option. Add this to his correct stand on Prop 8 and libertarians can at least find a glimmer that has been missing politically for some time.

  • Cytotoxic||

    True. She was so forgettable I forgot her name. She'd have compromising and apologizing all over the place before the fight even started it'd be over.

  • ||

    Not all libertarians agree with his stand on Prop 8.

  • Ben P.||

    So does anyone have standing to file criminal or ethical complaints against CRA/LA for the violation, or does it have to wait for Brown or the AG?

  • Almanian||

    Fuck California. When's that monster earthquake coming to separate CA from the continent so it can sink majestically into the Pacific once and for all?

  • Apogee||

    It already hit. The fault line ran right through the budget office.

    There's nothing left.

  • Almanian||

    It wasn't big enough

  • Detroit RDA/CRA||

    We can show you how to revitalize a city.

  • "Go, Jerry, go!"||

    Nothing if not optimistic there, Cavanaugh. Remember Jerry drew up the blueprint for the California government that we have today...

  • ||

    Oh, plenty of people participated in f'ing up California government. It can't all be blamed on him by a long shot.

  • .||

    Redevelopers to Jerry Brown: Let There Be Blight us have the land cheap so that we can make an easy buck. Maybe we'll even contribute a little something to your future election campaigns.

  • jtuf||

    Redevelopment is a scam.

  • sevo||

    "The new Mission Bay biotech hub in San Francisco couldn't have been built without bond funds generated through the city's redevelopment agency."
    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/.....z1BsgYxCNh

    It's true as far as it goes. Whether the highest and best use of that land is a 'biotech hub' is doubtful. If it was, it wouldn't have taken bond funds.
    Further, she ignores the fact that the land sat empty for some 20 years because of bureaucratic in-fighting.
    If they'd have hung a For Sale sign on it 30 years ago, it'd have been returning tax revenues for the last 20 years.

  • ||

    Good riddance to Redevelopment agencies. In my town, Fairfield, they have been a joke for the past twenty-odd years. They used "re"-development money to build a Price Club, later Costco, out in the middle of nowhere. Our ex-mayor Falati happened to have an interest in the surrounding land and we got hundreds of new houses no where near any existing development. This siphoned off attention from the city and our extant neighborhoods were neglected. They also spent thousands to try to "re"-develop our main city park into condos. If it had gone through we wouldn't have been able to sell one. They spent $40,000 on one night of meet-and-greet to push that stupid Allan Witt Park plan on us citizens. Fire the lot of them!

  • ||

    BOO! What a horrible article. Redevelopment if understood completely, is beneficial to all. I am going to gather that those of you who posted negative comments are mis-educated about the positive benefits of redevelopment. Do some research. Redevelopment has been around for a long time..."someone" must feel that the services are beneficial.

  • Josh||

    I love your spirit, KD. Like you, I want to see our cities rejuvenated (I love Los Angeles). But the question is, what is the best way to go about rejuvenation? Should large, expensive, and politically appointed bodies (with mostly good intentions) be involved or not? I conclude WE are better off and our neighborhoods are better off without CRA's. Redevelopment IS positive. Redevelopment Agencies are not.

    Did you know that the city of LA's Redevelopment agency has 117 executives making over $100K per year? The top 12 make over $160K per year! The agency employs hundreds of people in offices scattered all around the city. REALLY? Check it out: http://www.crala.org/internet-....._12011.pdf

    This is absurd. Why do we need hundreds of CRA executives in just one city?

    Once in a while it DOES make sense for our governments to participate with the private sector to help special and worthwhile projects move forward. And this can still be done through local government AFTER CRA's are abolished. Even better, an honest civic debate can be had when each project comes forward.

    After 50 years, it's time to end this experiment in California. 50 years was plenty of time for the free-lunch window to be open...

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement