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Ron Kaye: Unraveling the redevelopment mess

January 22, 2012

Sooner or later, the bills come due in all our lives — even in the lives of government agencies.

Just ask the people who bought a house they couldn't afford or city officials who got addicted over the years to draining vast amounts of tax dollars from the state, from schools, from their own funds for general services to put them in a kitty called community redevelopment.

What began after World War II as a modest way to rehabilitate blighted neighborhoods became, after passage of Proposition 13 three decades later, a way for cities and counties to build parks, libraries, affordable housing, shopping malls, entertainment complexes, luxury condos and apartments, and a $52-million parking lot for a billionaire's art museum in downtown Los Angeles without the annoying problem of having to get two-thirds of the people to support higher taxes.

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All too often, blight came to mean anything officials wanted, an entitlement of government to do whatever it wanted for whatever reason. Abuses by government agencies — like seizing one person's private property to give to another or massive public subsidies that mainly enriched the rich — became as common as successes that benefited communities by creating jobs, generating new revenues or improving the quality of life.

A year ago, Gov. Jerry Brown sought to put an end to all that by abolishing the state's 400 Community Redevelopment Agencies. No sooner did he win the fight to kill them than the Legislature provided a loophole to allow their resurrection if they turned over a combined $1.8 billion of their $5 billion in annual tax revenue to the state this year and a modest $400 million in future years.

Just before Christmas, the state Supreme Court ruled the loophole unconstitutional and set a Feb. 1 date for the death of the agencies.

Now, Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena and cities across the state want another replay through legislation that would extend the drop-dead date to April 15 or maybe next year or maybe never.

The irony of another resurrection of redevelopment agencies on Feb. 2, Groundhog Day, and the movie of that name in which events replay and replay over and over with changing scenarios was not lost last week on Glendale's new City Manager Scott Ochoa at a teleconference meeting of the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments.

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