Redevelopment is crucial to creating jobs in California to fight the plague of 12.5 percent unemployment, the mayors of the state’s nine largest cities insisted in a meeting with Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday.
That theme was echoed by every mayor in attendance. Each spoke positively about the meeting and the governor’s promise to work with them on a compromise.
“I had a chance to invite the governor to watch the San Francisco Giants, and noted that all of the housing surrounding the stadium was done using redevelopment funds,” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said. Lee said all the newest areas in cities throughout California can be attributed to the use of redevelopment money.
Lee warned against the elimination of the agencies and said redevelopment was the way to do smart development.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the mayors had come to an agreement with Brown not to make the sweeping, across-the-board agency elimination, although several mayors later said no formal agreement had actually been reached.
Villaraigosa said Brown agreed to name the mayors of the 10 largest cities to a formal working group. The group would work together until the cities and state could come to a resolution about redevelopment that everyone can live with.
That means Brown’s proposal to eliminate all 425 redevelopment agencies already has been severely downsized.
“We’re not going down quietly,” Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said, calling redevelopment projects “magical things.”
Johnson said several of the revitalized downtown streets in his city would not have been built without redevelopment.
“The budget cannot be balanced on the backs of the citizens again,” he said.
“Many of us here serve on the board of directors of the League of California Cities,” Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said.
“We all use the redevelopment money — sometimes it’s the only money we have.”
Quan said with 18 percent unemployment in Oakland, and 40 percent unemployment among black male youths in her city, redevelopment means jobs.
“It makes no sense to pit the money against the kids,” she said.
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed described the 1 million jobs the state of Texas added to its work force last year, along with the 400,000 jobs new to Arizona.
“California has zero new jobs, which is a big part of the budget problem,” he said. “It would be a bad idea to eliminate redevelopment agencies — they are some of the most important tools
“All good things in our cities have been touched by redevelopment,” Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido said. He said mayors shared with Brown the importance of the agencies and how the elimination would be a setback for cities.
When asked about widespread waste and abuse within redevelopment agencies, and exorbitant salaries and compensation, Villaraigosa said the jobs created by redevelopment were his focus. “For every statistic you have, I’ve got 10 jobs,” he said.
Villaraigosa welcomed an audit of redevelopment agencies by the state Controller’s Office. When asked what mayors were willing to negotiate with Brown, Villaraigosa said, “I am not willing to not have a seat at the table.”
Katy Grimes is a reporter covering Sacramento for www.calwatchdog.com.