When the California Supreme Court on Dec. 29 upheld Gov. Jerry Brown’s elimination of redevelopment agencies across the state, there was rejoicing among some property rights advocates. They have decried the abuse of redevelopment by officials using eminent domain to bulldoze people’s homes to make way for shopping malls, theme parks, stadiums, waterfront development and other crony capitalist deals.
But while there have been abuses, there has also been much good that has come via the redevelopment process, which allows cities to spend a portion of local tax dollars on local public improvement projects instead of sending it to Sacramento and hoping some of it will come back to provide some kind of benefit. San Francisco, in particular, has benefited greatly from redevelopment.
The Hunters Point Shipyard-Candlestick Point redevelopment project is spending $8 billion to transform a 700-acre former military base into a thriving community of more than 25,000 residents in San Francisco’s southeast corner. It will include office, research and development, retail and arts and community spaces along with 350 acres of parkland. It’s projected to create more than 12,000 permanent jobs.
The Treasure Island redevelopment project will provide more than 8,000 residential units, 100,000 square feet of commercial space and 300 acres of park and open space on that under-utilized 550-acre island in the next two decades.
The Mission Bay Drive and Circle project is transforming 300 acres of environmentally impacted former rail yards into a thriving neighborhood, with affordable housing and open space. The redevelopment area includes 14 acres that will become the $2 million headquarters for Salesforce.com, which will create at least 8,000 permanent jobs.
The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency has spent $428 million creating more than 11,000 low- and moderate-income homes, improving blighted neighborhoods and generating hundreds of permanent jobs. In addition, redevelopment has helped provide world class convention facilities and museums around Yerba Buena Garden.
Fortunately, Mayor Ed Lee has pledged to continue the good work being achieved at these and other redevelopment projects throughout The City, including the Transbay Transit Center, Parkmerced and the Central Market area.
“San Francisco will not let the elimination of redevelopment agencies impede our progress in moving The City forward,” he said. “We will keep creating jobs, boosting economic development and building critical infrastructure in our city.”
Earlier this month Lee introduced a resolution at the Board of Supervisors meeting to transfer redevelopment assets, obligations and functions into a successor agency of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. Existing affordable housing goals and commitments will be transferred to the Mayor’s Office of Housing. Lee plans to seek state legislation and local tools to finance affordable housing. The City will also continue workforce and local hire programs as well as neighborhood revitalization, including small business support and corridor façade and public space improvements.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Lee definitely has the will. We look forward to seeing the way that redevelopment’s benefits proceed in The City even without a redevelopment agency.