California budget plan jeopardizes major projects in San Francisco 

The City’s Redevelopment Agency has analyzed the potential impact of the governor’s proposal to abolish such agencies, and the results are not pretty.

Elimination of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency would jeopardize major projects such as the Transbay Transit Center and the transformation of Treasure Island, and it would threaten to cancel construction of tens of thousands of new homes across The City.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to close redevelopment agencies and redirect their funding to other state and local needs leaves almost all San Francisco’s major development projects at risk, according to an agency report to be reviewed by The City’s Planning Commission on Thursday.

Under the governor’s proposal, the state would confiscate unclaimed redevelopment funds, although some of that money would be redirected back to local governments for core services such as education and fire and police.
“I personally think it is extremely shortsighted,” Planning Commission Vice President Ron Miguel said. “Unless you create a tax base and put people to work, you will not have what you need for the future.”

If the Legislature were to approve Brown’s proposed budget, $1.7 billion of city redevelopment funding would be redirected to offset state Medi-Cal and trial-court deficits and $200 million will go straight back into core programs, a governor’s spokesman said.

Meanwhile, $2.2 billion would be set aside to help complete existing projects, tie up loose ends and cover debt, spokesman H.D. Palmer said.

“We believe that the $2.2 billion is a reasonable estimate,” Palmer said.

But local officials fear there is no guarantee that would cover the agency’s existing financial commitments. That is because Brown’s proposal does not spell out which pre-existing deals would be allowed to keep their funding and which would not.

“I don’t know as of this second what it means for Hunters Point or Treasure Island, where construction has not begun,” said Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf of the local think tank San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. “That’s my fear.”

Consequently, the developers of some large projects are rushing to finalize their details to eliminate the risk of funding uncertainty. The developer Lennar Corp. hopes to soon sign an agreement for the massive Treasure Island redevelopment project that would lock in funding before the governor’s proposal could take effect.

“Access to public financing for certain projects is essential to bring private investors to the table, particularly for projects in areas that typically have not attracted much investment,” Kofi Bonner, Lennar’s regional president, wrote in an e-mail.

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Kamala Kelkar

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