Peninsula cities guarding development funds 

A growing number of Peninsula cities are locking themselves into spending tens of millions of redevelopment dollars in an effort to protect the funding from the governor’s budget-slashing proposal to dismantle redevelopment agencies.

But local officials admit that it is not clear whether actions will be challenged in court or voided by the state.

Last week, city council members in Foster City, San Mateo and San Bruno voted to commit a combined $183 million from their redevelopment agencies to planned projects, including parking garages, sewer improvements and affordable housing.

The agencies don’t yet have all of the funds, which come from property taxes and are intended for revitalizing blighted areas. But like other local officials taking similar actions, they hope that legally binding themselves to future projects will defend against Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to eliminate redevelopment.

“This is creating this contractual obligation which would hopefully protect these funds for San Bruno despite the governor’s proposed budget,” said San Bruno’s Administrative Services Director Jim O’Leary, whose City Council allocated $118.9 million to projects.

Under Brown’s proposal, the $5 billion in annual property taxes that currently goes to about 400 redevelopment agencies would be redistributed among other agencies.

San Mateo Mayor Jack Matthews, whose City Council committed to $34 million in spending, pointed to Proposition 22 — passed by voters in November — that prohibits the state from taking or borrowing local funds. Foster City’s council allocated $30 million in redevelopment projects.

But Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, said he agrees with the governor that it’s time for an “honest discussion” about whether the property taxes that now go to redevelopment agencies should be going to schools, police and fire.

Spending spree

Cities last week were allocating redevelopment funds for a variety of future projects, though much of the redevelopment funding hasn’t yet been received. Here is a sampling of the commitments made:

San Bruno: $118.9 million total
Street resurfacing: $3.0 million
Downtown parking structure: $19.9 million
Pedestrian bridge connecting Tanforan mall and BART station: $2.0 million
Plaza in downtown area, skateboard park and public art: $2.7 million
48-unit affordable-housing development: $7.7 million

San Mateo: $34.2 million total
Improvements to downtown sidewalks, streets and gutters: $2.2 million
Flood control projects along shoreline: $4.0 million
Improvement to shoreline park system: $11.5 million

Foster City: $30 million total
Subsidies for 60 affordable-housing units in Pilgrim-Triton project: $6.6 million
Funding for up to 350 affordable-housing units: $20.7 million
Rehabilitation of existing affordable-housing units: $2.0 million

Sources: Cities of San Bruno, San Mateo and Foster City

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