In Los Angeles, the number was 192, 80 in Oakland, and 48 in Long Beach. Even a smaller city like Coachella has a number, 2.
These numbers represent the California local government employees who no longer have offices to report to, jobs to do, or paychecks to cash. These numbers are not cold and dry; they are the human and personal side of the demise of Redevelopment in California. It is just a portion of the damage that was done on Wednesday.
When the week began, there were more than 400 redevelopment agencies in the state. Combined, they accounted for roughly $5 billion of annual expenditures. With that money, they alleviated blight, spurred economic investment, and built affordable housing. Perhaps their modern day iteration was a far cry from how they were originally designed, but local control over local issues is an effective, targeted, efficient way of governance.
Redevelopment Agencies were far from perfect. However, imperfection should not be a capital offense.
This multi-billion dollar segment of California’s robust governmental structure is now a shell of its former self. Given roughly one third of its former funding and more cumbersome constraints on its functioning, communities will be able to invest in low-income housing… next year. For the next 10 months, those functions will be in hibernation, awaiting the time that SB 654 goes into effect.
Communities that once banked their dreams of economic recovery on bold, though sometimes over zealous, projects to spur economic growth are now left wondering what’s next. Projects are going to be shelved and cancelled. Development, growth, and gentrification will be shuttered.
The opponents of the agencies decried the wrongs of redevelopment – like Sacramento’s Mermaid Bar. But their hatred of CRAs unintentionally caused a significant amount of pain.
AB1X 26 and 27 originally intended only to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul.’ But $5 billion in the community is far more valuable than allowing Sacramento to squander it “balancing” their budgets.
It is important to remember that the opponents of Redevelopment aren’t the only ones to blame. Redevelopment agencies and their supporters do not escape unscathed.
They failed to create a compelling case to protect their funding and existence. They took too much for too long and shared too little. That is not an effective strategy for survival. It is a strategy that promotes rancor and jealousy. It creates a justification for their death sentence.
What may be worst – from a governmental standpoint – is the traumatic end that Redevelopment met. Eliminating $5 billion in spending and transferring $30 billion of debt is a delicate operation under optimal situations. But given just days or weeks to shut down, the end faced by many agencies is comparable to surgery performed with a machete.
The victim of Sacramento’s malpractice is more than just the businesses that won’t open or the blight that won’t be eliminated. It’s the workers who spent their careers in redevelopment who now find themselves using the euphemism “career transition.”
Euphemisms aside, the amputation is over. All that’s left is the hope and prayer of so many now unemployed that reincarnation is a part of governmental dogma.