Karen Chapple on California’s Redevelopment Agencies

When Governor Brown first mentioned the plan to cut back on redevelopment agencies, our Op-Ed person asked me to write about it. I wrote about how an optimal gas tax would eliminate the need for so much cutting, and the Op-Ed guy snuffed it, saying basically that “taxes are dead.”

I rejoined that I didn’t know anything about redevelopment agencies other than I don’t like them very much–which isn’t much of a rationale for an Op-Ed, let alone policy recommendations.

Why don’t I like? In LA’s case, I don’t understand why redevelopment money got put into LA Live, and I don’t understand why, when there is public money in a project, we don’t even get a bench at the bus stop outside LA Live out of the deal. LA Live turned out to be a cash machine. Couldn’t that have happened without taxpayer money? Couldn’t public money have gone to improving the transit environment around the development?

Perhaps I am mistaken about that deal.

And why is there no joint development with the Blue Line light rail after 20 years? Are we only interested in large-scale, super neoliberal corporate festival marketplaces rather than small businesses in actually depressed areas?

Karen Chapple, professor at Berkeley, summarizes the policy and planning argument against redevelopment here. I particularly appreciate the emphasis on affordable housing, which I might have put as my first point simply because I think that’s turning out to be one of the biggest barriers to growth in California.