CITY HALL — Over the next five years, City Hall planned to build over 300 affordable apartments, help fund improvements at Santa Monica High School, develop a 6-acre park in the Civic Center and build a new library in the Pico Neighborhood — all with the help of more than $280 million in redevelopment funding.
But with the release of Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget Monday, those projects, and the Santa Monica Redevelopment Agency itself, are now in jeopardy.
Brown’s budget proposal contains $12.5 billion in cuts and five years of higher taxes as a means to close a projected $25.4 billion deficit. To achieve some of the savings, Brown is recommending the elimination of hundreds of redevelopment agencies around the state.
In Brown’s 2011-2012 budget summary, he states that redevelopment agencies should be “disestablished” by July 1, only using allocated funding to “retire RDA debts and contractual obligations.”
He recommends the funding previously set aside for agencies be distributed to local governments to fund core local services, such as schools and public safety.
City officials blasted the proposal Tuesday, issuing a statement saying the elimination of the RDA, founded in 1957, would have “severe negative impacts on Santa Monica.”
“Redevelopment is California’s primary engine for supporting jobs, reinforcing the economy, funding affordable housing, and building infrastructure,” City Manager Rod Gould said. “With an unemployment rate of more than 12 percent, a massive infrastructure deficit, and state policies promoting infill development, California needs redevelopment more than ever to create a stronger and greener tomorrow.”
The following is a list of what would not happen if the RDA was eliminated, city officials said:
• Over 300 affordable residences would not be built or rehabilitated ($100 million).
• Improvements to Samohi’s recreational facilities, including facilities and pedestrian areas that could be jointly used by the public, would not be completed. ($56 million).
• Development of Palisades Garden Walk, a 6-acre public park planned to be built across from the Santa Monica Pier, would be impossible ($25 million).
• Construction of the Pico Neighborhood Library, being developed at Virginia Avenue Park to serve Santa Monica’s most ethnically and economically diverse neighborhood, would be halted ($12.8 million).
• Creation of the Civic Center Early Childhood Development Center, a partnership with Santa Monica College designed to serve infants and toddlers in an innovative learning environment, would be jeopardized ($4.4 million).
• Improvements related to the Exposition Light Rail line that is coming to Santa Monica, including station area improvements, pathway improvements, and pedestrian and bicycle connections, would be compromised ($30.9 million).
• Renovation and seismic retrofitting of the landmark Santa Monica Civic Auditorium for performing arts and concerts would not be possible ($25 million).
• Creation of a six-acre public park and cultural hub adjacent to the Civic Auditorium Park could not be built ($21 million).
City officials said the projects listed are expected to create over 5,000 full-time construction-related jobs. The projects are expected to sustain an additional 40,000 jobs.
Over the past 10 years, the Santa Monica RDA has invested nearly $300 million in the community, with nearly half of the amount providing financing for over 950 homes for low-income households, Gould said.
The remaining funds were used to acquire land that will accommodate affordable housing and parks in the Civic Center area; for construction of the Swim Center shared by City Hall and Santa Monica College, the recently opened Annenberg Community Beach House, and a transitional housing facility providing shelter and services to homeless individuals; and for the rehabilitation and seismic retrofit of Downtown parking structures, which are used by as many as 12,000 residents, employees and shoppers daily.
“The governor’s proposed action to eliminate redevelopment is shameful, especially when it has been only two months since California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 22,” said Andy Agle, director of housing and economic development for City Hall.
“Proposition 22 made it clear that voters want local funds, including local redevelopment agency funding, to remain in the hands of local government,” Agle added. “Californians are fed up with the state of California’s budgetary games and maneuvers, and the proposed elimination of redevelopment is another attempt to circumvent the letter of the state constitution while violating its spirit and voter mandates.”
Representatives with the governor’s office did not return phone calls for comment.