SACRAMENTO — Santa Monica officials are in Sacramento to fight for 11 Redevelopment Agency-funded projects, which the state is refusing to transfer.
The six Downtown parking structures, Tongva Park, and an extension of Olympic Drive make up the properties that the state Department of Finance is disputing.
“We believe that the properties are clearly government-purpose assets that should be owned and operated by the city of Santa Monica,” wrote Andy Agle, director of economic development, in an e-mail. “Meeting with the Department of Finance provides us with an opportunity to provide key facts related to the properties and to answer any questions from the DOF staff.”
Agle, City Manager Rod Gould, Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), and State Sen. Ted Lieu’s (D-Santa Monica) chief of staff will attend the meetings in Sacramento.
In 2011, seeking to plug a budget shortfall, Gov. Jerry Brown recommended the dissolution of all state redevelopment agencies. The California Supreme Court backed the decision.
In August, the DOF sent a letter to City Hall identifying the disputed properties.
Last month, City Hall agreed to pay the DOF nearly $57 million in a settlement over unrelated RDA funds.
The DOF is just the first of three state agencies seeking to recoup RDA money, the others being the State Controller’s and Attorney General’s offices.
Tongva Park was not complete at the time the letter was sent and therefore is not eligible for transfer, according to the DOF.
Gould responded to the claims, pointing out, in a letter he sent to the DOF in September, that Tongva Park got its Certificate of Occupancy on Aug. 1 and was being used by the public on Sept. 10.
“We should be able to resolve the status of this land quickly,” he wrote in the letter.
The parking structures, the DOF said, “do not serve a government purpose,” and are therefore ineligible for transfer.
Gould responded by pointing to Santa Barbara’s public parking structures, which the DOF previously concluded were government-purpose assets. He said there were “close parallels” between the cities’ parking structures.
He went on to note that the structures were acquired and built with funds from property owner assessments, in-lieu fees paid by building owners, and bonds issued by the Parking Authority.
Redevelopment funds were used only to perform seismic retrofitting.
The Olympic Drive extension was identified only as “vacant land” by the DOF.
Gould noted that while the project is still under construction, the development agreement was executed in 2008.
“It is unthinkable that the public street will not open in coming months,” he stated in the letter.
The developer, Related Company, is seeking permission to work extra hours to complete the roadway, Gould wrote in an e-mail. Related is also building hundreds of affordable-housing units and market rate condos in the Civic Center adjacent to Tongva Park.
Neither Gould nor Agle could quantify the potential financial impact of a DOF decision to withhold the transfer of any of the projects.
“We don’t expect immediate resolution of the dispute over our parking structures,” Gould wrote in an e-mail. “Indeed, it may be several months before we hear from the DOF staff again, based on the experience of other cities. We have some very strong facts to present and hope for constructive dialogue.”