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WatchSonoma Watch

State grabs $23.4 million from local projects

By MARTIN ESPINOZA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Ten redevelopment agencies in Sonoma County were forced this week to send the state a total of $23.4 million that would have gone toward urban renewal projects such as roads, housing, parks and community centers.

The money, part of a $1.7 billion payment this year coming from about 400 such agencies across the state, will be used to help close the state’s $18.6 billion budget deficit. The money will be used primarily to fund education programs.

Redevelopment agencies will pay an additional $350 million in the budget year that starts in July, for a total payment of $2.05 billion.

“I’m disgusted,” Rohnert Park Mayor Pam Stafford said. “How much more can they take from us and expect us to still function.”

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge upheld the plan on May 4 despite arguments that the shift was unconstitutional and would hurt local economies.

Stafford said Rohnert Park’s redevelopment agency cut a check this week for $4.1 million, some of which was slated for a housing project.

“Also, we had some updates planned at our community center complex,” Stafford said. “We were going to make the area better, but now we’re just going to do the minimum.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration said Tuesday that the funds are going right back to the communities where they originated. “Having quality schools funded is just as important to local economic development as other types of redevelopment projects,” said HD Palmer, the governor’s spokesman on budget matters.

In Sonoma County, Petaluma made the largest payment, $5.1 million. Next year, the city’s redevelopment agency will be required to pay more than $1 million, said Sandra Sato, Petaluma’s interim finance director.

Redevelopment funds come from increases in property tax revenues in a specified project area.

Sato said the agency gets about $13 million a year in redevelopment funds. But she said that more than $6 million goes to other local agencies to help compensate for the fact that they don’t get the yearly tax increment that would otherwise come to them.

“We only have about $2 million left,” she said, and next year, “we’re down to $1 million.”

State officials said Tuesday that redevelopment areas will be allowed to extend their “life” by one year.

“That gives them one more year of revenue that more than makes up for this,” said one state finance official. “That’s $4.5 to $5.5 billion. They’re only taking $2 billion. And that’s in today’s dollars.”

State Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Fullerton, a strong critic of redevelopment agencies, was unapologetic about the diversion of funds. Norby, a former Orange County supervisor and Fullerton city councilman who spent 18 years on the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency, said “this is not a raid” on local funds.

“Redevelopment agencies are not local agencies, they are state agencies administered by cities to further the state interest in alleviating blight,” he said. “None of this money is leaving local communities. It’s going to fund local schools in these exact same redevelopment areas.”

The Santa Rosa redevelopment agency wrote a check for $3 million on Monday, said Jocelyn Lundgren, the city’s redevelopment manager. The $3 million covers a two-year period and is about 15 percent of the agency’s annual budget.

Lundgren said the city will be forced to delay several projects, including rebuilding the Hearn Avenue overcrossing of Highway 101 and developing the Bayer Neighborhood Park and Garden. She said that plans for a community center in southwest Santa Rosa also would be delayed.

The agency raises money from local property taxes and uses it to obtain bond funding for revitalization projects in five areas of the city.

The Sonoma County redevelopment agency, which administers funds in three redevelopment areas — the Russian River Windsor, Roseland and Sonoma Valley — paid $2.2 million this year to the state.

Kathleen Kane, executive director of the Sonoma County Community Development Commission, the governing body of the county redevelopment agency, said next year the payment will be close to $450,000.

“We budgeted for this,” Kane said. “The state told us about this during the last fiscal year. We set this money aside in anticipation of paying the state.”

Kane said that while the money was not committed to particular projects, it means that the agency has that much less for future projects.

HOW MUCH MONEY WAS SENT TO SACRAMENTO?

Here’s a breakdown for each of the 10 redevelopment agencies in the county:

  • Petaluma: $5.1 million
  • Rohnert Park: $4.1 million
  • Santa Rosa: $3.0 million
  • Healdsburg: $2.8 million
  • County of Sonoma: $2.2 million
  • City of Sonoma: $1.9 million
  • Windsor: $1.4 million
  • Cotati: $1.3 million
  • Sebastopol: $798,000
  • Cloverdale: $785,000




12 Responses to “State grabs $23.4 million from local projects”

  1. chuck becker says:

    Joe,

    I won’t get into bashing Sonoma County, but your claims for “Smart Growth” are ludicrous. Get out and drive around, then make up your own mind. You might decide that a little more humility is in order, for everyone.

    The rest of your post is just point after point out of the Democratic talking points book. Enron? How about the role of Barney Frank and Chris Dodd in strongarming Fanny and Freddie into buying nonconforming loans, thereby creating the housing bubble and crisis? Ad hominem attacks against individual members of a political party never bear fruit because they are, after all, individuals.

    You say taxes are at an all time low, and we need to increase them. That might work, if the plan were accompanied by matching spending cuts. But the voters of California cannot stand by while machine politicians quiver at the prospect of getting their hands on more taxpayer cash they can use to feather their own voter base nest. I’ll vote for a dollar of tax increases if you give me a dollar of spending cuts. That right there, Joe, is responsible government of the non-Socialist variety.

    Everyone complained about taxes under Clinton, the only relief was Newt Gingrich and the Republican congress that would not give Clinton what he wanted, but instead insisted on what the Nation needed. One party rule ALWAYS leads to bad government. And yes, a LOT of people are complaining about Social Security and Medicare, just not those who are getting more out then they put in. People who don’t have much money are sometimes the victims of unfortunate circumstances, but more often they have little money because they simply don’t understand money … it’s all a great mystery to them. When you hear an opinion, apply a statistical filter along those lines, then come back and report your results.

    During 8 years of Republican federal government we went further in debt, albeit it at a far slower rate than under Obama (and Bush inherited a severe bubble-based recession from Clinton, he just didn’t whine and snivel about it). We engaged in significant military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan which are showing results, if not fast enough for the ADHD Progressives like Lynn Woolsey and Nancy Pelosi. After the 9/11 attack we didn’t have attacks at Fort Hood, in the skies over Detroit, or in Times Square. And Iran was not a year away from a nuclear weapon. So before you sling any more easy mud at Bush, look at the facts rather than judging by how much Progressives personally “like” the man or his Vice President.

    Both sides at the federal level have been wrong about the relationship between government and business. President Clinton signed Glass-Steagall’s death warrant, and that led directly to the financial system meltdown of 2007-10. Barney Frank and Chris Dodd twisted arms to get Fanny and Freddie to buy nonconforming loans, which led directly to the housing meltdown. Californians aren’t done with Republicans. They are done with incumbent party hacks who exist for their own reelection through the methodology of addicting the maximum number of voters to government handouts. If you are a politician that fits that description, I hope you have your resume in order, because November will NOT be kind to you.

    Do you really think that a McCain Administration would be worse than the bumbling, inept, vindictive clowns we have now? President Obama is certainly more eloquent than John McCain, but as far as results goes, that’s where how much you “like” one guy or the other doesn’t mean a thing. We would be no worse off with McCain than we are with Obama, and even the Europeans are coming to realize that.

    Warm regards,
    Chuck

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  2. Rachel F. says:

    “I’m disgusted,” Rohnert Park Mayor Pam Stafford said. “How much more can they take from us and expect us to still function.”

    This dramatic statement is coming from the group of people that is taking (trying to take) more money from the struggling citizens….

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  3. Richard Canini says:

    Redevelopment begins with borrowing – that is debt. The city authorizes an amount then the redevelopment agency borrows the money.

    The redevelopment agency may give the money away. That may be difficult to believe, but it’s true. See redevelopment.com if you want to know more.

    The redevelopment debt is paid back with property taxes. It’s not subject to Prop 13 tax restrictions. Government does this for you. Maybe you should let your city government know what you think about this.

    Property owners in redevelopment areas are reassessed and that increase pays back the debt, even owners who do not receive redevelopment funds. Others who do receive funds may not be required to pay back those funds.

    Borrowing money to give to one group and requiring another group to pay it back is a moral hazard.

    Redevelopment is limited by law to blighted areas. Santa Rosa declared Old Courthouse Square blighted because it wants to spend redevelopment funds there. It wants to remove trees and put in parking for $10 million.

    Santa Rosa also declared CoddingTown blighted. It plans to be build a parking garage there. It’s not clear who will pay the money back. Maybe it’s you

    Just thought you should know.

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  4. Richard Canini says:

    Redevelopment funds are not limited to public projects. Private projects get redevelopmnet funds, including grants that they are not required to pay back! That’s right, The city can give our money to who ever they want to give it to. Do you want to know who?

    The City of Santa Rosa was emailed the following:
    “Will you please provided the following information regarding redevelopment funds?
    Who has received loan(s), amount, date and repayment?
    Who has received grant(s), amount, date?”

    Redevelopment is real estate speculation with borrowed money, a proven failure. The City of Santa Rosa borrows money. Tax payers pay it back.

    Redevelopment owes about $60 million.
    It’s easy to borrow, but not easy to pay back. Redevelopment lost $3 million in 2008 and lost $6.6 million in 2009. The city continues to borrow. Tax payers continue to pay back.

    Redevelopment money has been spent on the AT&T building, Hyatt Hotel, and elsewhere.

    The AT&T building will be used for housing and commercial space both of which are already overbuilt. It will also add traffic to 3rd street which is already over crowed.

    The Hyatt got about $8 million from redevelopment and still could not pay its taxes.

    Yours for open government Richard Canini Civil Engineer

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  5. Joe says:

    jdonegan: We are a SMART GROWTH county – not “slow growth”. You can grow fast and smart. There’s a great legacy of smart growth principles in Sonoma County which have prevented from becoming another endless sprawling strip mall/housing development. Those hurling “slow growth” as a pejorative have no understanding of Smart Growth principles (even as they cherish the result).

    Regarding Republicans, let’s not forget the the energy manipulation by Enron was engineered by a Texas Republican and then manipulated by other Republicans to launch a recall against Davis.

    When Arnold got in, one of the worst things he did was to cut the vehicle license fee. Pete Wilson, a moderate Republican, was the one who set up the vehicle license fee to be raised when revenue shortfalls undermined local abilities to fund important services such as fire, emergency, and police departments.

    Taxes are at an all time low when we need to be increasing them. We need and want services in CA, but our absurd 2/3 budget rule and lack of large enough Democratic majorities has prevented a very easy solution – yes, we need to raise taxes folks. If we want services, we need to pay for them. Those against any increase in taxes should understand they were higher under Reagan and Clinton (don’t recall people complaining about taxes under Clinton).

    But no one wants to run on this. We really need to be adults. We want good schools, infrastructure, schools, parks, and other public services. We want to promote new technologies and in some cases it makes sense to sponsor those efforts. We can’t do all of this without either raising taxes, or continuing to undermine the very things that attract businesses to CA. Trickle down has been a proven failure, and more tax cuts isn’t the solution.

    Part of the problem is the initiative process – it takes responsibility off the politicians and hands it to voters who often approve great new services or to maintain existing ones, but then turn around and vote against any tax increases…while sponsoring absurd and often polarizing initiatives that waste more time and money.

    8 years of national Republican rule (and unfortunately, failed polices) points to one solution – we need enough Democrats in our legislature so we can get a budget through with reasonable tax increases targeted at those who benefited the most under previous tax cuts, while maintaining services.

    No, Meg Whitman isn’t the answer. The last thing we need is someone with zero public service experience and plenty of arrogance. Just watch her ads…trying to prove how much more rightwing she is than Poizner. Good luck with this in CA –we’re done with Republicans whose only answer is less regulation. Sure worked well for the banks, oil, and mining companies didn’t it.

    END REPUBLICAN OBSTRUCTIONISM & SUPPORT THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY!

    This goes for local elections too – ask those running for what their party affiliation is. It’s the only way to truly assess their core values and we have a right to know. The fact is many of them are afraid to admit they are Republicans because they know the majority in our County are Democrats. Don’t give them an inch – if they are a Republican, don’t vote for them. They’ll smile all the way as they work to obstruct our efforts to fix their mistakes. Ask them if they voted for McCain/Palin and if they regret it. Ask them if they would vote for Palin if she got the nomination. Ask if they still believe in “Drill Baby, Drill, Mine, Baby, Mine”. Don’t let the “it’s just a local election” argument keep you from voting with your party –Republicans at all levels are working to undo the change we voted for. Don’t let them do it. We can’t afford to go back to the failed polices of the past.

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  6. Sean says:

    John B:

    Redevelopment agencies are political subdivisions of the state, not the City. As such, whether right or wrong, the State did not take any money from the “cities”.

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  7. jdonegan says:

    “Ah the blood of tyrants and rebels makes good fertilizer for a democracy” words spoken so long ago ring true today. Have to love that 3% at fifty and the concept that we the taxpayer are the backstop for the unfunded retirement and bad investment strategies. We are a Slow Growth county anyway so in the end it makes little difference.

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  8. Zuma says:

    The legilature, like our Congress has the power to tax, not the Governor.

    The Legislature passes the budget (when it finally gets it done) not the Governor.

    How money is doled out is determined by the legislature, not the Governor.

    But isnt it amazing the same local officials that are raising fees, taxes, etc on the people are not complaining when the state taxes or takes money from their pet projects.

    Did these same people just request a $10 fee on auto registration to pay for more of their pet projects!

    Whisky though

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  9. John says:

    There’s an easy solution to funding at least one of those three projects. Don’t build the Fountain Grove Fire Station. The elite on the hill don’t want it anyway, so let them burn. Use the fire station funds to fix the Hearn overpass.

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  10. Proud Liberal says:

    Sorry, John, but it was you neocons that voted for Arnold, not us liberals.
    Don’t try to blame us.

    Also, keep in mind that it was Republicans that got our state into this financial mess, and a Republican (Arnold) who has just made things worse.

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  11. Bill says:

    John B – You liberals elected these people, what will you do now?

    Govenators a republican or did u forget.

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  12. John B says:

    It really is hard for me to see this socialism in my own city. It is unconstitutional and otherwise just wrong to take money from our cities and give it to Arnold who will waste it as he has done with the rest of the money given to the state in taxes. Our roads are so bad they are causing damage to cars and the money to fix them has just been stolen by our govenator. You liberals elected these people, what will you do now?

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