By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Rohnert Park officials on Tuesday hurriedly took possession of 15 properties from the city’s redevelopment agency, hoping to protect them in the event the state moves to eliminate the agency.
City staff called for the transfer, warning that the Legislature may act as soon as this week to dissolve redevelopment agencies, as Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed.
Housing and Redevelopment Manager Linda Babonis said the state would then likely sell off the properties, which include affordable housing, to pay off debt obligations of the redevelopment agencies.
In January, the council agreed to spend about $23 million in redevelopment money on projects, ranging from a study of using vacant city buildings for affordable housing to improving recreational facilities, including a sports field.
That move, like dozens like it undertaken by cities and counties around the state, was designed to protect redevelopment cash from the state.
Tuesday’s action was different in that it involved real estate owned by the redevelopment agency. Among the properties are the location of the city’s senior center and nine parcels containing or slated for affordable housing.
“If we didn’t proceed with this, what would happen to these properties?” Mayor Gina Belforte asked City Manager Gabe Gonzalez.
“The properties would be subject to disposal,” Gonzalez said.
“We’re protecting the people of Rohnert Park,” said Councilwoman Pam Stafford, explaining her vote to transfer the properties to the city.
The council’s vote was unanimous, although Councilman Joe Callinan called it “a formality.”
“The state’s going to get what it wants,” he said. “If they want it they’re going to retroact it back to January. We’re just going through the motions.”
About 50 formerly homeless people live in the houses transferred Tuesday from the redevelopment agency to the city. A Petaluma-based nonprofit manages the homes, and the city provides rental subsidies.
What happens next to those residents is uncertain, Babonis said, and depends on the state’s actions.
“But the housing is safe for now, the families are safe for now,” she said.