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State rejects county improvement projects

By LORI A. CARTER

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

State officials have blocked funding for high-profile improvement projects in Roseland and north of Sonoma in the wake of California’s move to

The old Albertsons in Roseland. (PD FILE, 2010)

dismantle local redevelopment agencies.

Several cities, including Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Sebastopol, were awaiting word from state auditors at the end of last week on their fate of their projects.

The thumbs-down message from the state applied to the proposed conversion of a Roseland shopping center into a commercial and residential complex and to completion of street, sidewalk and lighting upgrades to Highway 12 north of Sonoma in an area known as the Springs.

Sonoma Valley Supervisor Valerie Brown said she wasn’t surprised by the state action, and surmised that local redevelopment projects will be uniformly rejected.

“I’d be very surprised if they could pick and choose what gets a go-ahead,” Brown said Sunday.

Brown is chairwoman of a seven-member local panel, called the Oversight Board, charged with disposing of all redevelopment agency assets and returning the property tax funds they collected to local agencies, such as schools and special districts.

The board is scheduled to meet Friday to plot its next step.

Brown said the board will talk to its attorneys “and figure out what happens next.”

“We’re having trouble just separating out what it means to the various entities,” Brown said.

At stake are dozens of projects worth millions of dollars, including reconstructed Highway 101 interchanges in Petaluma, as well as the Roseland and Springs area improvements.

City and county redevelopment agencies were ordered dissolved by Feb. 1 as a part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to use the money to balance the state budget. Local governments were required to submit to the state a list of their planned projects for continued funding.

In its letter to the county, a state finance official said that the Roseland and Highway 12 projects are not “enforceable obligations” and will be returned to the Oversight Board for its reconsideration.

The Department of Finance said last week it had received project lists — called Recognized Obligation Payment Schedules, or ROPS — from five of the 10 redevelopment oversight boards in Sonoma County.

The state was in the midst of reviewing lists that came from Cotati, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Sonoma and the county.

As of close of business Thursday, the state said it hadn’t received lists from Healdsburg, Petaluma, Cloverdale or Windsor. Petaluma Economic Development Director Ingrid Alverde said she sent the city’s approved list to the state on Thursday.

The state initially set an April 15 deadline to receive the lists from all 400 of California’s former redevelopment agencies. But several agencies hadn’t even set up the required oversight boards by then.

According to the state, Cotati’s initial review has been completed. The state said several Cotati projects set to receive $1.8 million in funding through June don’t appear to qualify. Those same four items and one other, totaling $1.9 million from July through December, also appear not to qualify, the letter said.

The letter said it was returning Cotati’s list for reconsideration.

Cotati City Manager Dianne Thompson couldn’t be reached on Friday for more detail.

Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said Santa Rosa’s and Sebastopol’s lists were being reviewed. The first review is supposed to be done within three days.

“If we find we need more time, then we notify (them) and another clock starts running off 10 calendar days, during which we will seek further information, clarification or validation of the items we flagged,” he said.

The state has received lists from a little over half of the state’s former redevelopment agencies. Thirty-four were “auto-denied” for missing information, 114 have been completed and 88 letters were issued, Palmer said. Another 75 letters were supposed to be issued this weekend.

At the end of the review period, the state will send a letter with its findings. Agencies can challenge denials.

Alverde said the process has been confusing for agencies because of conflicting deadlines and unclear mandates. That may leave funding for in-progress construction projects in limbo.

For example, she said, the ROPS lists for January through June are supposed to be certified by July 1. But by that date, all the money obligated to those projects may already have been spent.

“That leaves us all in the middle trying to figure out how we move forward in the most efficient way so we don’t lose taxpayers’ money,” she said. “This is really uncharted territory.

“There’s no clear path for resolution of any kind. What I’m hearing from people in my industry is that this is ultimately going to be settled in court to create precedent and rules.”





6 Responses to “State rejects county improvement projects”

  1. zuma says:

    So one hand doesnt know what the other is doing and in the end the taxpayer will lose, as usual.

    The state is a joke!

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  2. Jim Bennett says:

    Translation.
    This isn’t a site that’s been selected by A21 change agents as a human Smart Growth settlement. ‘Transit Village’.
    Afterall it’s not as close to the Smart Train as another site they’ve already selected.
    The Sebastopol Rd. site is way too automobile dependent

    “I’d be very surprised if they could pick and choose what gets a go ahead”.

    PA-LEEZ, gimme a break.

    The whole premise of the story is ill-conceived…
    IT’S NOT GOVERNMENT’S JOB TO ORCHESTRATE THESE DECISIONS OR PICK WINNERS AND LOSERS.

    We’re paying them to take away the community’s freedoms.

    America, capitalism, Free Market…
    ring a bell?

    Wonder how many small business’ and employment could have been happening at that sight this whole time?

    Putting the neighborhood’s American Dream on a back burner while they indulge in their fascist deliberations.

    I’d turn that strip into twenty affordable spaces for various small business’.

    That kind of thing isn’t in Valerie’s
    American Dream. Her’s is different.

    A lot different.

    Thumb up 18 Thumb down 6

  3. Jason Brown says:

    This is a law suit made in heaven for the trial lawyers. Think of the years of depositions, briefs, reviews, interviews, appeals. All done on the taxpayer dime.

    This will end up costing several million in attorney fees.

    The only winners will be the attorney’s bank accounts. The deep pockets of the taxpayers will be drained again for an absurd makeover of an old strip mall and a little upgrade to Highway 12.

    This is highway robbery in effect.

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

  4. RICHARD says:

    Redevelopment was created for projects like Roseland. Roseland seems to be collateral damage from the state’s effort to end redevelopment abuse.

    Not knowing the details, this seems wrong. Roseland has lose again because local politicians misused and abused redevelopment.

    This is sad day for economic justices.

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 8

  5. Steveguy says:

    Good, allow a private developer to renew the Roseland site.

    Ohh, that doesn’t involve a slush fund for politicians and developers.

    I wonder how many MILLIONS they have spent ‘studying’ the Roseland site. I would figure around $10 Million so far, maybe more.

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 3

  6. bear says:

    No projects. No jobs.

    I am amused that I think I’m going to hear praise for Jerry Brown.

    Where were you guys in 1977? Back in the day, old Jerry was the demon for the right wing.

    How have things changed?

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 7

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