Is Redevelopment Really the Devil?

There has been much discussion on this blog, and elsewhere in California, about the state government’s so-called raid on redevelopment funds to help balance the budget. A couple of weeks back, Dan Walters, the longtime Sacramento Bee columnist, weighed in, pouncing on local redevelopment agencies (San Jose’s is one of the biggest) as the epitome of waste, and touting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to take $228 million a year from redevelopment agencies.

Many associate me with the burst of redevelopment spending that rebuilt our Downtown in the ’80s, but my first familiarity with redevelopment came much earlier, in meetings that I went to in my teens. At that time, my father and many owners of small businesses were attempting to fight off a government Leviathan that was condemning properties, re-routing streets, savaging historic buildings, and destroying the heart of our city. Yep, that was my introduction to the big “R.” My father and so many others fought it back then, and hated its very name. And they were right.

Much was done wrong in San Jose in those days. By the time I became mayor, they had harnessed the vast riches of Rincon, the unassisted redevelopment zone to the north, and hitched it to Downtown’s star. But what many of the critics fail to notice is the simple fact that our highways, our low-to-moderate income housing, our museums, our theatres, our hotels and Convention Center, our Arena, our regional park and even our flood control system—things the citizens of San Jose had long wanted—were all created with the financial strength of that much maligned agency.

Can you think of many other city departments that have given you the bang for the buck that this department has given, and made more ordinary citizens happy? Projects that have expanded our tax base and provided much for our people were built with the help of redevelopment. Until then, all had been a pipedream for much of our lives.

It would be fair to say that a lot of projects did not turn out well. Okay—that is correct. But many exceeded our wildest hopes. Like the Tech, and the HP Pavilion. Only the most blind of critics would fail to note that, and be in a bit of awe at their successes.

In addition, with bonded monies, the money we have to spend on local projects today is ten times what the mere tax increment monies are, and tenfold in these tough times is quite an increase.

It is incumbent on the critics, as they exult in the taking of these funds by the feckless legislators in Sacramento, to remember that only the willpower, creativity and entrepreneurship of local government is able to make the investments and do the work necessary to move our city and state forward.

Those who gleefully savage this critical financial tool hurt every citizen of San Jose, and leave us naked to the darkening downturn in our economy.

7 Comments

  1. All this time we thought Al Gore invented the internet. Turns out it was our own Tom McEnery.
    He was really ahead of his time!

  2. Mayor Tom,
    The empty upstairs 411 Santa Clara Ave., above Starbucks, next to the San Pedro arch would be a great location for a low-cost hostel to attract more young tourists to San Jose for visits to the Tech, games and concerts at the Pavilion, the Winchester, Rosicrucian, San Jose State, Kelley Park, City Hall and forlorn Downtown.
    This would be a “starter” hostel. 
      We believe a much larger hostel will be required once tourists stay at the San Jose Hostel and reveal to others the many attractions San Jose and Silicon Valley offers.
      It’s obvious this building needs to be fixed up.  A 75 bed non-profit HI hostel at this location would be a great first step to further San Jose tourism.  With your influence at RDA and your many connections as well as your development expertise this project could be quickly underway.
        Please visit the smaller Santa Cruz Hostel the next time you come over the hill and meet the kind of visitors we put up at the Camelita Cottages hostel atop Beach Hill.

    pgp of Santa Cruz.

  3. The staggering $5.8 Billion dollar city debt casts a “long shadow” over any acconphlishments associated with the Redevelopment Agency.

    The associated “tax incremtns” which siphons off money for public schools will haunt generations of a “dumbed down” citizenry.

    The “tax increments” that fund for “government housing projects” inconjunction with “Inclusionary Housing Ordinances” will also ensure a plethora of city sponsored slums, blight, and congestion that will further erode San Jose to become “The Slum Capital of Silicon Valley”.

    There area lot of talented people who work at the Redevelopment Agency. But the very existence of the RDA is to create “debt”.

    The city’s debt is outpacing its ability to “continuousl leverage” its financial obligations.

    It is way pst time to shut this debt machine down.

    David S. Wall

  4. “Those who gleefully savage this critical financial tool hurt every citizen of San Jose, and leave us naked to the darkening downturn in our economy.”

    Hyperbole much? 
    No superfluous reference to Bobby Kennedy?

    The voters want fiscal austerity not slushfunds.
    Shut down RDA.  Now.

  5. sure tax increment was leveraged 10X, but now the debt is also 10x with sinking tax increments revenue to try to cover this without leaning on the general fund or assuming deadbeat status with the county. the County!!! the last resort provider to those in the county in most need. shameful!

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