More on the Battle for San Jose’s Redevelopment Dollars

As San Jose city officials scramble to convince Governor Brown to not shut down its redevelopment agency, more and more information is coming to the public’s attention that speak to the value and effectiveness of the redevelopment system.  San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders offered the following argument in a recent column, “The Future Of California-Jerry Brown Takes On The Redevelopment Agencies.”

“When Democratic Governor Jerry Brown was mayor of Oakland, he was a big redevelopment booster.  Now that he’s governor…(he’s) proposing steering $1.7 billion away from redevelopment’s agencies and into schools, counties, and the state…as Brown told the League of California Cities last week, when he was mayor, he ‘liked redevelopment.  I didn’t quite understand it.  It seemed kind of magical.  It was the money that you could spend on stuff that they wouldn’t otherwise let you spend.’”

“Translation:  The system rewards local pols whether they spend the money wisely or not.  While boosters say that redevelopment fosters economic growth, the nonpartisan Legislative Analysts’ Office recently reported, ‘We find no reliable evidence that this program improves overall economic development in California.’”

On the San Jose front, The Mercury News recently ran a front page story, “San Jose agency likely on last legs.”  “Former San Jose City Manager Les White agrees that some redevelopment projects in San Jose have “gone too far and too long.”  “‘There were some smaller project areas that could have been closed down to show good intent, to show that the redevelopment agency doesn’t need to go on forever,’ he said.”  Good intent?

Here’s another gem from County Assessor Larry Stone.  “Stone agrees with those who say San Jose’s agency has sometimes abused its role-particularly when it declared wide swaths of agricultural land along North First Street blighted, then snatched tax revenues as the area developed to subsidize downtown.  But he said, there is a way to amend redevelopment agencies “to make sure they do what they said they would do.”

Brown admits to not “understanding” redevelopment….White says that redevelopment went “too far and too long,” and Stone agrees that redevelopment “abused” its role.  Why aren’t there any consequences for all of this?  Why aren’t any political leaders being held to account?

14 Comments

  1. All around me in Downtown San Jose, I can see both the benefits and the damage from redevelopment. Much was built, but so much of it has slid downhill from neglect. The Guadalupe River and trail is just one example. It’s beautifully conceived, but the river and sometimes the land is just trashed. The ballpark of course is the most egregious misuse of redevelopment money as the city spends millions for land acquisition. Without redevelopment those funds would be freed to restore school programs, etc. A couple of days ago, the Wall Street Journal published a story about the price of football that everyone—not just fans—pays. But it applies to baseball. Officials regularly overestimate the revenue to make a stadium palatable to voters. Here, that includes lying about how it involves no public funds, while spending millions for land, funds that could go to schools, balancing the budget without draconian cuts, etc. We still don’t know many of the details of the “deal” Wolff will ask for.  By the way, the WSJ said that “chutzpah” is the only limit to the handouts that owners want, including a new stadium. Redevelopment acts as a “cover” for boosters, city officials, and hangers on who cannot get past their desire for the game. The WSJ wrote that politicans deserve our scorn as m uch as the team owners. I’d add the shills and fans.

    • “The ballpark of course is the most egregious misuse of redevelopment money as the city spends millions for land acquisition.”  And the lies and slander continue.  How is the city of San Jose buying land parcels at Diridon South?  By selling other city properties and using those proceeds for the acquisitions!  It’s basically a land exchange; no different from me selling my house for (say) $600k and buying another house for $600k.  And for, what, the millionth time, the city will then either LEASE (look it up) or SELL (look it up) the Diridon plot to Lew Wolff/A’s for the PRIVATELY FINANCED (look it up) ballpark.  No harm, no foul, no affect on the general fund, no kids go hungry, no SJ residents fall into poverty, no…OH WHAT’S THE USE!

  2. ” Why aren’t any political leaders being held to account? ”  because most politicians have benefited or will benefit from receiving campaign contributions from those who get redevelopment property, contracts or RDA tax money paybacks

    Brown benefited politically, Stone as developer personally and politically benefited, and most elected officials get campaign contributions in expectation of large redevelopment profits

    Redevelopment is legalized property thief and political corruption that takes private property at under market prices, adds millions property taxes to pay for improvements and sells property at below market prices to developers, sports team owners and other political campaign contributors

    Did San Jose redevelopemt do some good downtown and neighborhoods yes but many RDA abuses far outweigh RDA small good and corrupt elected officials and politics

    – Eliminate Redevelopment Now

  3. ” “The general picture on redevelopment is that it doesn’t really pay for itself,” said Tracy Gordon, a local-finance expert at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington,

    mentioning an oft-cited 1998 study by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California that found the redevelopment agencies’ work didn’t increase property values enough to justify the tax revenue spent.”

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703921504576094331686810212.html

    ” Few projects generate enough increase in assessed
    value to account for their share of these revenues, and those projects that came closest defined blight broadly and included large amounts of vacant land. Tax incentives can lead cities to designate too many areas as blighted, and if true blight is targeted, an area is unlikely to generate enough revenue to earn the tax increment revenues.

    http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=70

  4. > The WSJ wrote that politicans deserve our scorn as m uch as the team owners. I’d add the shills and fans.

    Urban Femme:

    Let me say I admire your inclusiveness, your fairness, and principled egalitarianism.

  5. ” San Jose buying land parcels at Diridon South?  By selling other city properties and using those proceeds for the acquisitions! ”

    City is desperately short selling at under market prices in middle of recession when property could be sold for higher price if city took time to market or delayed until economy and real estate prices recover somewhat

    Millions in public money lost because quick desperate short sale

    ” Lew Wolff/A’s for the PRIVATELY FINANCED (look it up) ballpark. ”  No it is NOT it is public ( taxpayers )  – privately financed with taxpayers paying for millions in downtown improvements and selling or leasing land at under market rates to Wolff

    You are right about WHAT’S THE USE!  and trying to sell public the BIG LIE that Ballpark is great deal for San Jose with no taxes spent

    IF there was no taxes or pubic funds being spent then – WHY is a public vote required on ballpark deal as required by lawsuit against city ? 

    NO ANSWER ???  because there is public money in ballpark deal

    • “City is desperately short selling at under market prices…” AND BUYING DIRIDON PLOTS AT UNDER MARKET PRICES!  What part of my selling house/buying house analogy above didn’t you get?  Wait until the economy and real estate prices recover somewhat?  Yeah right, good one!

      “taxpayers paying for millions in downtown improvements.”  Let’s see, perhaps $11-17 million for the Autumn Parkway project and $1-2 million for environmental cleanup at Diridon South, IN EXCHANGE FOR a nearly $500 million private investment and peripheral developments (retail, restaurant, hospitality) that will rake in millions in sales tax revenue annually.  Do the math Sherlock; sometimes it takes spending a little money to make a lot of money.  Ever hear of AT&T Park in San Francisco?

      “You are right about WHAT’S THE USE!”  Damn right I am!  If some of you want to continue to believe that the world is flat or flat out can’t admit when you’re wrong, that’s your prerogative.

      “WHY is a public vote required on ballpark deal as required by lawsuit against city?”  Huhh?  There’s no lawsuit against the city!  But if you must know, since the ballpark will be privately financed and the land either leased or sold to Lew Wolff, a vote ISN’T necessary or required per SJ Muni Code 4.95.010.  A vote would only be necessary if taxpayer funds went towards direct construction costs of ballpark or if city donated land to Lew Wolff free of charge.

      HOW’S THAT FOR AN ANSWER!  Next question…

    • Right. Because you certainly wouldn’t want the remaining employees to be healthy and fit, would you?

      • Jack,
        It is about budget priorities, not health. We certainly wouldn’t want this money going to community centers to feed seniors, or keep kids off the streets, or to keep libraries open either, now would we?

  6. More Tony D – CAN’T GET HIS FACT RIGHT AND IS WRONG AGAIN or is misleading SJI readers again:

    THERE IS RDA MONEY IN BASEBALL DEAL !!!!!!!!!!

    “San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed shelved a plan Wednesday for a NOVEMBER BALLOT MEASURE THAT WOULD HAVE ASKED CITY VOTERS TO APPROVE A DOWNTOWN BALLPARK FOR THE OAKLAND A’S.”

    “To put a ballpark measure on the November ballot, San Jose’s City Council would have had to act by its meeting on Tuesday.”

    “THE MEASURE WOULD HAVE AUTHORIZED THE CITY TO USE REDEVELOPMENT FUNDS TO ACQUIRE, CLEAR AND LEASE A STADIUM SITE FOR THE A’S, WHO WOULD THEN BUILD AND MAINTAIN THE BALLPARK.”

    http://articles.sfgate.com/2010-07-29/bay-area/22003667_1_major-league-baseball-reed-selig

    • Have you even bothered reading the SJ Muni Code I referenced above?  Obviously, you haven’t.  And why do you keep changing your “name?”  Just curious.  Oh well, such is the life of a “Strawman.”  Enough from me on this thread.

  7. Egad, I think one of the frequent bloggers who champions downtown could easily play the Dustin Hoffman role in a remake of “The Rain Man.”

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