Redevelopment Agency Exec Resigns

Harry Mavrogenes made the surprising announcement Thursday that he will relinquish his role as Executive Director of the San Jose Redevelopment Agency as of June 24. Mavrogenes has held the title since late 2004.

Mavrogenes decision to resign comes at a time of great uncertainty for the agency, which is under the threat of being eliminated if Gov. Jerry Brown is able to succeed in instituting his proposed budget cuts. San Jose’s RDA has already been trimmed substantially, going from more than 100 employees as of last year to just 25 currently. Mavrogenes also announced Thursday to the California Redevelopment Agency board that San Jose’s agency will be going to just eight employees in the future.

“The way it’s going to survive is by being very focused, very small,” Mavrogenes said in a telephone interview Friday. “We have a $19 million capital improvement budget for next year. From my standpoint, I told the mayor, I want to build things.”

There is plenty of debate on whether or not RDAs are a proper use of taxpayer money. Going forward, Mavrogenes said, San Jose’s agency will now be little more than a management organization that pays off its debts and completes agreements while doing its best to help create jobs.

“It’s unfortunate because there so much that needs to be done in this community,” Mavrogenes said. “It’s going to take 3-4 years at least for the agency to come back.”

Driving back from Sacramento on Friday, Mavrogenes said he’s unsure how the final state budget will play out.

“I was just in meetings today where I know there is strong support from Republicans to keep redevelopment, which is ironic,” he said. “I’m a lifelong Democrat and Republicans are some of our best friends right now.”

The toll of arguing with Gov. Brown and other RDA opponents seems to have taken a toll on Mavrogenes, who is unsure where he will work in the future.

“I’m up for a good fight,” he said, “but they don’t play fair up there.”

Below is the letter Mavrogenes sent out on Thursday following his announcement at an agency budget hearing:

Mayor and Members of the Redevelopment Agency Board:

It was almost 40 years ago, on August 17, 1971 that I began my professional career with the City of San Jose, as a young planner. I have served San Jose at the very best of my ability, and have enjoyed a very exciting and fruitful career, both during my initial stint through 1990, and since my return in 1998. It has been a privilege to work with smart and passionate professionals at the Redevelopment Agency over the years, and to have been able to follow in the footsteps of the great and visionary Frank Taylor, who led this Agency for two decades. I will always be grateful for the support and leadership of Mayors Mineta, Hayes, Hammer, McEnery, Gonzales and Reed and the Board Members that have guided the Agency’s investments.

Together with our private sector and city partners, we transformed the skyline and gave San Jose a distinctive place among great American cities. Redevelopment is the most significant program that the State of California has created, and we have used it well. I have also had to be a vigilant advocate to save Redevelopment from countless raids and near certain annihilation by the State. The state raids and the recent economy have taken their toll on this Agency.

I commend Mayor Reed for his direction to keep the Agency operative and very finely focused so that it will survive the challenging years ahead, and I would urge the Board to adopt his recommendations.

The Mayor and I have worked closely to develop a small and effective organization for the future of the agency. I do not believe that my skills are needed in that small a group and I have chosen to move on. My last day will be June 24th, 2011.

I will continue to keep an active role with the California Redevelopment Association to advocate for redevelopment reform and survival, and I will look for other professional challenges in the future. As a resident of San Jose, I will continue to stay engaged and look out for the best interests of this city. I could not have asked for a better or more dedicated group of bosses. I know that you all care deeply for this city and will continue to fight for the best for our citizens.

Thank you for the privilege of serving you and the Citizens of San Jose,

Best Regards

Harry S. Mavrogenes
Executive Director
The Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Jose

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.

16 Comments

  1. He split before the state started the fiscal audit! There is a lot of shady activity happening in the redevelopment agency office and city hall! The state has now noticed and will begin to look at the books!

  2. I wouldn’t be so hasty about linking Mavrogenes with financial hanky panky. I suspect there might be some, especially in relation to the ballpark and the land purchases there. But the RDA has done some good work, especially Downtown. Unfortunately, mostly becauase of policies put in place by Mavrogenes’ bosses, the Downtown work is unfinished and what has been done is declining rapidly. That will continue in part because of the recession and in part because of misplaced priorities. I support dissolving RDAs, because they damage they are doing now outweighs the good work they’ve done in the past.

    For instance, I just spent part of a morning pulling crap out of the Guadalupe River Park—along with 25 other volunteers along our stretch of the river. The park is one of San Jose’s gems and so important to those of us who live Downtown (I run or walk it several times a week). Our group simply couldn’t deal with the volume of trash that has washed into the park after the winter runoff. The park needs more than devoted volunteers and a handful of staff in the conservancy. An RDA won’t fix it. City leaders need to direct resources there rather than some harebrained scheme. It won’t happen, so one of Downtown’s assets will just deteriorate.

  3. I thought Republicans are for smaller government.
    Redevelopment Agency is just the opposite.
    They are hypocrites.

  4. I cant wait to see what his retirement payout is and the city politicians justification for it….to cover the payout i am sure cops/firefighters/etc will get blamed and 50 extra cops/firefighters/etc will be fired.  thanks city of san jose!!!!

  5. Typical … The heat is on with rumors of grand jury and investigations starting.  Right now everyone including the mayor has been in trouble. The old saying where there is smoke there is fire.  If the mayor can look the other way with a council person who is committing tax fraud retirement fraud double dipping with approval of the mayor do you have much doubt when there is a good look at what these clowns have been doing someone might go to jail. The best thing to do is leave early and try and say everything was in order when you left.
      Just like the banks and enroll madoff they would not have been caught except something out of their control caused their deeds to come to the surface. San jose looks to be at that point.  I would not be shocked to see one or two council members step down even the city manager.

    • “Right now everyone including the mayor has been in trouble. The old saying where there is smoke there is fire.  If the mayor can look the other way with a council person who is committing tax fraud retirement fraud double dipping with approval of the mayor do you have much doubt when there is a good look at what these clowns have been doing someone might go to jail.”

      Anything juicy?????

  6. Makes sense to me.  Even hanging on as a caretaker Executive Director for a few more percent in retirement doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.  In a way, this is actually a really good thing as a smaller agency doesn’t need that kind of overhead and a caretaker staff can draw and vest at a much lower rate.

    I’m still hoping the wooden stake didn’t miss the heart of redevelopment in state deliberations, and the Republicans being foolish to oppose repealing the Redevelopment enabling legislation when just a few years ago they were part of the chorus questionning the abuses and growth in this sector.

    In terms of partisan politics I’m not surprised but nonetheless disappointed. 

    We do need a mechanism for local action and economic development, but the redevelopment machine is broken and I’d like a clean slate to start over.

    My dream project would be Grand Boulevard/HSR rail linked to a development corridor between SF and SJ with high density and all the rest along El Camino, Bart underneath the rebuilt roadbed for local and mid-range commutes and HSR adjacent and also underground for long distance.  It could actually be done if we combined for regional benefit instead of each city playing economic war with their redevelopment projects, transit districts and share of federal and state project dollars.

    I don’t think the entire Sacramento brain trust has enough vision to think past November 2012 and far enough ahead to plan a project for the next 50-100 years like this.  I’d hoped for more with HSR, but expect much, much, much less than was promised.

  7. ” I cant wait to see what his retirement payout is and the city politicians justification for it….to cover the payout “

    Mavrogenes will double dip and get both
    1- his city pension ( 1971 -90 + last 1-2 years back on city pension system ) $125,000 ++
    2) big redevelopment pension payout $1 million +

  8. Talking about pensions, I hope the city council will make public the pension that the Executive Director Of the San Jose Redevelopment Agency will receive, including his sick time, vacation and any unused overtime pay out.  I am sure it will put other hard working city employee’s with much more time on the job to shame.  Another example, of the abuse of the city council attacking the unions but letting higher management officials walking away without scrutiny.

  9. OK city council, post what this employee pension gets!!  I would love to here the break down on his sick time, overtime and vacation time buyout is. 
    It’s time to step up or is this another “confidential issue”?

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