Nine mayors representing California’s largest cities met with Gov. Jerry Brown in a closed session Wednesday to urge him not to eliminate redevelopment agency funding.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting on the West Steps of the Capitol, mayors from Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Anaheim, Oakland, San Jose, Santa Ana, Fresno and San Diego explained their reasons for wanting to keep redevelopment agency dollars in the city budgets.
“Every one of us understand the magnitude of the budget challenges we face in the state,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
He added that all mayors understand the need to shoulder their share of the budget cuts necessitated by the recession, but argued that eliminating redevelopment agencies is unfair, saying they create jobs and work as an investment to stimulate economic development.
Brown briefly addressed reporters outside his office right after the meeting.
“We’re working. We’re not in agreement yet,” he said. “We’re going to meet further. We’re going to keep talking.”
Brown has advocated for eliminating city redevelopment agencies, which are responsible for developing infill projects, such as recent work on K Street in Sacramento, in addition to other responsibilities.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said the mayors told Brown in the meeting that “it’s a terrible idea to abolish redevelopment in cities up and down the state.”
He said Brown was open to the idea of working with city governments, adding that the governor understands the value of redevelopment.
“He said we will have to bring solutions, and that’s incumbent on us,” Johnson said.
He then mentioned successful redevelopment projects just blocks from the Capitol, including the Sheraton Hotel, in which he said an $8 million investment of redevelopment funds was able to leverage $100 million.
“(Brown) is a tenant here in a project that is only here because of redevelopment dollars,” Johnson said. “We reminded him of it, he was in good spirit … he said, ‘You guys can be part of a working group going forward.’ ”
Johnson emphasized that California’s mayors and city governments will stand firm on the issue.
“The problem with eliminating redevelopment … is that all of us have historical high unemployment rates,” Villaraigosa said. “This is the wrong time to move away from job creation.”
The nine mayors who spoke Wednesday on the West Steps of the Capitol agreed that spending redevelopment dollars – which come from property taxes – brings further economic growth and translates to more revenue.
San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders said redevelopment in downtown San Diego has resulted in each dollar spent bringing back $8.50 to the city.
The argument for eliminating redevelopment and enterprise zone funding is that it will allow more state funds to be spent in areas such as public safety and education.
With that, several public safety advocacy organizations have come out in support of Brown.
California Professional Firefighters, an advocacy group for approximately 30,000 firefighters, argued that cities overstate the impact of redevelopment agencies in job creation.
According to a press release from the CPF, the number of documented jobs created across the state in the past decade was approximately 241,000.
The release also cites a Jan. 18 report by the California Legislative Analyst that contends there is “no reliable evidence that redevelopment agencies improve overall economic development in California.”
The mayors did not answer questions about the report during the press conference.
The next step in the process, according to the mayors, will be to sit down with Brown and negotiate a workable solution.
“It was a good meeting, a good start, an important opportunity for us to be at the table to engage in these discussions,” Villaraigosa said.
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.