Another View: State should give cities more redevelopment aid

We thank the governor and Legislature for their leadership in approving Assembly Bill 2, a step forward for California’s urban revitalization and greenhouse gas reduction efforts.

The headline that accompanied Dan Walters’ Sept. 25 column on the law read “New bottle contains old wine.” In fact, AB 2 is much more akin to a sip rather than a bottle of new wine.

While the former redevelopment law had its critics, it also produced many successes. Most communities used it the right way. Deeply blighted commercial and residential areas were renovated, brownfields cleaned up and crumbling infrastructure improved. Much of the high-density, transit-oriented retail and residential development in high demand today resulted from redevelopment efforts. The renovation of bustling downtown Pasadena is an example.

AB 2 is focused on assisting those poorer neighborhoods that private investors avoid rather than pay for cleaning up pre-existing conditions. There is no funding impact on schools. Other local agencies only participate if they agree. The law also provides affected residents with effective tools to hold local governments accountable if the projects go off-track.

But AB 2 should not be oversold. It will take years to accumulate funds sufficient to make a difference. Local governments will have to be modest and selective about what they try to do, and they will have to find partnerships to expand financial resources and maximize opportunities.

But that can only go so far. Modest resources will only produce modest results.

A successful future for urban development requires state involvement as well. In the next stage of legislative discussions, we urge state leaders to find additional creative ways to partner with local governments on urban revitalization, affordable housing and infrastructure projects. Doing so would help avoid lost opportunities and ensure the highest quality projects are produced.

Stephany Aguilar, a City Council member in Scotts Valley, is president of the League of California Cities. Hing Wong, a senior regional planner with the Association of Bay Area Governments, is president of the American Planning Association’s California chapter.