On Dec. 6, the San Diego City Council again opted to heavily tap low- and moderate-income housing funds to reimburse the city for remittances due in order to continue redevelopment in the city, provided the state Supreme Court allows this. The city approved reducing deposits to Centre City by $8,878,000, Southeastern by $1,074,160, Horton Plaza by $580,000 and North Park by $270,000, for a total of $10,802,160 less for affordable housing development at a time of critical need. In doing so, the council claimed funding for all types of project were being cut, not just housing, implying that housing was simply bearing its fair share of the cuts. This isn’t the case.
Four out of every five redevelopment dollars support commercial interests, special interests and civic projects, with housing to receive just one. Sadly, it doesn’t even get that. Redevelopment started in the early ’50s and a quarter of a century passed before there was any requirement to set aside money for affordable housing development. Housing funds were established in 1977, or later. Ever since, agencies have been allowed to defer or exempt themselves from the set-aside, in whole or in part, have underfunded the housing fund, misused it and borrowed heavily from it.
Redevelopment in San Diego, especially downtown, is one of the primary reasons the city has an affordable housing crisis. Single-room occupancies and apartments have been demolished to make way for Horton Plaza and the expanded federal courthouse. They have been converted to tourist hotels as with the Maryland or lofts as with the William Penn. Only 17 of the original 1,000 replacement units downtown provided homes for those displaced, since the new units were designed for seniors instead of the working poor. To make up for the tremendous loss of housing due to redevelopment, the city committed to build 3,770 homes for more than 10,000 people in the East Village, where Petco Park now stands.
And redevelopment — like that undertaken in the city — is the primary reason that there is inadequate funding for public education and other basic services, not the state. After all, redevelopment agencies take all property tax increases, whether generated by a redevelopment project or not. It is only supposed to take place when ordinary governmental tools are inadequate and urban blight is otherwise intractable. Instead, in this city and region, as throughout the state, it is local governments’ answer to Proposition 13. And it is because cities have abused redevelopment that schools, fire and other local, special districts are without the funds to provide basic services. Since 1992, the state has had to wrestle money away from agencies to fund schools but greedy agencies wanted to put an end to that. And so they added language to Proposition 22, passed by voters in November 2010 stopping the state from reallocating agencies’ tax increment to education. This forced the state to end redevelopment — for our kids’ sake.
By ending redevelopment “as we know it,” Gov. Brown and the state legislature struck a balance between redevelopment and our children’s education, as well as other basic local services. It is untrue to say that by doing so the state is stealing local dollars or exacting ransom. All property taxes reallocated to education, fire and other districts are spent locally and benefit San Diego children and families. We simply cannot continue to subsidize sports franchises and other private development in redevelopment project areas at the expense of our children and safety.
Catherine Rodman is the director of Affordable Housing Advocates and lives in City Heights.
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