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The Southeastern Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) has been directed by San Diego’s Redevelopment Agency Board to study whether redevelopment is a tool which will benefit the neighborhoods of Grant Hill, Logan Heights, Memorial, Sherman Heights, and Stockton. Before starting, SEDC wishes to explain the process of creating a new redevelopment project area to the residents and businesses in these neighborhoods.

In 1945, the State of California adopted the California Community Redevelopment Act to address the issue of blight in many of California’s urban areas by giving cities and counties the authority to establish redevelopment agencies to attack the problems caused by decay. In 1951, this law was renamed the California Redevelopment Law and became part of California’s Health and Safety Code (Sec. 33000 et seq.). Today, there are roughly 400 redevelopment agencies in California and close to 700 separate project areas.

One of the misconceptions about redevelopment is caused by the use of the word “redevelopment” itself. Developers often refer to the act of demolishing an old home or commercial building and replacing it as redevelopment. This is not redevelopment under the California Redevelopment Law, which requires adoption of a Redevelopment Plan before any work in a new project area can begin.

Redevelopment using tools created by the law includes creating affordable housing and home ownership opportunities, revitalization of rundown neighborhoods, crime reduction, improvements to streets, water lines, lighting, and sewers, revival of business districts, neighborhood beautification, clean-up of contaminated property, and the creation of community centers, parks, libraries, fire stations, police stations, and other public facilities.

Every redevelopment project area adopted under California Redevelopment Law is governed by a redevelopment plan. The plan is adopted by the local legislature and establishes the long-term planning goals for the project area and what the plan can and cannot do.

One common limitation often included in a redevelopment plan is prohibiting or severely restricting the use of eminent domain. The adoption of a new redevelopment plan under redevelopment law requires certain formal procedures to give citizens and taxing authorities in a proposed project area a chance to provide input and comments.

Before redevelopment can occur, the city council or agency board must survey an area and assess whether it is in need of revitalization. Redevelopment law establishes strict criteria which must be met before an area is eligible to become a redevelopment project area. Once the initial review is completed and an area is determined to be eligible, the redevelopment agency, in consultation with residents and business owners, proposes boundaries and a preliminary plan for the new project area. At this point, the law requires the formation of a Project Area Committee to review, comment on, and revise the preliminary plan.

Members of the Project Area Committee are elected, and once this group is formed, it will meet to review and discuss the preliminary plan. Their meetings are public and must be noticed to allow public participation. The committee will eventually prepare its own report and recommendations on the project area boundaries and preliminary plan. The report and recommendations are delivered to city council and if the committee recommends against the redevelopment plan, City Council can only adopt it by a two-thirds vote. This process generally takes a year or more to complete.

The key to successful redevelopment is involvement by both residents and businesses when the project area is being defined, when the redevelopment plan is being drafted, and when the approved plan is implemented. Redevelopment in established neighborhoods is not an effective tool for neighborhood preservation or revitalization unless residents and businesses are actively involved and supportive.

Brian Trotier is the acting president and chief executive officer of the Southeastern Economic Development Corporation.

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