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I wanted to quickly highlight two things from the lower half of Liam Dillon’s latest story last night on the secret downtown redevelopment deal.
• The first: We used the cool service Document Cloud so you can see what the downtown redevelopment agency tried to keep secret when it first redacted the documents at the center of the story. We successfully fought to get the full version of the study, but the yellow highlights indicate what the agency first blacked out (after initially refusing to release the study at all).
• The second: There’s a central point I don’t want to get lost in the hullabaloo over public records.
This whole long discussion now on downtown redevelopment comes down to something that hasn’t been discussed all that much: Redevelopment is set up to fix up rundown neighborhoods. The draft study at the heart of his story finds that there is blight but doesn’t yet back it up. And the Legislature extended the life of downtown redevelopment without even knowing if it fit the definition of a neighborhood that justified further redevelopment. That’s the reason we pushed so hard to get this document.
Dillon breaks it down like this:
In its current form, the study doesn’t back up the blight claims. Instead, it declares on several occasions that downtown remains rundown. It only provides simple crime statistics as evidence. Beyond that, the study mainly calls for examples to back up its assertions to be filled in later. For instance, a section on unsafe or unhealthy buildings ends with “insert examples here.” …
Courts have been willing to overturn redevelopment in areas where blight wasn’t proven. A state appeals court 10 years ago rejected a redevelopment designation in an affluent suburban Los Angeles city after the court decided the area the city wanted to fix wasn’t broken.
“The purpose of the [California redevelopment law] is to provide a means of remedying blight where it exists,” the court wrote in its decision. “The [law] is not simply a vehicle for cash-strapped municipalities to finance community improvements.”
In San Diego, much of the rhetoric surrounding the state law’s passage has focused on it allowing the city to receive more tax dollars and create jobs, not eliminate blight downtown. Newfound redevelopment money is expected to help pay for a new Chargers stadium and an expanded Convention Center should one or both be approved.
(Michael) Jenkins, the former city redevelopment leader, had sympathy for the argument that San Diego doesn’t receive its fair share of tax revenue from the state. Elected officials have to balance that concern with what’s required in the spirit of redevelopment law, he said.
“That’s ultimately the real question here,” he said. “Is this the process that we want to have happened for such a monumental decision to be made?”