County looks to preserve redevelopment
Sonoma County will probably be saving its Redevelopment Agency, but it could cost millions - maybe as much as $3 million.
Under Gov. Jerry Brown's latest budget, redevelopment agencies around the state are effectively frozen as of June 29, but sponsoring bodies would be able to reinstate agencies if they are willing to pay an "opt-in fee," which in Sonoma County's case could be around $3 million. Any redevelopment agency not reinstated by Oct. 1, would be dissolved.
The "opt-in fee" would become part of the $1.7 billion taken by the state from redevelopment agencies to balance the state budget this fiscal year.
First District Supervisor Valerie Brown is fairly certain the county will reinstate redevelopment, especially since the county has redevelopment areas in three different districts including the Springs Redevelopment Area.
This means that the second phase of the Highway 12 project will be completed.
"We need to continue our projects," Brown said. "And Highway 12 is our highest priority."
"I believe that it's in our best interest to pay the opt-in," she said.
In addition to the Springs, there are also the Russian River and Roseland redevelopment areas.
"We think we utilize the (redevelopment) money well and we support redevelopment," Brown said. "We'll find out on Aug. 16 what we'll have to pay the state."
Brown thinks redevelopment is too important to jeopardize.
Because Gov. Brown's budget effectively kills redevelopment agencies, the California League of Cities has announced plans to file suit to block the state's action.
"We're comfortable letting them (the California League of Cities) carry the ball on this," Brown said.
In addition to the "opt-in fee" this year, the county would have to make payments each year, but significantly less than $3 million.
John Haig, the county's redevelopment manager, thinks it would cost the county somewhere around $700,000 a year - but that figure would rise if any new projects - with the exception of affordable housing - were started. "When you incur new obligations, you'll have to pay more into the pass-through accounts," he said.
Haig said the county received about $7 million in tax increments this past year. He thinks the county would be able to make the plus-or-minus $3 million payment.
The money the state wants from the redevelopment agencies would go to schools, fire districts and transportation districts.
"This won't have any impact on our affordable housing funds," Haig said. "We'll still get the 20 percent (of redevelopment bond money) for affordable housing."
And while he's confident that the Highway 12 project will be finished, he's not sure how the change in redevelopment status will affect other projects on the drawing board, including the possible purchase of the Clemente Inn site, the purchase of the Vailetti property and the proposed plaza in the orphaned part of Boyes Boulevard that will be blocked as part of Phase Two Highway 12 work.
But Haig cautioned that every estimate is only an educated guess - that the present bill has numerous contradictions that need to be ironed out.
The Springs, which accounts for 29 percent of the county's redevelopment agency money, has the most indebtedness, Russian River, which accounts for 52 percent, has the most cash, while Roseland has 19 percent of the pie, but that includes a shopping center.
Some of the redevelopment plans that may fall by the wayside could include commercial façade and rehabilitation, among others.
"We'll be able to pay our existing obligations," Haig said. "But we're operating in a new era."
The county's redevelopment agency will be taking an ordinance to the Board of Supervisors, probably at the board's Aug. 9 meeting for a first reading, and could pass it the following week.
"Because of Highway 12 and Russian River and Roseland, we need to continue," Haig said.