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By Henrietta J. Burroughs
East Palo Alto Today
Posted Thursday, January 20, 2011

The East Palo Alto City Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution that opposed Governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposal, which would eliminate redevelopment agencies throughout California. The four to nothing vote was taken at the council’s regularly scheduled meeting in the council chambers on Tuesday, January 18. Council member Peter Evans was absent from the meeting.

The joint resolution that was approved was supported by the East Palo Alto City Council and the East Palo Alto Redevelopment Agency. Carlos Martinez, the city’s redevelopment agency division manager, made the staff recommendation that the council approve the resolution opposing Brown’s proposal, because he argued that, if implemented, the proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies “would practically wipe out the East Palo Alto Redevelopment Agency’s balances in both its capital and affordable housing fund.”

Martinez recommended that the city’s Mayor Carlos Romero and the Vice Mayor, Laura Martinez, who is also the chair of the city’s redevelopment agency, submit the resolution and an accompanying letter to Gov. Brown and to California State Legislators explaining why the City of East Palo Alto is opposed to Brown’s proposal.

In making his case for the city resolution and the letter, Martinez pointed out that the East Palo Alto Redevelopment Agency (RDA) was created on January 4, 1988 for the purpose of abating blight in the city’s redevelopment project areas.  Martinez said that the city had improved two of three areas in the city designated for development under RDA requirements: University Circle (UC) and the Gateway 101 Project Area. The third area, the Ravenswood Business District, is currently under study and the RDA is awaiting the council’s approval of a specific plan for the area.

In the past the State of California took $3.3 million in redevelopment agency funds from East Palo Alto during the 2009-2010 fiscal year. In the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the State of California will take $671,251 from the city in an effort to close its own budget deficit.

In proposing a complete phase out of city redevelopment agencies throughout California by July 2011, Governor Brown’s proposal would go further in making cuts than any previous administration in Sacramento.

It might have come as a surprise to some who attended the city council’s meeting to hear Mayor Romero respond to Martinez’s approach to the issue by saying that while he understood the reasons for Brown’s proposal, the jury was still out as to any long term negative effects that the proposal might have. He said that some people already think that Brown’s proposal might not be so bad, since it might “democratize” the redevelopment process in some California cities.

Romero supported his remarks by pointing out that some redevelopment agencies are not held accountable for their use of redevelopment funds and that it was not a given that phasing out redevelopment agencies throughout the state would end how redevelopment is conducted in East Palo Alto. 

In the end, after its extensive discussion of the issue, the city council approved the joint resolution opposing the governor’s proposal. The council decided to send the governor and the state legislature a letter with its resolution and it agreed to create a payment schedule to get state reimbursement for East Palo Alto’s past and existing redevelopment projects.

 To contact Henrietta J. Burroughs, email her at epatoday@epatoday.org



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