Under threat from state law, Downey takes emergency steps to protect redevelopment power

DOWNEY –  The city is looking to buy into a special program that would allow Downey to keep control over an account used to redevelop blighted areas.

City attorneys want Downey to pay $1.28 million to a state program that allows cities to retain control over redevelopment projects.

The City Council is scheduled to take up the matter at its meeting Tuesday.

As part of his plan to balance California’s budget, Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed eliminating redevelopment agencies, which are a mechanism that allows cities to divert property taxes into a special account. The money is supposed to be used to spruce up run-down areas.

A coalition of cities has sued to stop Brown, but Downey and cities all over Southern California are taking great pains to keep their agencies alive. The California Supreme Court has put a say on parts of the new laws, which has given cities time to regroup.

Downey’s staff wants to retain control over the agency so the city can have enough flexibility to finish up The View housing development, the proposed 50-unit apartment complex that would go in the place of the Verizon building being demolished in downtown Downey.

City attorneys all over California aren’t sure exactly how to deal with the confusion caused by the court case.

“Because there is uncertainty, we’re doing it to cover ourselves,” Downey City Attorney Yvette Abich Garcia said.

The proposed change would not give Downey authority to make major changes or create new redevelopment areas, Abich Garcia said.

“It really just allows us to keep the status quo,” she said.

Downey has two redevelopment areas, one in downtown and in the industrial area near Woodruff Avenue.

As a policy, redevelopment has caused controversy among those who follow public governance. Critics call it a slush fund that acts as a subsidy to rich developers at the cost of schools and county programs. It also has been criticized for being too abstract for the public to understand or follow.

Backers say it is one of just a few tools that give local agencies power to change a city’s character.




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