‘Smart Cities’ reject redevelopment agencies

Lodi-Welcome-Arch, ‘Smart Cities’ reject redevelopment agencies, Archives 1976-2008 Local News & Views
Lodi Welcome Arch

by John Talbot

There are only three medium-sized cities in Northern California that have withstood pressure from a powerful Sacramento lobby, an army of lawyers, consultants, bond brokers and land developers. These three cities – Half Moon Bay, Martinez and Lodi – are “Smart Cities.”

Each has had a small group of citizens willing to fight these big, powerful lobbies. For Martinez, the battle started in the early 1960s and continued until the last election in November 2007. Today, they are still free of a redevelopment agency.

Lodi could soon have a redevelopment project, thereby losing its “Smart City” status. This could happen unless a handful of concerned citizens can collect over 5,000 signatures from registered voters in the next few months. In 2002, this same group of citizens beat back Project Number 1, a similar attempt by the city to “blight” the East Side with a redevelopment project. But the city vowed to bring the plan of redevelopment back and now have proposed a Lodi Community Improvement Project that the city council is expected to adopt on Wednesday, May 28.

The plan defeated in 2002 included over 1,000 acres of Lodi properties and this 2008 scheme will take over 2,000 acres of properties. This means that most of the private property on Lodi’s East Side will be tagged as “blighted.” It includes a large industrial area and, even more importantly, hundreds of modest family homes.

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The proposed project includes the authority for the Redevelopment Agency to acquire real property in the Project Area, but not through eminent domain. The Lodi City Council members are the directors of the Lodi Redevelopment Agency. They wear two hats.

The council members state that they will not take private property or allow unfair competition. However, the City Council can change every two years, but the Lodi Redevelopment Agency will not change.

Of interest is the fact that Lodi’s present city manager is Blair King, the same Blair King who was city manager of Half Moon Bay when the San Mateo County counsel rejected the Half Moon Bay 1998-99 proposed redevelopment plan.

Just down the valley is the Manteca Redevelopment Agency, which made the Lodi News-Sentinel on April 19, 2008. An Arizona-based developer made $1.8 million buying and selling city land in a three month period.

Kitchell Development brokered a deal between Cosco executives and the City of Manteca, which agreed to give Cosco $3.7 million in sales tax rebates if Cosco located in Manteca. “Two months after the City Council OK’d the rebate, Kitchell bought 17 acres of city land on which Cosco was to be built, paying the city $3.6 million on Dec. 7, 2007. On Feb. 29, the developer turned over the same land, untouched, to Cosco for $5.38 million,” the News-Sentinel reported. The deputy city manager cavalierly said the “profits made wasn’t the city’s concern. We didn’t want profits.”

Even more recently, on March 8, 2008, the Pasadena Star News reported that Los Angeles won its lawsuit challenging Glendora Redevelopment Agency’s blighted areas. Judge Robert O’Farrell wrote, “Glendora’s findings of blight are not supported by substantial evidence.” The city voted in 2006 to create a new redevelopment area, called No. 5, and consolidate it with three older redevelopment areas, Nos. 1, 2 and 3.

The blight issues described by the city in area No. 3 and 5, according to the lawsuit, involve sewer problems, buildings not in accordance with the safety code, parking lots lacking handicapped spaces and empty lots where the city says it cannot attract business. It sounds like the Lodi Redevelopment Agency’s description of Lodi’s East Side.

Glendora stands to lose $2 to $3 million a year in redevelopment funds – the incremental tax increase – which would now go to Los Angeles County. It needs the tax base desperately.

For more information or to join the opposition to redevelopment in Lodi, call John Talbot at (209) 369-5120 or email him at john@seelodi.com.