Winding Down the City’s Redevelopment Agency

In December 2011, the California Supreme Court ruled that the elimination of redevelopment agencies (RDAs) throughout the State was constitutional. As the City looks at the end of its own agency, we sat down to interview Vyto Adomaitis, Director of Public Safety and Neighborhood Services (formerly the Director of the Redevelopment Agency for the City of Goleta).

Tell us about how redevelopment agencies came about.
Vyto: Redevelopment agencies were established to help local governments revitalize their communities. Goleta’s RDA was created in 1998 by the County of Santa Barbara with the adoption of the Old Town Revitalization Plan (the “Plan”). Upon City incorporation in 2002, the City of Goleta assumed responsibility for its implementation. The Plan is focused on improving infrastructure, developing affordable housing, strengthening and rehabilitating neighborhoods and supporting economic development.

Why did the governor and the legislature move to eliminate RDAs?
Vyto: They believed that it would bring an influx of cash to relieve the State’s coffers when, in fact, it eliminates the best tool the State and cities have for building infrastructure improvements, creating and sustaining affordable housing and creating and retaining jobs. California desperately needs to keep finding ways to create jobs and stimulate local economies—redevelopment agencies were once one of the best local tools to fulfill such laudable goals.

What does this mean for Goleta?
Vyto: The loss of redevelopment is a big blow to Goleta. Our agency was on the cusp of making  significant improvements to our Old Town area. We will no longer receive about $3 million annually to fund projects to improve and enhance the RDA area. Although redevelopment as we know it goes away, the needs and challenges of Old Town remain.

What programs and projects will this affect?
Vyto: The City will no longer be able to offer housing rehabilitation or storefront facade improvement grants. RDAs once served as California’s 2nd largest source of funding for affordable housing after the federal government. Without this vital source of funds for affordable housing, the ability to meet the City’s housing goals—particularly in Old Town—becomes all-the-more difficult. Plans for Old Town beautification and projects, such as the Hollister Redesign, will be put on hold indefinitely or until an alternate funding source becomes available.

Is the San Jose Creek Project in jeopardy?
Vyto: No, the San Jose Creek Project is not in jeopardy as funds have been secured, contracts executed and construction is now underway. The Ekwill and Fowler Road Projects, the design of a new park in Old Town (on Kellogg Avenue) and the Hollister Avenue Bridge Replacement project will also continue to move forward because the funding for these projects come from different funding sources.

However, construction of the new park may be more challenging due to the loss of redevelopment funding. Moreover, securing funding for Hollister Avenue Redesign will also prove challenging given that the City’s main source for that project will no longer be available.

What happens over the next few months?
Vyto: In January 2012, the City assumed the role of Successor Agency both for housing and non-housing functions needed to wind down the affairs of the former Redevelopment Agency for the City of Goleta. Over the next several months, the Successor Agency will continue working with the County Auditor and the State to fully implement the functions of this new entity.