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The Legislature’s recent decision to dissolve local redevelopment agencies throughout the state is currently being considered by the California Supreme Court, leaving local governments in limbo as we wait to learn the fate of the program.
Critics claim that redevelopment agencies are not serving as the engines of local economic and job growth that they were intended to be, and that their funds could be better utilized for local services. However, in many low-income communities throughout San Diego, redevelopment is successfully forming public/private partnerships to accomplish what the market cannot – ranging from the creation of new commercial opportunities to the production of affordable housing.
The most recent example is the newly completed Vista Grande Apartments project in Southeastern San Diego. This project embodies redevelopment at its best – it eliminated blight to support our local economy while providing safe, healthy, affordable housing for our residents.
The project – a partnership between the Southeastern Economic Development Corp., the San Diego Housing Commission, and Wakeland Housing and Development Corp., used redevelopment funds to purchase and rehabilitate a seriously dilapidated 48-unit complex in the city’s Fourth Council District neighborhood of Valencia Park. For years, the property was unsafe, tenants were living in deplorable conditions and the police were frequently called to the property for drug and gang-related activity.
Now, the community has been transformed. Units have been remodeled and equipped with energy-saving features. A community center has been added, where residents will be able to access financial literacy, job preparation, youth, and health and wellness programs. Residents are connected to the opportunities technology brings through the provision of free Internet in their units. Gates and fences have been repaired, and improved lighting has been added – resulting in a safer environment for not just the property but for its neighbors. And, perhaps most importantly, the property will stay affordable to lower-income families for the next 55 years – guaranteeing homes for some of our neediest residents.
Additionally, the project had an immediate impact on the local economy. At our request, the project sought to hire locally – roofing, landscaping, concrete and masonry, painting and security businesses – in addition to hiring many area workers.
Regardless of what happens at the Supreme Court, it is unlikely that local redevelopment will survive without undergoing some changes. This could be a good thing – we need to ensure that redevelopment is being used to serve its original purpose to eliminate blight and create safe, healthy, affordable and sustainable communities.
Our hope is that we can work together to reform the program to ensure that it is being used to better our communities with projects like Vista Grande. If we don’t go this route – and we get rid of redevelopment entirely – it is far too likely that these kinds of projects will no longer be possible.
Young is president of the San Diego City Council and represents the 4th Council District, including the communities from Oak Park to Paradise Hills and from Mt. Hope to Lomita Village. Groomes is president of the Southeastern Economic Development Corp.