The clock winds down

As the clock ticks toward the Feb. 1 deadline for dismantling redevelopment agencies, officials in the tri-city area are taking different approaches — from playing wait-and-see to pressing local lawmakers to reach a legislative compromise that would keep their agencies operating, at least in some capacity.

Even the deadline for starting dissolution appears to be a moving target as lawmakers in Sacramento discuss changing the role of local redevelopment or extending the end date, giving city officials more time to figure out how to shut down their redevelopment agencies in a structured and cost-efficient manner.

Scott Ochoa, Glendale’s city manager, is pushing lawmakers to take it a step further and reinstate the agencies, even if it means cities have to pay the state for them to continue — although that would require a new law, since the state Supreme Court ruled last month that a similar arrangement was unlawful.

Ochoa, along with a few city staff members and elected officials, plan to meet individually with Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) and Assembly members Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) and Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) in the coming weeks to plead their case.

Glendale City Council members have even encouraged residents to contact their local representatives, going so far as to include their phone numbers and email addresses on a PowerPoint slide.

In Burbank, Mayor Jess Talamantes, Vice-Mayor Dave Golonski and other city staff officials will meet with local lawmakers during a regularly scheduled meeting before Feb. 1, according to City Manager Michael Flad.

But unlike Ochoa, Flad said he isn’t launching a concerted effort to set up individual meetings.

Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck said he’s confident state lawmakers will move forward with some type of redevelopment arrangement.

“I believe they will try to identify a way in which redevelopment agencies are reinstated,” he said. “I find it hard to believe the Legislature wanted to abolish redevelopment.”

Despite the last-ditch efforts, Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian said he didn’t think much could be done to save redevelopment.

“It’s going to be another fait accompli,” he said.

And for the most part, local lawmakers offer little in the way of taking up the cause of preserving the status quo.

Gatto said he’s open to discussion, but thinks redevelopment agencies, which have been around since the 1970s, have become government subsidies for developers.

Liu said she would support an alternative to redevelopment agencies, but would prefer it focus on job creation and affordable housing, and not on retail projects.

Portantino was perhaps the most sympathetic, saying he wished state lawmakers would have taken more care when agreeing to halt redevelopment agencies.

He was the only Democrat to not vote for his party’s budget last year, in part because it stopped funding for redevelopment agencies. He also didn’t support trailer legislation that set in motion the shutdown of the agencies.

“I think it’s unfortunate that we took the hammer approach rather than the scalpel,” he said.

If redevelopment agencies are reinstated in some form, Portantino said, cities should monitor their success more closely by gauging how many jobs they create and how much economic activity they stimulate.

Ochoa said he doesn’t think lawmakers intended for redevelopment agencies to be completely dissolved when they voted for the state budget.

“If they had, there would have been an alternative,” he said.

Staff writers Brittany Levine and Adolfo Flores contributed to this story.

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