Redevelopment zones would be missed

Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to disband local redevelopment agencies in an effort to funnel millions of dollars to Sacramento may just happen if he's successful in framing the political argument. Besides, redevelopment zones don't exactly scream "sexy."

The power of redevelopment zones was passed to local governments as a way to pay for the steep expense of transforming blighted areas that drain public resources into productive sectors. In Glendale, it was used to bring in the Americana at Brand. In Burbank, it transformed the San Fernando Road corridor.

And there's still plenty of potential within these zones left to be tapped. In Burbank alone, the four zones have generated more than $231 million for the city since 1988. If anyone thinks local cash-strapped governments can continue that sort of investment without the redevelopment provisions — in which cities sell bonds against the increased tax base brought on by redeveloped stagnant properties — they're seriously mistaken.

The so-called tax increment is tapped to fund upgrades such as subsidized commercial projects that generate jobs and sales tax income, parks and other infrastructure improvements — all vital brick-and-mortar upgrades that keep cityscapes from falling into the type of stale disrepair that have a chilling effect on officials' ability to attract investment.

Brown certainly has some steep legal hurdles to overcome before redevelopment agencies would be disbanded, not the least of which would be Proposition 22 — the voter-approved measure to protect local governments against raids from Sacramento — and staunch opposition from cities.

But at a time when the political wind is at Brown's back as he wades into the all-important task of closing a projected $28-billion state budget gap, local officials will need to work extra hard in keeping the implications of lost redevelopment power firmly rooted in local political discourse. Otherwise, the public can kiss goodbye a key ability of their cities to improve.

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