California cities hurt by the state’s dissolution of redevelopment agencies in 2011 may get some relief, thanks in part to a new bill authored by Congressman Eric Swalwell.
The Restarting Local Economies Act of 2013 would make it easier for cities to receive federal funding for local redevelopment projects via the Economic Development Administration’s Economic Adjustment Assistance program, according to Swalwell’s office.
“The state's closure of redevelopment agencies has effectively stalled local economic development across the East Bay. With that funding taken away by the State of California, too much land remains undeveloped and potential jobs sit on the sidelines,” Swalwell said, announcing the legislation at a press conference in Fremont Tuesday morning.
Swalwell, who was joined by Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison and Union City Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci, made the announcement in front of an empty lot at 37141 Post St. in Fremont, a site that was slated for a mixed-use development with housing and retail. The closure of Fremont’s redevelopment agency has delayed the project.
“Redevelopment was the best tool for a city like Fremont to create economic development, build affordable housing, and put people to work,” Harrison said. “The loss of redevelopment hurts our city now and in the future, and anything we can do to replace redevelopment should be considered by the Congress.”
Fremont isn’t alone.
Nearly 400 redevelopment agencies across the state were dissolved by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011, with the agencies’ collective $1.7 billion used to help close California’s budget gap.
The controversial move, which Swalwell called a “mistake,” left cities without a funding source for local development projects.
According to Swalwell, the closure of redevelopment agencies amounted to a loss of $50 million in the 15th Congressional District, which includes Fremont, Union City, Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon and unincorporated Alameda County.
Union City was among the hardest hit by the closure of its redevelopment agency, slowing down development of its Station District and cutting funding for key programs. In January of this year, Union City filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Finance in an effort to keep redevelopments funds for existing programs and projects.
“The area around the Union City BART station is planned for high-density transit-oriented development, which furthers state and regional goals to create more sustainable communities. We welcome the opportunity to compete for federal grant dollars to complete this important project,” Dutra-Vernaci said.
Currently, the Economic Development Administration’s Economic Adjustment Assistance program allows communities to apply for competitive grants for redevelopment projects, if they can show that they face an economic challenge, among other criteria. Under Swalwell’s legislation, the closure of a government entity, such as a redevelopment agency, would qualify as an economic challenge, making it easier for municipalities to compete for federal funds.
The legislation would also allow cities that lost its redevelopment agency to compete for larger grants, even up to 100 percent of a project’s cost, Swalwell said.
“This legislation solves a problem facing our cities and represents a commonsense approach to grow our local economies, create jobs, and move the East Bay forward,” Swalwell said.