The Future of West Altadena Redevelopment is Still Up in the Air

Though the state budget that has been passed eliminates funding for redevelopment agencies, LA County redevelopment officials are still waiting for figures from the state's Finance Department on what it will cost the county to keep the agency

By Justin Chapman, Altadena Patch, 7/12/2011

Despite Governor Jerry Brown's proposals to cut back funding for local redevelopment, a plan which could affect Altadena's ability to improve the Lincoln Corridor area, something of a compromise was reached when the state legislature approved the budget June 28 and there are still options for keeping redevelopment agencies intact.
From the standpoint of those redevelopment agencies, however, it wasn't much of a compromise.  The budget plan calls for redevelopment agencies to stay intact on the condition that "their establishing cities or counties agree to (come up with their share of) $1.7 billion in payments to K‑12 schools."
In other words, city and county governments can keep redevelopment agencies as long as they pay for it out of their own pockets.
The primary purpose of redevelopment agencies is to improve local economies by spurring commercial development in local towns.  In Altadena's case, redevelopment funds helped to build the Lincoln Crossing commercial development in West Altadena.
But many have also been critical of the misuse of redevelopment funds, as well as prioritizing commercial development over funding schools and other governmental functions.
So far, the California Redevelopment Association has stated that at least 50 of its statewide agencies have already said they cannot afford to make the payments that would keep them in existence.

Redevelopment in L.A. County
LA County's Community Development Commission, which services Altadena, is not yet one of those agencies because they are still waiting on the official figures from the California Department of Finance explaining what it would cost to keep the agency intact, according to Corde Carrillo, the CDC's Director of Economic Development and Redevelopment.
"We're going to wait for the actual numbers to come in from the Department of Finance before we would feel comfortable in preparing our informational memorandum to the Board of Supervisors," said Carrillo. "We expect to get those numbers by August 1. That's when we would have sufficient information to prepare a recommendation to our board."

What it Means for Altadena
It's not clear what all these actions will mean for the West Altadena Project Area Committee (WAPAC), the publicly-funded Altadena board which makes recommendations to the county on how to use redevelopment funds in the Lincoln Corridor.
After the county's CDC receives the amounts it would have to commit to in order to maintain redevelopment agencies in August, the CDC will prepare a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, who will have the final say on whether or not the county can afford to pay its portion to the state in order to keep its RDA running. Furthermore, the process could last until November 1, when the county's ordinance to the state is due.
If the supervisors decide that the county cannot afford to pay its share and the CDC is dismantled, there would be no need for the WAPAC, and West Altadena would have one less advisory body looking out for its business interests.
The area that WAPAC covers makes up 80 acres centered around the intersection of Lincoln and Woodbury. The agency was adopted in 1986, and its main achievement was bringing in the Lincoln Crossing development, which transformed a blighted area into a successful shopping development (though it has ). A map of the redevelopment project area is attached to this article.

Legal Backlash
Both Carrillo and Bill Johnson, the CDC's representative to WAPAC, said that state lawyers for the legislature have told lawmakers before the budget was passed that elimination of redevelopment agencies could violate the California constitution. Some county's are already preparing for litigation against the state, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
"The lawyers in the state legislature have issued an opinion that this transfer of local funds, because that's what tax increment is, to the state would violate the state constitution," said Johnson. "Meaning it would be illegal to do that. But the legislature doesn't always listen to their lawyers."

Altadena Without Redevelopment
So what would all this mean for West Altadena if WAPAC gets dismantled?
"There would be one less advisory body to speak for the redevelopment area community," said Carrillo. "The Town Council is responsible for all of Altadena, so they would maybe look at the West Altadena area, and there might be members of them to speak about West Altadena in an advisory capacity. If the community wanted to, they could ask for another type of organization to speak for them or the business community in particular. It's certainly a possibility to have a privately funded entity to replace WAPAC."
Allan Wasserman, a member of the Altadena Town Council and that advisory body's representative on WAPAC, is also supportive of a privately funded entity with similar goals as WAPAC if it goes under.
"West Altadena would probably try to recreate a private form of it," said Wasserman. "Something that's not state sanctioned, but an independent committee, probably financed by private individuals. They could reemerge themselves as a private entity that stays involved with the community."
WAPAC was formed because West Altadena requested a PAC when the county first formed a redevelopment area. Supervisor Michael Antonovich was supportive of it. PACs have to be constituted within redevelopment law. Their members are elected and they cover business owners, property owners, retail, homeowners, and other neighborhood associations.
"We provide administrative services for WAPAC," explained Carrillo. "We're a county support; we don't sit on WAPAC. The committee is made up of community leaders and has its own bylaws."