As Gov. Jerry Brown tried to close the State’s gaping $26.6 billion budget shortfall, he proposed eliminating the nearly 400 local redevelopment agencies (also known as RDAs) across California, among a host of other moves.
While estimated to generate an unrealistic $1.7 billion next fiscal year for the State, the RDA proposal would create a budget hole of roughly 10% for Suisun City. It also would end the single most important tool the City has used to transform itself into high quality community in which to live, raise a family and visit.
While City leaders continue to work with State officials about alternate budget proposals (see “Gov. Brown vs. RDA”), it’s important to remember just how Suisun City became a redevelopment success story.
SUISUN CITY’S STORY
In 1987, the San Francisco Chronicle labeled Suisun City as the worst city in the Bay Area. At that point, the City was spending upwards of 70% of its entire police budget on the Crescent neighborhood, and the historic waterfront was charitably considered an industrial backwater with little to no public access.
Though the City Council had designated the waterfront as a redevelopment zone, the unflattering attention kicked the local effort into high gear. The historic waterfront would once again become an economic engine for Suisun City.
Using tools of redevelopment first created in the 1940s, Suisun City
- Invested $65 million in blight elimination and infrastructure, including the entire Marina and Promenade
- Replaced dilapidated housing units with modern homes
- Created 326 affordable housing units
- Preserved and refurbished the Train Station
- Constructed the Nelson Community Center
- Established the Lambrecht Sports Complex to replace Todd Park’s ball fields
- Constructed the Civic Center
- The crime rate has dropped 60% since redevelopment started
- Money created by the increased property values was provided to the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District to help refurbish or rebuild every school campus in Suisun City
- New business ventures that return sales taxes to the community have launched and been sustained by loyal customers
- The Suisun City Library was built thanks to a redevelopment loan that filled a financing gap
Redevelopment is the State’s best method of stimulating and expanding the economy and creating 300,000 construction jobs annually. For cities, like Suisun City, it’s the only way to expand the local economy, providing both goods and services to residents, and capturing sales and other taxes necessary to pay for core City services.
To protect this tool, Suisun City joined with local businesses, chambers of commerce, economic development commissions, residents, the League of California Cities and California Redevelopment Association to oppose Gov. Brown’s proposal to eliminate RDA. The Redevelopment Association and League went further to develop and support an alternative to keep Redevelopment intact while providing nearly $1 billion to schools, which indirectly assists the State budget.
The effort has paid off so far. Several reform proposals are moving forward to address public accountability and other concerns, but most importantly Gov. Brown’s proposal to eliminate redevelopment FAILED by one vote in the State Assembly.
We will continue to work with legislators on solutions that allow the State to meet its obligations, supports local economic development and helps other local agencies meet their goals.
To stay updated on our efforts, follow us on Twitter.
Published in Suisun City Discovery Newsletter - April 2011