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    News in Depth

    • Special Nighttime Meeting Approaches Independent Study of Redevelopment in LB
    • Board Votes 7-0 To OK Amended Scope of Work For RFP On Study, Amended To Include Former Los Altos Project...And Alternative of Eliminating or Reducing Redevelopment
    • Several Activists Urge Adding Audit To Scope of Work; Board Votes For RFP Scope of Work That Doesn't Include Audit
    • Some South Wrigley Residents Urge Redevelopment To Expand To Include Them

    (February 21, 2004) -- presents below detailed coverage of a significant meeting of LB's non-elected Redevelopment Agency (RDA) Board that dealt with the subject of an independent study of Redevelopment in Long Beach.

    Nearly half of the city of LB is within a designated "Redevelopment area," created for the stated purpose of eliminating "blight"...and within which certain development decision making powers have been granted to the Redevelopment Agency.

    In many other cities, the Redevelopment Agency governing board is comprised of elected City Council members. In LB, the Redevelopment Agency board consists of Mayor-appointed, Council-approved boardmembers.

    The Redevelopment Agency Board's meetings are open to the public but are usually held on early weekday mornings. Like most LB boards and commissions, they are not televised.

    RDA meeting Feb 19/04After controversy last year over a proposal to merge and expand LB's redevelopment project areas, RDA agreed to simultaneously conduct a study of Redevelopment in LB.

    On February 19, 2004, the RDA's governing Board held a special evening meeting (its web site page said "to encourage public participation related to the Independent Study") in the City Council chamber from 6:00-8:00 p.m. to consider the scope of work for a Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking firms/consultants to do the study.

    About thirty members of the public attended the meeting, which opened with public comment on non-agendized items.

    RDA meeting Feb 19/04LB writer Bry Myown told the Board:

    The only thing about Redevelopment that I want to see studied is whether Redevelopment should be eliminated and reduced...I do not believe I have seen 'reduction and elimination' [as part of the scope of work]...It is time for both the city and the state to have a serious conversation about whether we are losing general fund income that could fund services and whether we are putting it into the hands of private developers. And it is well past time to have a conversation about if there is any example anywhere in California of a redevelopment agency that ever wound down a project area's activities because it accomplished its goals. I am aware of none.

    Following public comment, Boardmember Burks responded to Ms. Myown's comments by indicating he believed "studying the alternative of eliminating or reducing Redevelopment is a good thing to take a look at..." and recommended it be added to the list of items for study (and it was).

    RDA meeting Feb 19/04Jane Kelleher was also among the public speakers. She said the West Project Area Committee (West PAC) urged that the study "not be made into a marketing tool for redevelopment."

    Following public comment on non-agenda items, Chair Jane Netherton stressed that the study was not meant to be a "PR piece," and said:

    We believed, talking initially about what Redevelopment is supposed to be, an education process -- there are a lot of people out there that have no idea what Redevelopment can and can't do -- we thought that was important. That's not as a PR, it's just information, it's an education...[I]t truly is not being done as a PR piece...I've talked to each of the Boardmembers. That's [PR] not what we're here about. There's a lot of time being spent just to be a PR piece. We want something to be done.

    A number of veteran activists urged that an audit be included in the RFP's scope of work for the Redevelopment study.

    Boardmember Baker remarked that he was impressed by written material in support of an audit submitted by Lewis Lester. Last year, Mr. Lester founded Long Beach Citizens Against Redevelopment Merger and Expansion and currently heads the group. Boardmember Baker stunned some in the room by inviting Mr. Lester to come to the podium to explain his position.

    RDA meeting, Feb. 19/04Mr. Lester said, "We need to know that our money is not being wasted, that you're not intentionally turning our communities into shanty towns. Every time I walk out of my door, I feel more and more like I'm in South Africa, not Long Beach, California. And it's because the agency refuses to look at its programs."

    Mr. Lester added:

    We don't have any idea what this Board has done with regard to small and minority businesses in redevelopment project areas. You know why? Cause you haven't done an audit. We don't know how many real jobs you've created for young kids in this community on redevelopment projects. You know why? Cause you haven't done an audit. We don't know how many contracts you've renewed without ever putting them out to bid. You know why? Cause you haven't done an audit. Your scope of work does not go there. And until you go there, it's going to be really hard to build trust and accountability.

    Following the colloquy, Boardmember Rick Meghiddo said he wanted to "step aside from details" and favored taking a "forward oriented" approach.

    Boardmember Thomas Fields said that at the time he joined the board, "the question was merger or not to merge, and that was the question, and that's what I see the study really in essence is about...And you can talk about statistics and audits, and those are admirable things to do, but if you have an audit, and that audit comes back and tells you you've done things poorly, what does that accomplish in terms of what you do in the future?" Fields said he wasn't "necessarily opposed to an audit" but did not favor an internal audit (which he interpreted the City of Miami as having done) that he said could lead to "finger pointing."

    Vice Chair John Gooding said he didn't "really want to get hung up on the word audit and that's not something that I necessarily feel that this Board needs to do at this point in time." Gooding said he wanted to "get the ball rolling" and move ahead with essentially the scope of work as outlined by staff "with the option of possibly taking a look after we get some feedback from the various consultants as to what specific opportunities there may be that they would recommend that we take a look at."

    Boardmember Gooding added, "I agree with Tom [Fields]. I think I'm looking for this to be a more forward looking document than necessarily a getting into doing nothing but rehashing the failures of the past, although that's obviously part of the equation. And more importantly I think, just the, and I don't want to have this interpreted as public relations, but I think to understand why the agency is formed, why we continue to operate, is a legitimate and fair question, and I think the vast majority of people really don't understand that, so I think that's good for everyone to hear..."

    RDA meeting Feb 19/04Later in the proceedings, Mr. Lester testified on his own time...and unveiled a Monopoly game box at the podium, saying that if Boardmembers failed to include an independent, external audit, "you are playing Monopoly and your scope of work is nothing but instructions, and we are nothing but pawns."

    Mr. Lester then presented the Monopoly game to RDA staff, saying it was a gift.

    He also criticized the proposed scope of work for failing to include selection criteria...and urged it be amended to do so.

    RDA meeting, Feb. 19/04Earlier in the meeting during public comment, LB activist Laurie Angel also called for an audit.

    Referring to an email she'd previously submitted to the agency, Ms. Angel said, "I hadn't been on the audit bandwagon before, but I am now. I think a performance audit will give you the basis of pursuing more specific issues within a study."

    Other speakers sounded different themes. A number of south Wrigley residents urged expanding LB's Redevelopment area to include them. One resident said her neighborhood had beautiful, well-built homes but she plans to move when her children get older because "there is nothing there that I would want him to grow up around." The south Wrigley residents said they believed expanding Redevelopment into their neighborhood would help them.

    NLB businesswoman Linda Ivers said LB was replete with previous studies and plans undertaken at public time and expense...but many of their recommendations had never been implemented.

    RDA meeting, Feb. 19/04NLB 9th district Councilman Val Lerch urged that the study include the former Los Altos redevelopment project.

    The RDA Board agreed.

    When public testimony ended and the item returned for Board action, no Boardmember made a motion to include an audit. Selection criteria were also absent.

    The Board's vote was 7-0 to move forward with the scope of work essentially as proposed by staff and modified during the meeting to add and/or delete certain items. Staff indicated it will prepare a finalized document for Boardmembers' review.

    [update] The text is posted on RDA's enhanced independent study web page to which we post a link below. The agency's independent study web page drew praise during the meeting even from frequent agency critic Traci Wilson-Kleekamp.

    Following the vote, Boardmember Meghiddo referred to the absence of selection criteria and said such criteria should be included. Staff indicated it could work with the Board to develop selection criteria, possibly as soon as the Board's March 8 meeting. Chair Netherton indicated this made sense since the RFP was not yet ready for public release...and shortly thereafter the meeting was adjourned.

    The RFP scope of work text approved by the Board (amended to include additions and deletions indicated by the Board at its meeting) is posted on the RDA's robust and useful web site (

    For redundancy, we have separately posted the document on our own server (Redevelopment Study RFP Scope of Work).

    As indicated above, selection criteria are expected to be discussed at the RDA Board's March 8 meeting...and RDA indicates draft criteria and a list of deliverables will be posted on its independent study web page shortly.

    [Audio coverage of this event was previously sponsored and included from February-June 2004].

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