(October 20, 2004) -- LB City Councilmembers voted 6-3 (Colonna, Gabelich, Lerch dissenting) to hold a hearing to decide whether to dissolve LB's non-elected Redevelopment Agency Board...and have the City Council take over its duties.
The Council didn't set a hearing date...but it could occur by the next Council meeting on November 9.
The Council vote sets the stage for a major change in decision-making on Redevelopment in Long Beach -- including who controls millions of dollars public money and property uses affecting nearly half the city.
LB's current Redevelopment Agency board has put nearly half of Long Beach (including much of downtown) into various Redevelopment project areas. Whether this has helped eliminate blight, or worsened matters, is increasingly debated. Critics of Redevelopment call it corporate welfare for wealthy developers; supporters call it a tool to replace blight with renewal.
LB is one of only three CA cities that has delegated all of its Redevelopment Agency powers to a separate, appointed Agency Board. In all of the other 385 CA cities with active Redevelopment Agencies, the elected City Council serves as the Agency Board.
The issue began reaching a critical mass locally when several issues converged. Some at City Hall indicated a willingness to merge LB's currently separate Redevelopment project areas. Activists in some of the Redevelopment areas viewed this as a device to raid their area's money and divert it elsewhere.
Mayor O'Neill then created a firestorm when she tried to block appointees to the Redevelopment Agency governing board who had been nominated by grassroots Redevelopment project area committees. The Mayor said she was seeking greater diversity on the RDA board, but many speculated that the Mayor was trying to pack the Board with a majority that would support a merger. The Mayor's action led to an extraordinarily acrimonious Council meeting...in which a Council majority ultimately voted against the Mayor.
Meanwhile, city management sought (and received) permission from the Redevelopment Agency Board to spend money that had been accumulated to remove blight in NLB instead to fund a General Fund capital project (a North Division police station in Scherer Park). NLB's Redevelopment Project Area Committee reluctantly backed the move...but there was lasting damage, including fears that City Hall is now motivated to raid Redevelopment anti-blight money to fund other projects.
In August 2004, City Manager Jerry Miller publicly urged the City Council to consider making itself the governing board of LB's Redevelopment Agency...and some activists view a Council take-over of Redevelopment as accomplishing a merger by other means...giving the Council access to the Redevelopment money.
LB's Redevelopment Agency Board had agreed to fund an "independent study" of Redevelopment in LB...but it angered some activists by balking at the inclusion of a forensic or other formal audit of Redevelopment projects. With a possible Council take-over of Redevelopment pending, the future of the "independent study" is now uncertain.