Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider sent out strongly worded letters to state Assembly members this week, urging them to oppose a bill that would force the city to sell the parking lots and structures owned by the now-defunct city Redevelopment Agency.
In downtown Santa Barbara, RDA funds were used to renovate the two commuter lots and four multilevel structures that have become a central part of the business and tourism community.
Schneider’s letters were sent to state Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks, Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, who is the chair of the Assembly budget subcommittee that recently discussed the bill.
“I cannot express to you in strong enough terms how much we object to this newly inserted provision,” she wrote.
When the redevelopment agencies were dissolved, oversight boards were given the power to decide what expenses are allowed using leftover funds and how to dispose of RDA assets and properties.
Government assets, such as buildings constructed and used for governmental purposes, would be transferred to the appropriate public agency, but parking structures or lots are not included in that category, according to the revised language.
Millions of dollars were invested in parking infrastructure, designed to make downtown a vital business community that is pedestrian-friendly. Forcing the structures to be sold to a private entity “could be detrimental to the long-term economic vitality of downtown and upend over 50 years of sound community planning.”
The city and League of California Cities are pushing for different “cleanup bills” that attempt to clarify the RDA dissolution process, ones that keep some affordable housing funds and protect loan agreements between cities and former RDAs.
“We should not let the end of redevelopment be an opportunity to go back and unravel the gains we have established over the years in revitalizing our downtowns,” Schneider wrote.
The state Legislature has a summer deadline to pass a budget, and hasn’t made any final decisions on redevelopment-related cleanup bills.