The Goleta council voted unanimously Tuesday night for the city to take on the financial responsibilities of its Redevelopment Agency before a Feb. 1 deadline to dissolve imposed by the state Legislature.
The City Council, which has also acted as the Redevelopment Agency board, now will have a chance to recover about $250,000 of the agency’s personnel costs. Still undetermined is the possible sale of the agency’s assets, including the 4-acre plot for a future park on Kellogg Avenue, and how many of the city’s five redevelopment staff members will be laid off.
“The challenges and the needs in Old Town remain even though redevelopment goes away,” Redevelopment Director Vito Adomaitis told the council.
Life after redevelopment agencies remains uncertain for California cities such as Goleta after the state Supreme Court upheld AB1x26, ruling it constitutional for the state Assembly to dissolve redevelopment agencies.
About 400 redevelopment agencies have blossomed across the state since the first were started after World War II to help blighted neighborhoods and build affordable housing, according to Adomaitis. Since being founded 17 years ago, the Goleta Redevelopment Agency had its hands in building the 200-unit Sumida Gardens affordable housing complex to helping business owners revitalize their storefronts.
“Suddenly the state loses its second-biggest tool behind the federal government to provide affordable housing,” Adomaitis said.
Councilman Roger Aceves expressed specific concern that the agency would have to sell a vacant lot slated to be a park for the 5,000 residents of Old Town Goleta.
The city already owns a majority of the stake in the property and could buy the agency out, according to city attorney Tim Giles.
“[Residents] should not fear that they’re going to lose the park that they’ve been looking forward to for so many year,” Councilman Michael Bennett said, driving home Giles’ point.
In addition to the challenges of dissolving the agency, the city is also required by the new state law to found and educate by May 1 an oversight committee with seven members to monitor its handling of redevelopment finances.
Councilwoman Paula Perotte said it has taken her a while to understand how redevelopment agencies work during her first year in office, and that bringing inexperienced members of the committee up to speed would be a challenge.