Saturday, May 26 , 2018, 12:28 am | Fair 58º


Margaret Connell: Don’t Let State Siphon Off Redevelopment Funds for Old Town Goleta

RDA programs are often the economic engines of local governments and communities

With the passage of Proposition 22 in November 2010, California cities believed they were now protected from years of state level raids on local funds. But where there is a will there is a way!

Gov. Jerry Brown, in his proposed budget, wants everyone, except K-12 schools and public safety, to feel the pain as he tries to put California’s finances back in order. Rather than just skimming funds from redevelopment agencies (RDA) as has been tried in previous years, he proposes to eliminate them altogether. The property taxes now going to upgrade blighted areas would revert to the counties and schools and provide about $1.7 billion in one-time relief to the state budget.

What does this mean to Goleta? Our redevelopment area covers most of Old Town from Patterson Avenue to Fairview Avenue and some acreage north and west of the Santa Barbara Airport. Plans are under way to improve the downtown and provide much needed affordable housing. But the key is first to control the threat of flooding from San Jose Creek. Old Town residents remember the 1995 floods that inundated Hollister Avenue and many houses in the area. After rewriting the plans several times, first to provide for a fish passage and then to replace the deteriorating bridge over Hollister Avenue, the San Jose Creek flood-control project is finally set to move forward this summer. But this $24 million project depends on a $14 million contribution from the RDA over the next two years. This basic infrastructure upgrade will be in jeopardy if Brown’s plan is adopted.

Following the flood-control project, plans are under way for the redesign of Hollister Avenue to make it more attractive and safer for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists. This would enhance the business climate in Old Town and the quality of life for residents. We expected to fund this with $8 million from the RDA, so this, too, may be put on hold or effectively canceled if RDA funds are unavailable.

These are not fancy, decorative projects. They are necessary to achieve the goal of a thriving, vibrant Old Town in Goleta. We are not talking about changing its unique character, which is valued by the business owners and residents. The RDA has helped fund $777,000 in storefront improvements that have brightened up the Hollister corridor, and added some new bus shelters. We need the infrastructure upgrades to move Old Town to the next level.

Affordable housing is an important piece of improving Old Town and 20 percent of RDA funding is dedicated to this purpose. Sumida Gardens, with 34 out of 200 rental units in the affordable range, was only possible with RDA housing funds. Throughout California, RDAs are the major source of funding for affordable housing.

Goleta planned to fund these Old Town projects with phased annual payments. In the past, the RDA had considered selling bonds, which would be repaid over a period of years from annual tax increment funds. Such repayments would be protected under Brown’s proposal. We may well have to look at this possibility again, even though bonding in the present economic climate is not the preferred option.

Recently, Brown told the League of California Cities, “If we don’t do redevelopment, then what do we take? ... Do we start cutting the public schools, which have been cut year after year?” These are hard choices. Perhaps we can find a middle ground, even a temporary solution, rather than a draconian elimination of this economic engine for local government.

With the significant impacts to our community, we cannot afford to be silent. If you share my concern about the elimination of RDAs, contact Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, at 805.564.1649 and state Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks, at 805.965.0862. Our state representatives will have the opportunity to review and vote on legislation in the near future. You can also click here for updated information on this important issue.

Margaret Connell is serving her second term as mayor of Goleta.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >