Thursday, February 22 , 2018, 11:43 am | Fair 58º


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Francisco Takes California Lawmakers to Task Over Redevelopment Funds

City councilman says Santa Barbara would be forced to pay $7 million or lose its agency money under two Assembly bills he calls unconstitutional

Santa Barbara City Councilman Dale Francisco slammed Sacramento legislators on Tuesday for holding California cities’ redevelopment money for ransom to balance the state budget.

He called out Assemblyman Das Williams in particular for supporting two laws that the councilman believes are unconstitutional. Assembly Bill X1 26 dissolved 425 redevelopment agencies around the state, and AB X1 27 allowed cities to reinstate them for a fee.

Francisco said Santa Barbara would have to pay a fee of $7 million by Jan. 15 or lose its redevelopment money.

“These kinds of projects are absolutely vital both for our local economy and who we are as a city,” Francisco said during a news conference at City Hall.

He said the counties and cities in Williams’ 35th District would lose $19 million in redevelopment funding next year if the laws stand.

The California Supreme Court ruled last Thursday to suspend implementation of the two laws and agreed to decide on their constitutionality before the Jan. 15 deadline.

Williams did not respond to Noozhawk’s requests for comment on Tuesday, but field representative James Joyce said the assemblyman voted in support of the bills because the redevelopment money, although valuable, should be going to schools.

“Although Das does agree, yes Santa Barbara’s Redevelopment Agency is being handled very well,” Joyce said. “If you look at the whole pie, they are taking away from what our schools have.”

Proposition 22, approved by California voters in 2010, reduced or eliminated the state’s authority to redirect redevelopment agency property taxes to any other local government. Francisco said the state has circumvented Proposition 22 by passing the two new laws.

Joyce said Williams does not believe that the laws violate Proposition 22.

“I’m confident that the Supreme Court is going to rule in our favor,” Francisco said. “I think when they look at this they will agree this is just another game by the Legislature to get around responsible budgeting.”

Before the Legislature voted on the issue, Mayor Helene Schneider and Francisco tried unsuccessfully to persuade Williams to support redevelopment funding.

“He was completely unsympathetic,” Francisco said.

Redevelopment funds have been critical to past development projects, including Paseo Nuevo and the recent seismic upgrade to Fire Station One.

Francisco noted that Williams supported such projects during his time on the City Council. Joyce countered that if every Assembly member voted only for budget plans that diverted no money from their district, a budget would never be passed.

Francisco said about 85 percent of the city’s redevelopment projects are good, but that some aren’t, such as bulb-outs. He said the council’s debate usually boils down to the public benefit and how much it costs.

“There are projects that are beneficial but could be done for a lot less,” he said.

Noozhawk intern Daniel Langhorne can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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