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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It's Official: Bike/Ped Bridge Over RR Tracks Is Dead

Emeryville announces the ten year project known as the South Bayfront Bicycle/Pedestrian Bridge (crossing the rail road tracks between Bay Street and Horton Street) will now not be built.
Emeryville's Redevelopment Agency is featured in today's San Francisco Chronicle:

Cities struggle with ending redevelopment agencies

Families walk over the bridge that crosses Mission Creek, Sunday, January 15, 2012, where new condo buildings have sprung up in the past few years.
Thousands of city workers empty their desks. Offices go dark. Rows of deteriorated buildings may sit untouched.
This is how California's redevelopment program dies.
Six decades ago, redevelopment agencies were formed across the state to revitalize blighted neighborhoods and create low-income housing. By Feb. 1, as a new state law requires, all 400 of them will be gone.
Killing off a multibillion-dollar program is a messy, unprecedented process. The way it unfolds depends on the city - and the day.
On Friday, lawmakers introduced legislation to preserve redevelopment agencies until April 15. Assuming the original deadline stands, however, officials will spend the next two weeks scrambling to close and hand off their final projects.
"These are very difficult times for people," said Tiffany Bohee, San Francisco Redevelopment Agency's interim executive director.
Last summer, the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown agreed to ax redevelopment to help solve the state's multibillion-dollar budget deficit. The agencies annually received about $5 billion, which Brown said should go to education and public safety.
Cities and counties sued. But in December, the California Supreme Court sided with the state and struck down a compromise law that would have allowed the agencies to exist in smaller form.
Redevelopment agencies grew out of federal urban renewal programs and formed in California in 1945. They combat urban blight by purchasing property, renovating commercial areas and developing affordable housing, among other actions. The intent is to encourage the development to include private investors.
When the property values of those areas rise, a portion of the increase in property taxes goes to the agencies. Critics contend redevelopment has strayed from its original mandate, putting taxpayers on the hook for costly projects without oversight.

Impacts will vary

In cities where those funds paid for more than fixing neighborhoods, the pain will be especially acute.
Oakland used nearly $30 million of its redevelopment funds to support salaries in almost a dozen departments, including the City Council, the mayor's office and public works. Without the money, up to 200 city workers will lose their jobs.
In San Francisco, the future of the city's roughly 100 redevelopment workers is uncertain.
Under a proposal pending before the Board of Supervisors, the agency would transfer its debts and obligations to the city. A transition period means workers would stay until the end of March.
"We don't know what staffing level we are going to require to continue the projects, programs and services currently provided by the redevelopment agency," said Christine Falvey, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee's spokeswoman.
At least 1,500 jobs are at risk statewide, according to the California Redevelopment Association.
"It's demoralizing because people who have, for years of their lives, committed themselves to improving communities are seeing their efforts stop short for not very good reasons," said John Shirey, Sacramento's city manager and former executive director of the California Redevelopment Association.
Some cities are shuffling staff into departments such as planning, economic development and administration, said Jim Kennedy, the lobbying group's interim executive director.
He added, "If all the institutional capacity walks out the door and moves on to other career tracks, it's very difficult to achieve anything in the short term, in the next year or two, exactly when California needs it."

A transformation tool

Over the past two decades, redevelopment money has helped Emeryville transform from an industrial wasteland into a thriving retail hub with stars like Best Buy and Ikea along Bay Street.
But as those funds vanish, millions of dollars' worth of planned construction will probably never materialize.
"It's a really huge impact on what Emeryville's done, and what it can do," said Helen Bean, the city's economic development and housing director. Emeryville's redevelopment budget this year was less than $30 million.
At stake, for instance, is a transit center planned for 59th and Horton streets, near the city's Amtrak station. Of its $60 million price tag, $4 million was going to come from redevelopment, Bean said.
Other projects at risk include the planned Emeryville Center for the Arts, whose $12 million budget relied on $8 million in redevelopment money. Then there is the South Bayfront Pedestrian-Bicycle Bridge, which would arch over the railroad tracks near the Bay Street mall.
It would have cost $13 million in redevelopment money, and the city had already spent more than $1 million designing it. But now it won't be built, Bean said.
"It's a key infrastructure project that will just not go forward," she said.
While Emeryville expects to abandon some of its long-term plans, cities can continue with projects that are significantly under way. In San Francisco, for instance, Mission Bay, Hunters Point Shipyard and parts of the Transbay Terminal project can keep going. Under a proposal before the Board of Supervisors, the city would take over low-income housing, local hiring efforts and neighborhood revitalization programs.
But other projects that haven't made substantial progress, such as the planned police substation on Sixth and Mission streets, are in limbo.
State Sen. Alex Padilla's (D-San Fernando Valley) bill to give redevelopment agencies an extra 2 1/2 months would, in his words, "address serious issues resulting from the recent state court's ruling."
Yet even if agencies win the delay, they acknowledge they've already lost.
"There's so much more to do," Bean said.
E-mail Stephanie M. Lee at

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  1. We can thank Governor Brown and the legislature for this. Thanks for eliminating valuable public projects. Thanks for eliminating thousands of jobs. Thanks for limiting the ability of municipalities to build affordable housing. Thanks for needlessly pitting redevelopment agencies and school districts against each other. Thanks for taking money away from our communities. Thanks.

  2. This project has been in the works for a considerable time, connecting the city being part of the general plan. I wonder why the city staff did not set in motion the needed paperwork to prevent this from being axed.

  3. It's good that Emeryville cleaned up a lot of its hazmat - but the total "return on investment" to actual residents was very small. Witness the death of the bike-ped bridge, and the lack of any library in Emeryville. We were going to build an art center when the Bay Area is full of great museums, but we could not serve our elders (who need wifi) or our children (who need those quaint objects called "books") with a library in all those heyday years of redevelopment.

    Who is accountable for the lopsided priorities?

  4. Let me sound off again about the Emeryville Center of Community Life. The ECCL may fall into a "twilight zone" where actual contracts were not signed, where too many contingencies exist for it to move forward with "committed" (and hence safe) former Redevelopment Agency funds.

    It may come down to wrangling with the State, or even a lawsuit, if the City wants to preserve its right to deploy its promised funds to ECCL as part of the joint effort with the School District (which is funded by the bond measure).

    I urge residents who want to see important aspects of the ECCL go forward, to write to Sacramento and urge them to respect the funds the City allocated to the ECCL.

    At the same time I urge the City, the School District, and all residents to re-consider both the scope and function of the ECCL.

    More than ever I think the bond funds should be allocated to a different priority list:

    1. Keep Anna Yates where it is and come up with a plan for any repairs/infrastructure. The location is MUCH better than Emery Secondary for elementary students.

    2. Push AS MUCH AS NECESSARY of the bond funds into rebuilding Emery Secondary. It was a SCHOOL BOND measure, NOT a "rec center" measure.

    3. Put what's left into a LIBRARY. Our first library!

    I think the community can make-do without the full list of other amenities that were scheduled until the economy recovers. It was a nice shopping list, but really always too much too put on a single site even without the shortfall in monies from the assessed-valuation fiasco (reduced bond funds) and now the redevelopment funds disaster.

    And hey, I have a novel idea about saving money.

    Let's leave the school administration in its current bunker style buildings along San Pablo and wait until the economy recovers before we "luxe" them out as was done with City Hall itself. They are quite functional and safe.

    FOR ONCE let's give our students and teachers and the residents the priority they deserve, not the "execs."

    1. If you want real change in the school, make them stop paying people like Marty Procaccio $115k to act as uncredentialed counselor, who has to ask the director of technology to do, or sometimes, how to do his job. Can Jag Lathan, cause she doesnt't have a clue what shes doing, or how to manage people, much less a school. It's only a matter of time till Jag's actions bring a huge lawsuit on the school. If it hasn't happened already. Have the school district stop paying Roy Miller and Hayin Kim to do god knows what. How did that work anyways, Roy needed an assistent, so they hired Hayin, the Hayin needed an assistant so they hired Wendy. Talk about bloat. Although, upon reflection, I suppose they need the help to sell the project to the community.
      Then we have ~4 people in the business office (at times as much as 5) for an $11 million dollar budget? And they still don't seem to know what the hell is going on with the budget and play all kinds of games with the money. My wife handles multiple budgets in academia that size, or even larger, so why do you need 3-4 people doing a terrible job?

    2. Anon. @4:25 p.m - what refreshing honesty! I applaud it. Whether private or public sector, agencies/companies tend to become self-perpetuating institutions that are driven to expand to give jobs to buddies and cronies or occasionally even to the well-qualified (or well -liked!) "members of the same club" because oh woe, if you don't have someone working for you, you are a nobody! If YOUR department is smaller than Mr./Ms. X's department, you must not be getting ahead! Such is human self-aggrandizement.

      In the private sector we occasionally have cataclysmic events that trim down some of this bloat (and "competition" is an on-going force to be reckoned with) but in the public sector ... well in the public sector it is next to impossible to lay-off or fire people, jobs are viewed as entitlement and not as stewardships, and the race is often to the bottom in terms of efficiency. This severe recession (economically)/depression (social impact) is one of the few recessions to actually put public sector employees at some risk.

      Of course instead of capping exec salaries, trimming exec staffing levels, it's better to grind down the teachers ... for heavens sake never touch administrators! And our salaries are COMPETITIVE because we have the surveys to prove it!

      The reason the public schools are afraid of charter schools is they can often deliver better education for each dollar spent. If charter schools fail to do so, they answer to an economic force even stronger than government - the free market - they go out of business.

      I applaud Brian Carver for making an excellent effort to see where the Measure J school bond funds are going. He is asking for RECORDS, for heaven's sake!

      Did anyone notice in the article how much of the Oakland redevelopment money was going to pay ordinary City of Oakland salaries, NOT to rebuild the community?

  5. brian:
    what is your source that the bike/ped bridge is dead? i'm reading the monthly progress reports issued by the city manager, and checks are still being written to pay consultants. i urge all residents, property tax payers, car drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists to attend tonight's council meeting and voice your opposition.

    1. Helen Bean, number two at City Hall and head of economic affairs in Emeryville says of the bridge, " it won't be built. It's a key infrastructure project that will just not go forward" . That sounds definitive: the bridge is dead.