Well, it was nice while it lasted. In 2011 Gov. Jerry Brown abolished the hundreds of redevelopment agencies in the state, and for four years property owners did not have to fear that an unaccountable local agency would abuse its eminent domain powers to take their property and give it to a politically connected developer for his private gain. Now, regrettably, the governor has reversed course by signing Assembly Bill 2, which will usher in the return of redevelopment agencies under the friendlier-sounding name “Community Revitalization and Investment Authorities.”
The new law strips away the few protections property owners had under the old redevelopment law, such as the elimination of a blight study, which required at least some objective evidence and documentation of blight in an area targeted for redevelopment.
Under AB2, properties may be redeveloped if, for 80 percent of the redevelopment area, the annual median income is less than 80 percent of the statewide median, and other conditions are met, such as: The unemployment rate is at least 3 percentage points higher than the statewide rate, the crime rate is at least 5 percentage points higher than the statewide rate, and municipal infrastructure, such as streets, sidewalks and parks, is “deteriorated.”
But as the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public-interest law firm that has fought numerous instances of eminent domain abuse, including the infamous Kelo v. City of New London Supreme Court case in 2005, notes: “These criteria punish property owners for things they are powerless to change: unemployment, crime and poor infrastructure. Furthermore, the bill would allow, and actually incentivizes CRIAs to target the most vulnerable populations: those with lower incomes and fewer resources to fight to keep what they have worked so hard to own.”
Research cited by the Legislative Analyst’s Office showed redevelopment agencies do not create any net economic benefit but, at best, merely shift development from one part of the state to another, and that most of the growth that occurs in such areas would have happened with or without RDAs.
Redevelopment agencies were notorious for their corruption, cronyism, mounting debts and abuses of property rights. Property owners in California should brace for more of the same – and then some – from the new Community Revitalization and Investment Authorities.