State Supreme Court rules redevelopment agencies can go

FRESNO, Calif.

Bigger examples are the apartments and lofts on Fulton and Broadway. The chairman of the City's redevelopment agency, City Council Member Larry Westerlund says redevelopment has brought people back downtown. "Every single housing project that we've seen in the last five years done with the redevelopment agency have been done downtown."

Redevelopment works by giving developers incentives, like low interest loans. The money comes from increased property tax revenue the new development generates. Redevelopment projects in Fresno, like the apartments, and the expansion of Community Regional Medical Center provide the city with about $20 million a year, for additional projects. But Governor Jerry Brown wants that money from Fresno and other cities to deal with the state budget crisis. Cities fought the takeover in court, but lost.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin says it's a real blow to the city. Reached by phone in Southern California, where she's visiting family the Mayor said, "We suffer from the highest concentration of poverty and blight of any other large city in the United States so redevelopment is really a critical tool for us."

The state is now set to seize nearly two billion dollars a year from California cities redevelopment funds. The state's Deputy Director of Finance, H.D. Palmer says most of the money will go to schools. "It's a very important win we believe for K through 12 schools. Because as a result of his K through 12 schools will be getting a billion dollars this year in revenue they otherwise would not have gotten."

But Westerlund says it's likely to mean important, job creating construction and renovation projects aimed at improving the city, will not happen. "If redevelopment agencies actually eliminated and completely done then I think the outlook for Downtown Fresno took a tremendous drop."

The city had been anticipating this for months and took steps to rush some additional projects through, because those already underway can be funded. But the future plans for blighted areas do not look promising.

Developer Reza Assemi told Action News the downtown loft and apartment projects would never have been built without help from the redevelopment agency.

Mayor Swearengin told Action News it's not clear how long the city's redevelopment department will continue operating, since details of just what the ruling means are still being sorted out.

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