At one of the recent City Council meetings the subject of the church site owned by the City came up. After years of allowing it to be vandalized and left vacant, suddenly the topic of what to do with the apparently millions of dollars accumulated by our CRA has finally "found" a use. To tear down one of the oldest, and what should be considered an historic structure, and use those funds before the state can reclaim them. The building was built by the original founders of this town, and because of this deserves to be maintained and used as it was originally intended to be used, as a house of God.
I now know why the urgency of tearing it down and using those CRA monies. Governor Brown wants to defund the CRA and use those monies to support our schools and support our vital services such as the fire, police departments and emergency services that so many depend upon.
The money that is now in the CRA fund should be used to pay down the infrastructure bonds that we owe. To me those bonds were pure and simply a way to pay for increased water capacity for the now dead DSP. To me a City like Sierra Madre has none of the real "blight" for which the CRA was created, and has served only as a mechanism to support developers and City Councils that use the funding as a political perk.
We as a town have been used and abused by those proponents on past city councils. This so-called "free" money is not "free," it comes from our property taxes. We should be the ones deciding how best to spend this money, not a City government desperate to spend that money on useless projects such as the Church demolition.
Please support those who are funding the coming lawsuit against the City to put an end to the irresponsible behavior of those people on the Council. Make a donation to their fund. Enough is enough.
This sudden mad rush to spend CRA cash on unneeded and regressive building projects is hardly unique to Sierra Madre. On the latimes.com site the situation is described this way:
California cities race to shield funds from the state - As Jerry Brown seeks to kill redevelopment agencies, officials move to protect the groups' money. They see a raid by Sacramento, while the state says the funds are needed to protect vital services ... The move is an attempted end-run around Brown's proposal to scrap redevelopment and allow school districts, counties and the state to take the billions in property tax dollars the agencies now collect to improve blighted areas. Brown predicted that the move would save the state $1.7 billion in the next fiscal year and send much more money back to school districts and counties in years to come. The redevelopment agencies take in about $5 billion each year.
I guess it could be called an unintended consequence if this move by Brown should end up triggering a whole new wave of strip malls and car lots. Oh, and Church demolitions.
At a League of California Cities event called to discuss just this issue, Jerry Brown laid it out in clear and unmistakable language. And though the LCC crowd was not pleased, those who do not make a living spending the publics' tax money on things such as "transportation oriented development" and "car marts" should be elated. Here is how Governor Brown's thoughts are relayed on the SFGate.com site:
Jerry Brown calls redevelopment agencies futile - "If we don't do redevelopment, then what do we do, what do we take? Do we take more from universities? Do we cut deeper into public schools that have been cut year after year?" Brown told the group, some of whose members displayed posters and buttons opposing his plan. "I think we have to, all of us, rise above our own particular perspective, get out of the comfort zones and try to think of California first."
Can the development crowd and the politicians they control actually rise above their own petty interests and put the interests of the people of California first? Very doubtful. They'd sooner tear down a Church. And it is for those people who are madly rushing to spend every dime of our property tax funded CRA money that Jerry Brown had the following warning. Here is how SFGate.com puts it:
Brown also said "there's some legal question" on whether the funds approved are for "valid redevelopment projects," though he did not elaborate.
Seems to me that any city attempting to "mad dog" its CRA funds into specious projects such as the one our own Don Watts describes above might find themselves in Court facing a very unhappy Governor. And if you think Jerry Brown wouldn't really do something like that, I suggest you put in a call to the folks from the City of Pleasanton.
The LA Weekly Article on High Density Development in Los Angeles
This one is about as good as it can possibly get, and it clearly shows that we are not the only ones concerned about the SB375-style redevelopment madness that has gripped City Planning departments and complicit City Councils everywhere. Entitled L.A.'s Church Of Our Holy Density - Villaraigosa's Crusade Embraces Crowded Living And Lost Privacy As A Moral Duty (that is the print title, the web version is named differently), it just utterly demolishes the "save the world" development pretensions that we have been hearing from blitzkrieg faux greenies such as John Buchanan and Joe Mosca.
My favorite paragraph from the article is the following. It describes the kind of DSP-style redevelopment projects being are being pushed for here:
" ... people have historically refused to behave the way planners want them to. The 4,000 or so Hollywood residents who have packed into the 2,686 fashionable new housing units build by the time of the market crash in 2008 - many of them located above retail spaces - have jammed the narrow streets and freeway ramps with cars. Only a small minority use Hollywood's subway and bus lines, despite City Hall's glowing talk about "transit oriented development."
And would you believe that Villaraigosa and his cronies actually attempted to enact massive changes to the way planning is done in Los Angeles with absolutely no input or involvement whatsoever from the public? Fortunately the Courts stepped in and put an end to that one.
You can access the article here.