As cities and counties around California wonder how the recent court decision to dismantle the more than 60-year-old Redevelopment Agency program will affect their coffers, the City of Goleta finds itself in a particularly perilous place. Since it only incorporated as a city a decade ago, Goleta is just now starting to see the benefits of RDA funding, so the promises of improved business districts and refurbished residential zones that many other jurisdictions enjoyed over the past half-century have been dashed before getting out of the Good Land’s starting gates.
Each year, according to public information officer Valeria Kushnerov, the City of Goleta gets about $3.6 million in RDA funding. After all the various fees and pass-throughs are taken out, the city winds up with about $2.8 million in actual spending cash for redevelopment. Of that, 20 percent of funds are set aside each year for affordable housing. As of June 30, 2011, the RDA funds for affordable housing in the bank total $1.7 million, and city officials do not expect that existing amount to be raided, as the decision only affected general RDA funds.
Most worrisome are the planned changes for Old Town, which surrounds Hollister Avenue between Highway 217 and Fairview Avenue. Moving through the process already are storefront improvements, housing rehabilitation, and capital projects to redesign the neighborhood in order to alleviate traffic, fix sidewalks, and increase parking options. But, said Kushnerov, “All of those projects are dead on arrival because of the decision.”
As to the biggest RDA-funded project in Goleta right now — the occasionally controversial plan to improve San Jose Creek, decrease chances of flooding, and thereby make insurance easier for business to get — Goleta officials hope that it’s protected, as they turned the RDA monies into bonds many months ago, anticipating this state raid on their resources. “We are not gonna speculate on how secure we feel on San Jose Creek,” said Kushnerov, “but the fact is that the contractor is on-site working, the bonds were issued, and the project is moving forward.”
The December 29 California Supreme Court decision effectively passed 2010’s Proposition 22, which eliminated every local Redevelopment Agency and took their funds in order to bring another $1.8 billion to the state each year to pay for education and public safety programs statewide.