Supervisors Lock Up Redevelopment For Unincorporated Areas

By Steven Tavares

The Lorenzo in its heyday. $9 million
in RDA money approved by the BOS
will help with its restoration.

Although late to redevelopment grab bag in full-effect statewide, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved securing over $128 million in public improvement projects for its unincorporated areas.
A vast majority of the projects are centered in the districts of Supervisors Nate Miley and Wilma Chan in the areas of Castro Valley, San Lorenzo and unincorporated San Leandro. Of the $67.3 million in projects, which were formally recommending by citizen advisory committees and dubbed tier I, nearly one-third is dedicated to the proposed $22 million Cherryland Community Center. Another $20 million is allotted for continuing phases of two patches of streetscape improvements on East 14th Street/Mission Boulevard.

Other projects securing funding include improvements to the intersection at 163rd Avenue, acquisition of land at San Lorenzo Village, shared parking lots on Castro Valley Boulevard, funding for 20 acres of land for open public space at Fairmont Park and construction of the Cherryland fire station and clinic.

The package does not include funding for commercial development or affordable housing and less than half of the projects have yet to have been significantly vetted by a public process.

The board of supervisors showed support for funding the various proposals in tier I, but Supervisor Nadia Lockyer was hesitant to support the less sketched out projects in tier II encompassing over $60.8 million in projects. “It think it’s prudent that we wait until we see what happens at the state level because we are obligating ourselves right now,” said Lockyer.

At one point, Lockyer assumed Tuesday’s agenda item for approving the redevelopment agreement also including issuing tax allocation bonds to back the projects. Many local governments across the state, including Fremont locally, have recently entered the bond market. “Is it wise?” asked Lockyer until she was corrected by Eileen Dalton, the county’s redevelopment director, that the agreement only obligated the county to fund the list of projects. Dalton said discussing tax bonds may be an issue brought later to the board.

Most of the proposals included in tier II are extensions of projects in the first tier excluding $19.8 million for streetscape improvements on Castro Valley Boulevard and $13.2 for Hesperian Boulevard. Chan noted the vacant Lorenzo Theater, which the county purchased and recently allocated $1 million for weatherization of the historic building on Hesperian, is an example of funding that will eventually save the county money. “If we don’t do anything,” Chan said, “it becomes worthless.”

Similar to other local governments there is significant uncertainty whether any of the various funding mechanisms will be accepted by the Legislature. Gov. Jerry Brown’s Jan. 10 budget proposal caught the state off guard calling by for the end of redevelopment agencies and reorganizing how taxes are distributed to municipalities. “We don’t even know if this agreement will hold up,” admitted Dalton. “Whether or not this public agreement will remain in force, should the board act today, we brought it to you to give you the option,” said Richard Winnie, counsel for the county.

The supervisors were quick to defend the use redevelopment money to spur economic development and job creation in the unincorporated areas. Miley said successful projects like the new Castro Valley Library and improvements to Castro Valley Boulevard along with undergrounding of utilities would have otherwise never been funded. In many cases, said Chan, redevelopment is the only avenue for the unincorporated areas to secure money for projects “This is not to say others have misused the money,” said Chan, “but I think the money in our county has gone to good use.”

In possibly a knock to Santa Clara County, which is attempting to secure redevelopment funding for a sprawling football stadium to house the San Francisco 49ers, Miley said. “We haven’t use it for sports teams and other things. It’s all been very appropriate and it has provided jobs and brought about elimination of blight.”