Legislature Passes Bill that Would Return $15 Million in Redevelopment Funding to WeHo

Great Hall / Long Hall (Photo by J. Mark, 2013)
Great Hall / Long Hall (Photo by J. Mark, 2013)

The California Legislature last night passed a bill that will allow the City of West Hollywood to use $15 million in redevelopment agency money that the state had demanded be relinquished to help solve California’s debt problems.

The bill, which is expected to be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, was brought forward by state Assemblymember Richard Bloom, who represents the 50th District, which includes West Hollywood.

Richard Bloom, California State Assembly
Richard Bloom

The $15 million that West Hollywood would receive includes $5.65 million for affordable housing and $9.25 million for improvements to Plummer Park. The state also has agreed to relinquish to the city a parking lot on Santa Monica Boulevard and Spaulding valued at $2.5 million that had been owned by the redevelopment agency.

The legislature’s passage of the bill comes after extensive negotiation with Gov. Brown’s office, which gives its supporters confidence that Brown will sign it. Last year Brown vetoed a bill proposed by Bloom that would have returned redevelopment agency money to local cities and asked the state Department of Finance and his staff to work with the legislature to resolve problems he saw with it.

City Manager Paul Arevalo praised Bloom for his efforts over the past few years to resolve the issue. “Without his energy and focus on it, it never would have happened,” Arevalo said.

Redevelopment agencies were established to help local governments secure funding for projects. By declaring an area suitable for redevelopment, the share of property tax revenue that went to schools and other local agencies in the area was frozen and increases in that revenue were diverted to the local redevelopment agency. West Hollywood had hoped to use $14 million in redevelopment agency funds to finance major renovations to Plummer Park along with $27 million the agency netted in issuing bonds in March 2011. The state’s decision in 2011 to freeze the redevelopment agencies also resulted in a ban on West Hollywood’s use of those bond revenues.

Arevalo said the compromise that likely will result in Brown’s signing the law passed yesterday isn’t perfect. But, he said, “we are capturing close to 50 percent of the bonds. We are securing the parking lot on Santa Monica Boulevard. It’s a fair deal.” He also noted that interest on the bonds issued in March 2011 is being paid by the county and that the bonds will be repaid in 2021.

Renewed access to the revenue intended for Plummer Park and building housing for low- and moderate-income people is lightly to rekindle the debate over plans for Plummer Park. One of the most controversial element of a previous plan was the demolition of Great Hall/Long Hall, the conjoined buildings in the center of the park built during the Great Depression by the Works Progress Administration.

City manager Paul Arevalo
Paul Arevalo

Mayor Lindsey Horvath said she intends to make sure the community is engaged in any discussions about the park’s future. “What I’ve heard from the community is that people want to be engaged in the conversation about what’s happening there. I haven’t heard that people don’t want anything to occur at Plummer Park,” she said. “My intention and I believe the city’s intention is to make sure we have engagement.”

Arevalo said use of the money set aside for housing will be determined by the projects presented to or developed by the city. The city has a partnership with the West Hollywood Community Housing Corp., which has been in a tight financial situation, and has moved money from its general fund to help the WHCHC. Arevalo said some of the redevelopment agency housing money can be used to repay the general fund for those allocations.

West Hollywood is one of about 50 cities that will benefit from Bloom’s bill if the governor signs it. The city has been engaged in a long process of contesting the application to West Hollywood projects of the state’s decision to dissolve the redevelopment agencies and has been lobbying the legislature to support the current legislation.

Arevalo called out John Leonard of the city’s Department of Finance and Technology Services for playing “the critical role in drafting the language and working with Assemblymember Bloom and the Governor’s office to craft a compromise.” He also noted the assistance of Hernan Molina, a senior management analyst and Helyne Meshar, the city’s Sacramento lobbyist.

“Mayor Horvath has been all over the political discussion and helped get the votes at the 11th hour,” he said. Indeed, Horvath told WEHOville that she was contacting legislators she knew last night to secure their support for Bloom’s bill.

“I am so proud of our team. Let’s hope the Governor signs the bill so we can advance our efforts here in West Hollywood!” Arevalo said in a message to City Council members.

  1. LOL,”Brad”:

    A building “filled with urine” and old ladies with big mouths selling their support? Are you Donald Trump? Why don’t you start a petition and see if you get “the new eastside” on board for your vision and match the 3000+ signatures of Protect Plummer Park?

    No, seriously, I’d like to hear more about your idea for that added parking lot, please elaborate!

  2. Why can’t have someone have an opinion regarding the future of Plummer Park without being so offensive with a personal “old ladies” attack?

  3. Brad, why tear down old buildings so they can build new ones? It would be less expensive to reuse the old buildings. And if they insist on building a parking structure do it where the current parking lot is at only. Lets not make the same mistake they made in West Hollywood Park and build it underground. It’s park, not some monument to the City Council.

  4. Add a parking lot! Tear down that old building that divides the park and is filled with urine and let’s create a park for the future. Its not right that some old ladies who want to stop growth all over sell their support to council members in exchange for keeping an old park old because they have the biggest mouths on the street. The new park needs to meet the needs of the new eastside.

  5. A sad tragedy. The CA Redevelopment Program was created to help poor inner city urban areas that had declined and had no resources to improved lower that standard conditions for blighted areas.

    WEHO is the least “blighted” or in need of money to help restore an area no other developers are willing or would want to invest.

    WEHO is some of the most desirable property in the LA BASIN and has only been inhibited from growth for the last 25 years due to the zoning restrictions.

    in 2011 the city coucil managed to change the zoning, and the results we now see.

    The money is supposed to be like “seed” money to incentivise otherwise non-profitable redevelopment.

    Instead, the developers (one of the largest in the US) is joining with weho city to get funds meant for impoverished parts of the city, and the developers, along with the zoning changes of 2011, are getting “incentives” from the redevelopment funds, so they can build, bigger, taller, more units, less set backs …. in exchange FOR THE DEVELOPER paying for and building low income housing units, new parking, new green planting, LEED enegy, and others.

    But now the city of weho, and now the Redevelopment Agency are footing the bill for the above housing, parking, greenery …. and the private developers get to build more and bigger projects, skirting their obligation to pay for and build the above city benefits (like low income units …. which should be build within the expensive mega construction projects).

    Say what you like about Jerry Brown, but he turned California’s Crash around in a few years to now again, the state of CA being on its own, the world’s 7th largest economy.

    He cut the skimming of state funds via the Redevelopment Agency. Smart Governor, but weak compared to the money of the developers.

  6. I’m all for a better and smarter plan that actually improves and renovates Plummer Park.

    Mr Bloom needs to be commended for working so hard to help blighted communities like West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica secure millions more of tax payer dollars to come up with projects we wouldn’t be able to afford on our own.

  7. When is the city moving forward with the rest of West Hollywood Park? Seems the wheels are turning ever so slowly. Also, WEHO claims to be so animal friendly yet only one very dinky off leash dog park exists (and there’s not even a separate area for small dogs).

  8. @Mike Dolan where are the new market rate apartments? I would like to have one. But the new ones on La Brea are double the market rate. $3,300 for a one bedroom is just, too much. Does anyone know how much a one bedroom in the Domain and Avalon Bay will be? How do you get on the list for the inclusionary housing? I heard all the lists already have thousands of people on them and are closed. Does anyone know?

  9. There has been such hard work and dedication to bring the best possible experience for community’s Plummer Park. It is with hope that Gov. Brown will sign and make available funds to revitalize and renew our largest park, Plummer Park. This is a new beginning for todays park users and those of tomorrow with a park that meets the needs of our community through open park space, remodeled Fiesta Hall and a safer park that has clear and open sight-lines.

    The funds for affordable housing is also in line with our core values and General Plan and will aid in future affordable housing projects. Another objective hopefully to be meet. With WHCHC and these funds, we can hope to add another affordable housing project for the most vulnerable and in need of reasonable, affordable housing. WHCHC has given our community so many affordable housing projects and helped people to achieve a quality of life that made this City so desirable to everyone of all socio-economic levels.

    A fresh start to strengthen our objectives to open Plummer Park and maximize the useability of all our community parks. The potential is in sight again. Parks that meet todays needs, more affordable housing and a better West Hollywood for tomorrow that continues her legacy of being a great place to live, work, and play. Those of us who are so fortunate to call West Hollywood home, can welcome those who so deeply desire to live here and experience our new parks and our eclectic mixture of affordable housing, inclusionary housing, market rate rentals, condo’s and homes.

    Thank you to Richard Bloom, Paul Arevalo and all that have patiently waited for redevelopment agency monies to come back. Allowing for the bonds to be unfrozen and West Hollywood back on the full progressive, creative thrusts she is so well known for.

    Gov. Brown I ask for your support. West Hollywood is a gem in California and the Nation. Please allow these funds back to West Hollywood while we continue to our work to maintain the Great state of California and the shinning City of West Hollywood.

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