Transfer of power

The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency is gone, but questions remain about how its authority was absorbed by the Mayor's Office

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Mission Bay is among the former redevelopment areas to be managed by a new oversight board
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY MIRISSA NEFF

yael@sfbg.com

Feb. 1 marks the first day that San Francisco and other California cities no longer have redevelopment as a tool for building affordable housing or dealing with urban blight, but questions remain about how the power and functions of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) will now be used.

On Dec. 29, the California Supreme Court upheld the validity of Assembly Bill 26, which dissolved all redevelopment agencies throughout the state and redirected the property tax revenue they accumulated to prevent deep cuts to public schools.

Redevelopment agencies, established in California in 1948, were charged with revitalizing "blighted" areas of cities. There were 400 such agencies throughout California, funded by incremental increases in property taxes within a redevelopment zone. Agencies could borrow against that revenue source to subsidize development projects.

AB 26 mandated that all cities dissolve their redevelopment agencies by Feb. 1 and transfer assets to successor agencies meant to "expeditiously wind down the affairs of the dissolved redevelopment agencies," according the bill's text.

A resolution passed by the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 24 authorized the transfer of SFRA affordable housing assets to the Mayor's Office of Housing (MOH) and its non-housing assets to the city's Department of Administrative Services. It also created a board to oversee the implementation of the SFRA's ongoing projects.

Now, San Francisco is faced with the task of continuing to fund affordable housing projects and other development without the SFRA, and the board's resolution laid out some of the terms for how the city will do that, although much remains to be determined.

Mayor Ed Lee appointed all members of the oversight board, which includes Planning Director John Rahaim; MOH Director Olson Lee; Nadia Sesay, director of the Mayor's Office of Public Finance; and Bob Muscat, director of International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Local 21.

In recent weeks, some groups have raised concerns that these appointees are not representative of the communities impacted by the ongoing redevelopment projects that they will be entrusted with overseeing, and that too much power is concentrated in the Mayor's Office.

"One of our biggest concerns is that the oversight body could be made much more accountable and democratic," said Jeron Browne of People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER)-Bayview. Much of Bayview-Hunters Point is no longer under the authority of the Planning Commission or any regular zoning laws since it was declared a redevelopment project site in 2000.

Sup. Malia Cohen, who represents the area, added an amendment to the board's resolution that would impose term limits on oversight board positions. "I understand that there are a number of concerns that have been raised about the composition of the board. However, given the short time frame and the technical nature of the board and its obligations, I'm very comfortable with these appointees that they will be able to make decisions necessary to make the projects move forward. Additionally, with the inclusion of staggering terms we will be able to ensure that there is ample opportunity to include representation from affected communities," Cohen said at the meeting.

The board also passed an amendment to "clarify that the land use controls granted by the oversight board are consistent with previous land use authority granted by the Board of Supervisors and the redevelopment commission," as a response to concerns that the oversight board will have too much power over land use in project areas.

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