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New law snuffs redevelopment agencies 

The California Supreme Court on Dec. 29 upheld a controversial new law that requires some 400 communities across the state to dissolve their local redevelopment agencies.

The law is expected to inject some $1.7 billion into the state treasury, but it comes at the expense of hundreds of low-income housing and job-creating projects.

The decision will affect local projects in Atascadero, Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Paso Robles, and Pismo Beach, each of which has a redevelopment agency that uses a portion of property tax revenue to fund special revitalization projects in areas deemed blighted.

Atascadero city officials came out with a scathing news release on the decision on Dec. 29, pointing out that redevelopment resources have been used to fund projects such as the Downtown Revitalization Plan, the Sunken Gardens renovation, improvements to the Charles Paddock Zoo, streetscape improvements, financing the new Galaxy Theater, restaurant and business stimulus programs, and affordable housing projects, all in the last 10 years.

Jim Lewis, assistant executive director of Atascadero’s redevelopment agency and the assistant city manager, said the city’s redevelopment agency and projects have been a major economic boon, both for businesses and as a job generator.

“The state has killed the golden goose that helped create new jobs,” Lewis said in the news release. “It’s incredible they would do this at the same time they are giving legislative aides a raise. It’s become that absurd.”

City councilwoman and chairperson of Atascadero’s redevelopment agency Roberta Fonzi said in the news release, “The RDA is out of business as of today. We now have no ability to assist businesses in these hard economic times.”

City officials said it’s unclear how individual projects can move forward, but for the time being, all projects funded by redevelopment money are “on hold.” They noted that a number of California cities with similar agencies have filed lawsuits to block the action.

In the release, Mayor Bob Kelley, Councilwoman Fonzi, and Assistant City Manager Lewis encouraged residents to contact state legislators and demand a solution.

“Senator [Sam] Blakeslee and Representative [Katcho] Achadjian have been champions for us,” Kelley said in the release. “We need to let them know we need their help more than ever, and we need to send the message to other legislators that this crisis must be resolved.”

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