The invaluable California Planning and Development Report reports on a new bill reaching Governor Brown’s desk that will somewhat make up for the loss of redevelopment agencies in the state. With the self-induced Supreme Court suicide of redevelopment agencies in 2011, California local governments were left without a financing mechanism to pay for things like infrastructure in prime infill neighborhoods. Now SB 628 would allow voters in infrastructure financing districts, which are already allowed by law, to approve infrastructure bonds with only 55% instead of two-thirds majority, to be repaid through future increases in tax revenue from these districts.
In addition, the districts no longer need any approval of the voters within them to be formed. Instead, they just need the one vote to approve the bonds. They will now be called “enhanced infrastructure finance districts.”
One potential dark cloud: the League of Cities’ chief lobbyist thinks the districts are more likely to be created where “it’s less populated, or on the edge of town.” Not the description of the infill areas where California needs more development and investment. In addition, housing advocates are concerned the new districts will encourage displacement of low-income residents and gentrification.
I would prefer that this kind of district be limited to infill areas or neighborhoods consistent with the regional transportation plans under SB 375 (Steinberg, 2008). We certainly don’t want it to become a tool to enable more sprawl. But we desperately need more infrastructure investment in California, especially for infill areas. So my hope is this bill will be a positive step forward, assuming the governor signs it.