Council Forms Successor to Redevelopment Agency

By James Ott

City leaders are fighting to maintain some control over redevelopment in Antioch, despite the State’s mostly successful attempt at eliminating California redevelopment agencies. City Council members voted unanimously on January 24 to become the “successor housing agency” to the now defunct Antioch Development Agency.

The successor agency is really only a skeletal husk of the city’s previous development agency. Whereas the now defunct Antioch Development Agency provided the city most of its resources for economic development, infrastructure improvements, elimination of blight and affordable housing projects, the successor agency will not be allowed any funds to create any of those things unless they find some other funding source.

That’s because the new successor agency will not be allowed to keep any funds. The former redevelopment agency’s fund balance will be transferred to the county where it will be redistributed to schools and special districts. According to Community Development Director Tina Wehrmeister, the only real function the successor agency will have at this point is administrative control over outstanding loans and obligations.

The council also voted to re-adopt an amended enforceable payment schedule to continue to make payments on existing projects such as Antioch’s Vista Diablo low-income housing. Back in August of 2011, the Antioch Redevelopment Agency adopted an enforceable payment schedule so that the city could continue to meet its financial obligations during the challenge in the Supreme Court.

As a result of the dissolution act that followed the Supreme Court’s decision, the city is now required to review the payment schedule, make any necessary changes and then re-adopt it. Wehrmeister said that this will allow the city after February 1 to pay only those payments from the former redevelopment agency that are listed in the new payment schedule.

But even making redevelopment payments may not be so easy because the payment schedule has to be reviewed by an oversight committee, the state department of finance and the auditor controller.

“Any of the obligations listed could be called into question or potentially be revoked by any of those that review the list of obligations,” said Wehrmeister.

The city sought outside counsel to help review the new legislation because it was complicated and unclear. Despite the lack of clarity in the law, the outside counsel found enough clear reasons to become the successor agency and adopt the payment schedule.

Wehrmeister said, for example, that the council believes that it’s possible the city can keep future loan repayments and recoup administrative costs because the legislation says that successor agencies are allowed an “administrative cost allowance.” But she also warns that because the law is unclear on some issues the city could take a financial hit to its general fund if future laws happen to deny the city those sources of income.

Despite the risk, city staff felt that the benefits of potentially being able to help those in need outweighed the risks.

“These really are uncharted waters. And not only are they uncharted, but they were unanticipated when the governor and the legislature acted,“ said Council Member Gary Agopian. “The vast uncertainty this creates for the 149 people that live at Vista Diablo, to the other 102,000 people that live in the community who’ve come to rely on these things.”

Some hope on the horizon may come in the form of proposed state legislation that would keep the redevelopment fund balances with the successor agencies as well as other potentially helpful bills, according to Wehrmeister. So far however, no final action by the state legislation has been taken.

Also at the meeting:

A State Route 4 Widening Project update was given by Susan Miller at the council meeting. “This is what we’re calling our billion dollar corridor,” said Miller. “It’s an extremely large project – about $500 million dollars (each) between the freeway improvements and eBART.”

Miller said that the massive project is divided into five construction “packages” or segments as it’s being built along Highway 4. These are the contractors’ current schedules:

  • Loveridge segment: June 2011 -December 2013.
  • Somersville segment: March 2011 – September 2013.
  • Segment 2: the contract has been awarded, some construction beginning now but the main project starts in March 2012 – March 2015.
  • Segment 3a or the A Street/Lone Tree Segment: July 2012 – July 2015.
  • Segment 3b or the Hillcrest Segment: Late 2012 – Fall 2015.

A final landscaping package will be completed after all the segments have been constructed, although the landscape plans are still about a year away.

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