Fairfield City Manager Sean Quinn, left, City Attorney Greg Stepanicich, with Richards, Watson & Gershon, and lobbyist Anthony Gonsalves of Joe A. Gonsalves & Son, right, talk before the start of the Solano Economic Development Corp. breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn on Thursday morning. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic)
About 150 people attended a Solano Economic Development Corp. breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn. As one speaker noted during the proceedings, redevelopment played a role in establishing that very building.
But California dissolved redevelopment agencies as of Feb. 1. No longer can cities such as Fairfield, Suisun City and Vacaville use the agencies to take future property tax increases from targeted areas to invest back in those areas, helping to attract such businesses as Genentech and spur such development as the Gateway shopping area and Green Valley corporate area.
“I’ve been asked to do eulogies before,” lobbyist Anthony Gonsalves of Joe A. Gonsalves & Son told the crowd. “We usually talk about a friend who passed away. As you know, our friend, known as (redevelopment), was mugged in Sacramento by a greedy gang of thugs who wanted the money.”
Speakers at the Solano EDC meeting talked about efforts to replace redevelopment agencies with other ways to spur economic development. Cities and communities are looking to the state for help, though Gonsalves said they will have to convince Gov. Jerry Brown to sign the proposals into law.
“We truly need your help with Gov. Jerry Brown,” Gonsalves told the gathering.
One bill mentioned at the breakfast is by state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis. It would make it easier for cities to form infrastructure financing districts.
Infrastructure financing districts can divert property tax increase revenues from local agencies, excluding schools, for 30 years to finance such things as roads, sewers and flood control. They are not redevelopment districts — they cannot be used to condemn property or assemble parcels — but they can be used to pay for bonds.
Few cities in California have formed them. Agencies that would otherwise get the taxes must agree to the district’s formation. Plus, citizens must approve the district formation by a two-thirds vote.
Among other things, Wolk’s bill would make the districts easier to form by deleting the vote requirement.
Fairfield City Manager Sean Quinn said after the breakfast that Fairfield has never formed an infrastructure financing district.
“I think they have the possibility of being a tool,” Quinn said. “It’s going to require both the city and county to work together very closely. We’re both going to be giving up property taxes for this district.”
Such a district would have to be for a project that would generate substantial revenues to the city and the county or create a substantial number of jobs, Quinn said. For Fairfield, such a district would apply only to the planned northeast growth area near Peabody Road. Other parts of the city have infrastructure in place, he said.
Fairfield is also hoping for some type of legislation that would allow it to keep at least a portion of the $80 million owed to city coffers from its now-defunct redevelopment agency. Without the repayments, the city faces deep budget cuts.
“There’s not a game-changer right now,” Quinn said. “I think with some language changes, there could be a game-changer in some of that legislation.”
Brown wasn’t at the Solano EDC breakfast to explain why he wanted to get rid of redevelopment agencies and no one defended him. But Brown has addressed the issues on other occasions. He’s said the agencies, while useful, take property tax money from schools, counties and core government functions.
“So it is a matter of hard choices and I come down on the side of those who believe that core functions of government must be funded first,” Brown said last year.
The breakfast also focused on what cities must do to wind down the affairs of their former redevelopment agencies. The law calls for such things as successor agencies and oversight boards.
Greg Stepanicich, who is with Richards, Watson & Gershon and serves as Fairfield’s city attorney, said he’s worked on government issues for 35 years, including in the wake of Proposition 13. Now he’s helping Fairfield comply with the redevelopment dissolution law.
“This is the most complex statute I’ve ever encountered, in terms of trying to understand what it means and how it gets implemented,” he said.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or firstname.lastname@example.org.