CARSON — City officials hope redevelopment plans involving nearly a quarter of Carson can proceed smoothly now that the city has won another court battle with Los Angeles County.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Norman R. Dowds ruled last week that Carson acted legally last year when it added 1,000 acres to its redevelopment Project Area No. 1. The addition is on the western edge of the city along the San Diego freeway.
When a city designates a redevelopment area, the county and other agencies continue to get property tax revenue at the rate that existed before the redevelopment process began. Additional revenue generated by increased property values goes to the city's redevelopment agency, usually to pay off bonds issued to improve the area.
The county had filed a lawsuit challenging Carson's action on several grounds. County officials argued that the redevelopment would displace a substantial number of residents and that the city had failed to create a citizens committee to deal with displacement concerns.
County attorneys also argued that the proposed project area was not blighted and that sufficient evidence of blight had not been presented; that the redevelopment project would have a severe financial impact on the county, and that one Carson City Council member was ineligible to vote on redevelopment issues because of a conflict of interest.
The county said Mayor Kay Calas owned property in the redevelopment area. However, it was shown that the mayor owned no property in that area.
Carson's attorney, Michael Abbott, said that no more than seven people would be displaced and that the city provided enough evidence that the area was blighted. He also denied that the county would be hurt by the city's action or that there was a conflict of interest.
The city won a similar dispute over another redevelopment area in October.
"Judge Dowds applied general and well-rounded principles of redevelopment law to facts presented by Carson," Abbott said. "If the county does not file for appeal within the time allotted, the (Carson) Redevelopment Agency will be allowed to issue tax increment municipal bonds."
Judge Dowds' written ruling is expected to be issued by mid-January. County officials will have 60 days after that to file an appeal. The county Board of Supervisors will decide whether to appeal, said Paula Snyder, senior deputy county counsel.
"The judge applied review standards he felt applicable," Snyder said. "However, I feel that the appellate court would see the case differently."
The City Council, which acts as the redevelopment agency, has not decided on specific redevelopment priorities. Councilwoman Vera Robles DeWitt plans to push for an overpass to carry Del Amo Boulevard over the San Diego Freeway and improve east-west traffic flow in the city.
Councilman Walter Egan said thatthe city should develop a long-range plan and that the Del Amo extension to Main Street would be too costly to do immediately.
Redevelopment projects could generate $185 million in tax revenue over 40 years, according to an environmental impact report prepared for the city by Arroyo Group Inc., a Pasadena consultant firm. The city's redevelopment area covers 3,000 acres in four project areas, about 23% of the city.
Abbott said years of undesirable usage of the area--"by that I mean, trash dumps, junk yards and storage facilities for scrap metal"--before Carson became a city created the need for redevelopment.
"The area has good development potential," Abbott said. "In the city's viewpoint, potential cannot be recognized until some problems are taken care of. And that involves redevelopment."
Abbott said Dowds' ruling does not set a precedent for other redevelopment disputes. The county has similar lawsuits pending against Inglewood, Rancho Palos Verdes and Hidden Hills.
DeWitt said she regrets the legal battle but is pleased with the court's decision. "The decision says that if you meet the criteria set by the (state) Redevelopment Act, you can't be intimidated by the county. The court affirmed what Carson is doing. Now the city can start moving forward."
Since litigation proceedings appear to be over, Egan said council members are free to support a request by residents of the Rancho Dominguez area that it be annexed to Carson. City officials had feared that annexing the 780-acre community of 1,876 residents could complicate the redevelopment dispute with the county.