SACRAMENTO — To Lawndale city officials, redevelopment spells potential trouble for a low-income housing project.
The city wants to help a private developer build 90 low- and moderate-income apartments for the elderly and subsidize rents by using a financing tool reserved for redevelopment agencies.
But there's one hitch--semantics. City officials say they do not want to set up a redevelopment agency to oversee the proposal for fear that the term redevelopment would incorrectly conjure up a picture of urban blight and spark concern among residents that the city would condemn property and bulldoze houses.
So the city is seeking passage of a bill to allow the City Council, acting as the housing authority, to employ the financing device for the apartments without mentioning the word redevelopment .
'What's in a Name'
The measure, by Assemblyman Frank Vicencia (D-Bellflower), cleared the Assembly last month and was approved 4-0 Wednesday by the Senate Local Government Committee and sent to the Appropriations Committee.
Nonetheless, some committee members expressed reservations about the bill, which has been referred to around the Capitol as the "what's-in-a-name" proposal.
"I don't think you should be able to get around redevelopment," said Sen. Milton Marks (D-San Francisco), who also questioned whether Lawndale has sought the bill to skirt a potential political problem.
Lawndale City Manager Paul J. Philips said this would be the city's first redevelopment project. He acknowledged that redevelopment has become a rallying cry elsewhere for community activists who view land condemnation for urban renewal as an infringement on property owners' rights.
Philips said some "people feel it (redevelopment) could get out of control. By people I mean community activists." He said the apartment project has not stirred opposition.
Only One Project
Vicencia said the city's aim is to use the redevelopment financing law for the single apartment project.
But committee consultant Peter Detwiler said the measure is broader and would apply to other Lawndale projects. So the committee fashioned an amendment to tailor the bill merely for the apartments for the elderly.
The apartments would be built on vacant land now owned by the state Department of Transportation, which purchased it for a widening of the San Diego Freeway that did not take place. Because the state owns the land, no property taxes are paid. One piece is near Inglewood Boulevard and the freeway. The other is near Hawthorne Boulevard next to the freeway.
Under the apartment plan, Philips said the city would use a redevelopment tool known as tax increment financing to subsidize rents. The city figures that the assessed value of the land will rise when the apartments are built and the taxes will rise. That increment--expected to be about $30,000 a year--would be channeled into subsidizing the apartment rents.
Philips said the city has turned to a private developer for help because it does not have the staff to plan, build and operate an apartment building. Philips said that the city is negotiating with developer Daniel Kim of Lawndale.
Philips said Kim would buy the land for the same $670,000 the city is paying Caltrans for the property. In exchange, the city would agree to relax such building requirements as height limits and density regulations.
Other cities in the South Bay do not shy away from calling redevelopment projects by their correct name. For example, next door in Hawthorne the city plans a redevelopment project to clear 20 acres at Rosecrans Boulevard west of the San Diego Freeway and build a hotel, offices and restaurants.
Hawthorne City Manager R. Kenneth Jue said, "I guess in some cities it (redevelopment) still has a negative connotation. But it's a matter of the way you present it to the people."