The La Canada Flintridge City Council is considering forming a community redevelopment agency to finance extensive improvements along Foothill Boulevard, the city's main thoroughfare.
The City Council on Monday directed the city's staff to study how a redevelopment agency could be implemented and how much money it might generate.
The council also formally approved a design to revitalize Foothill that calls for installation of pedestrian walkways, landscaping, street lights and more parking. City officials estimate the design plan will cost $3 million to $5 million.
Councilman John W. Hastings said a redevelopment agency "offers the best long-term potential" for financing the project.
Declaring an area a redevelopment zone allows cities to take over land through eminent domain and sell it to developers.
But City Manager Don Otterman said La Canada Flintridge has no plans to buy property, condemn buildings or encourage large developers to move into the city.
May Face County Opposition
Otterman said that a redevelopment zone in La Canada Flintridge may run into opposition from Los Angeles County, which has in the past protested that some cities create questionable projects that take properties off the county's tax rolls.
Also, to qualify as a redevelopment project, an area must be declared blighted, and affluent La Canada Flintridge may have a hard time convincing county officials it suffers from blight. However, other affluent cities have overcome this obstacle, including Hidden Hills and Thousand Oaks.
Typically, under a redevelopment plan, property taxes within a project area are frozen at the time the project is formed. As new construction takes place and values increase, the agency is eligible to receive all of the increased property taxes. The additional money must be reinvested in the project or used to buy more land for redevelopment.
Instead, Otterman said, the city will probably designate all commercial property along Foothill as redevelopment land and use funds generated by the agency to finance the boulevard's revitalization. He said the commercial property along Foothill has a total appraised value of about $42 million.
Several members of the La Canada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce, including Vice President Chris Valente, said this week that they support the idea of a redevelopment agency but want to work closely with the city on any prospective plans.
Fear of Condemnation
"The word redevelopment is not going to go over well in this city," said Valente, who said he fears that businesses along Foothill will oppose the project out of fear that the city may condemn their properties.
However, some business owners along Foothill, including Larry Cardinal, who owns Loma Realty, said that forming a redevelopment agency could help business by providing money to clean up the boulevard and make it more attractive to shoppers.
"If you have a nice commercial area that you're proud of, people are going to support it," Cardinal said.
La Canada Flintridge has for several years grappled with the problem of declining business along Foothill and the need to upgrade retail stores to attract local customers.
As an alternative to forming a redevelopment agency, the council also asked its staff to research the possibility of forming special assessment districts to pay for improvements. City officials say that would involve levying a special tax on commercial and residential properties that would benefit from the renovation.
This week, as the first step in its long-term revitalization, the City Council authorized its staff to seek bids on renovating two short stretches of Foothill. One, on the city's east side, runs between Commonwealth and Oakwood avenues. The other, on the west side, runs from Laeta Lane to Castle Road and would be improved in conjunction with a longstanding plan to put in sewers along Foothill between Palm Drive and Briggs Avenue.