Mullin: It’s time to rethink policies on redevelopment

Debate on eminent domain calls into question structure of 60-year-old agency

As the debate over the use of eminent domain continues in court cases and on the upcoming ballot, Assemblyman Gene Mullin, D-South San Francisco, feels now is the time to see whether city redevelopment agencies are still functioning as designed.

In 1945, California passed the Redevelopment Act, which allows cities to create such agencies to transform blighted areas into new sites that serve the public good, including schools, roads, housing and — more recently — commercial sites that provide substantial tax revenues to city coffers. Nearly 60 years later, Mullin thinks the structure deserves serious analysis.

“It wouldn’t hurt to take reappraisal and see if there’s some readjustment that could be made, or whether some other type of structure would work better,” Mullin said. “It’s an open question.”

Mullin, chair of the Assembly’s Housing and Community Development Commission, hasn’t established a wish list of proposed changes.

His thirst for re-examination has been sparked in part by state Senator Christine Kehoe’s pending eminent domain bill, which would require redevelopment agencies to “spell out when, where and how local officials will use eminent domain to condemn property,” according to Peter Detwiler, consultant for the Senate’s Local Government Committee.

Each year, redevelopment projects generate approximately $32billion in economic activity and create 310,000 jobs, according to John Shirey, director of the California Redevelopment Association. Each dollar a city spends on redevelopment earns roughly $14.

Redevelopment has occurred all across the Peninsula, creating landmarks such as the cluster of biotechnology firms in South San Francisco and revitalizing downtown areas in San Mateo and, soon, Redwood City.

Officials in those cities see some opportunities to improve the redevelopment laws.

“I think some aspects, like eminent domain, have been abused, but the legislature is trying to deal with those abuses by making changes,” San Mateo Community Development Director Bob Beyer said.

Redwood City Mayor Barbara Pierce thinks it’s important for redevelopment agencies to become more sensitive and responsive to community values when redeveloping a site.

“We have to be careful about taking the next step and imagining, ‘If we make this change, what will the impact be?’” she said.

Teaching citizens what redevelopment agencies are and what they do would be helpful in defusing often emotional debates about the agencies’ activities, Shirey said.

Mullin said he would like to enable redevelopment agencies to prevent blight before it “hits bottom.”

“Maybe one of the roles could be to intervene and reverse it, if possible,” he said.

bwinegarner@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocal

Just Posted

A felled tree in Sydney G. Walton Square blocks part of a lane on Front Street following Sunday’s storm on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
After the rain: What San Francisco learned from a monster storm

Widespread damage underscored The City’s susceptibility to heavy wind and rain

Plan Bay Area 2050 is an expansive plan guiding the region’s growth and development over the next three decades. The regional plan addresses progressive policy priorities like a universal basic income and a region-wide rent cap, alongside massive new spending on affordable housing and transportation infrastructure. (Shutterstock)
$1.4 trillion ‘blueprint’ would address Bay Area’s housing, transit woes

Analyzing the big ticket proposals in ‘Plan Bay Area 2050’

A felled tree in San Francisco is pictured on Fillmore Street following a major storm that produced high winds and heavy rains on Oct. 24, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Philip Ford)
Storm updates: Rainiest October day in San Francisco history

Rainfall exceeded 10 inches in parts of the Bay Area

On Sunday, California bore the brunt of what meteorologists referred to as a bomb cyclone and an atmospheric river, a convergence of storms that brought more than half a foot of rain to parts of the Bay Area, along with high winds, concerns about flash floods and the potential for heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada. Much of the Bay Area was under a flash flood watch on Sunday, with the National Weather Service warning of the potential for mudslides across the region. (NOAA via The New York Times)
Bomb cyclone, atmospheric river combine to pummel California with rain and wind

What you need to know about this historic weather event

The Department of Building Inspection, at 49 South Van Ness Ave., has been mired in scandal since since its creation by voter referendum under Proposition G in 1994. (Courtesy SF.gov)
The Department of Building Inspection, at 49 South Van Ness Ave., has been mired in scandal since its creation by voter referendum under Proposition G in 1994. (Courtesy SF.gov)
Whistleblowing hasn’t worked at the SF Dept. of Building Inspection

DBI inspectors say their boss kept them off connected builders’ projects

Most Read