In May 2013, we reported that Emeryville had won its litigation with the state to recoup the approximately $25 million in redevelopment money that sat in limbo since the agency’s dissolution back in 2011. This “Victory” was short-lived though as the State filed an appeal shortly after. Last Friday January 16th, it was announced that the city had won this appeal (City of Emeryville v. Cohen), setting up a possible final showdown in the Supreme Court of California.
The Third District Court of Appeals ruled that the State Department of Finance improperly rejected Emeryville’s action to re-enter into several redevelopment agreements with the City (acting as successor to the Redevelopment Agency). The ruling found that the City of Emeryville was indeed entitled to re-enter these agreements necessary to continue pursuing these former redevelopment projects. The long battle with the State run Department of Finance is being led by Governor Brown appointed finance director Michael Cohen. A ruling in favor of the state would have returned this money back to the state and effectively killed the Bridge and Center for the Arts projects for the foreseeable future.
The case was a huge win for local governments such as ours who relied heavily on redevelopment money to promote urban renewal. Other local governments are watching how this unfolds very closely because of the implications it would have on them. Santa Rosa is one of several cities that is also looking to recoup millions in redevelopment loans through litigation with the state. The DOF now has 30 days to file an appeal with the State Supreme court that would delay the outcome of the fate of these projects for probably another two years. The state’s intent has appeared to be to fight this “to the death” thus far as a victory could set an expensive precedent for similar cases with local governments. A supreme court decision could backfire though as a favorable ruling would be binding to the entire state and not just the jurisdiction of the appellate.
The three projects at stake:
The South Bayfront Bike/Ped Bridge
Redevelopment Amount: Approx. $13 million
The over a decade in the works project would provide a needed bicycle/pedestrian connector point over the railroad tracks that separates Bay Street & The Park Avenue District. The only current passing between the nearly mile long strip of the 40th St. and the Amtrak Station bridges is the Non-ADA compliant (and poorly-lit) Powell Street Bridge. This bridge would also be an important amenity of the forthcoming Sherwin Williams project and critical to the success of the retail they hope install. Nearly $1 million has already been absorbed through the design process, the Bridge would still need additional financing to fund the balance of the construction (estimated between $15 & 20 million). The Bridge would take at least three years to build which would coincide with the completion of the Sherwin Williams project if approved later this year.
Emery Station West/Transit Center
Redevelopment Amount: $4.2 million
The hotly contested project by City favored developer Wareham Development would add office space, ground level retail, four bus bays and an elevated open space “plaza” to the parking lot adjacent to the Amtrak Station. The private commercial project was less reliant on redevelopment funds and would probably be built regardless. The redevelopment funded portion of the site would enable remediation of the pollution from being a former Westinghouse electrical repair facility.
Emeryville Center for the Arts
Redevelopment Amount: Approx. $8 million
The city-owned brick building adjacent to city hall would house a 250-seat theater as well as galleries, classrooms, a cafe and space for the city’s historical society. The space would also provide a needed permanent home to our Celebration for the Arts that has had to move from space to space since its inception. Three million has already been spent in the design process.
Further Reading & Resources:
Related ruling by appellate court bolsters Santa Rosa’s case on redevelopment loans | Press Democrat.com
California Planning & Development Report:
Cities struggle with ending redevelopment agencies | SFGate.com
3rd Appellate District Case summary
Architecture competition for Emeryville arts center | SFGate.com
South Bayfront Pedestrian-Bicycle Bridge & Horton Landing Park Improvement FAQ’s