10:00 PM PST on Monday, February 21, 2011

By JEFF HORSEMAN
The Press-Enterprise

Determined to save the city’s redevelopment dollars, Temecula’s City Council tonight will consider several measures to counter Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to end California’s redevelopment agencies.

The council will consider creating a housing authority, giving the city ownership of 11 agency projects and selling about $16 million worth of bonds during the meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. in City Hall, 41000 Main St.

Cities statewide are aggressively fighting Brown’s proposal to take nearly $3 billion slated for redevelopment agencies and spend it on courts, health care for the poor and schools. Ending redevelopment is a major element of Brown’s budget plan.

Redevelopment uses property tax revenue generated in special zones to pay for projects that erase blight or provide affordable housing. The Temecula Redevelopment Agency is legally separate from city government, though the council serves as the agency board of directors.

The city’s redevelopment zone encompasses Old Town and includes The Promenade mall and an area around Diaz Road. Tonight’s agenda features an overview of Temecula’s redevelopment efforts, which have paid for museums, bridges, parking garages and other infrastructure.

Critics say redevelopment is an oft-abused system that takes tax money from schools and gives it to developers. With California facing a $25.4 billion budget deficit and major cuts looming to public services, Brown has said the state can’t afford redevelopment.

Redevelopment’s supporters argue that ending the program would kill jobs, add to blight and hurt an economy still recovering from recession. The council passed a resolution on Feb. 8 opposing Brown’s plan and during the meeting, council members blasted Sacramento for, in their view, robbing cities to pay for reckless spending.

“Make no mistake, we’re in a war with the state,” Councilman Jeff Comerchero said Monday.

A resolution before the council would have Temecula take ownership from the agency of about $97.7 million worth of planned projects, including two pedestrian bridges, two parking structures, an extension of Overland Drive and an Old Town gymnasium.

The move does not mean the city will spend $97 million right away. Rather, the transfer “will allow the City to retain a crucial revenue stream that will go towards much needed public improvements” in the redevelopment zone, a city report read.

Redevelopment funds already committed to projects would be exempt from Brown’s plan.

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