Dan Walters

Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Monday, Aug. 26, 2013 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Five years ago, Darrell Steinberg carried into law a sweeping revision of California’s local land-use rules, aimed at creating what the legislation called “sustainable communities.”

His legislation, Senate Bill 375, is still reverberating as all 58 counties and more than 400 cities, plus regional planning bodies, revise their land-use policies to emphasize high-density, infill and transit-oriented development and, inferentially, discourage traditional single-family housing and automotive travel.

This year, Steinberg, the president pro tem of the Senate, is once again attempting to alter Californians’ lifestyles, this time through a new form of redevelopment and an overhaul of the California Environmental Quality Act.

When Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature abolished local government redevelopment agencies two years ago, their overt motive was financial.

The agencies were skimming off about $5 billion a year from local property taxes and the state was on the hook for about $2 billion of that diversion, which otherwise would have gone to schools.

“We take from redevelopment and we put $1 billion into schools. That’s a good thing,” Brown said, later adding, “It’s just a matter of making hard choices.”

From the broader perspective of public policy, however, the problem with redevelopment in California was that it had evolved from a program to reduce urban blight into a tool for local politicians to practice crony capitalism.

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