2012-03-14 / News

Sefa-Boakye addresses redevelopment

By Chris Frost
Bulletin Staff Writer

COMPTON—If there’s one word that sums up the effects of Assembly Bill 26 on the city’s redevelopment efforts, it’s confusion.

Former Community Redevelopment Agency Director Dr. Kofi Sefa-Boakye wants Compton residents to understand the future of redevelopment in the Hub City.

“I value transparency and try to answer the questions to the best of my ability,” he said.

On Dec. 30 a California Supreme Court decision invalidated Assembly Bill 27, which would have allowed cities the right to pay a fee to continue redevelopment efforts, while upholding AB26, protecting the state’s right to end redevelopment.

Successor agencies will wind down the affairs of redevelopment agencies and return the proceeds from property liquidations to the county auditor and controller for subsequent distribution to the relevant taxing entities in the county.

“Many people have the wrong idea,” Sefa-Boakye said.

The biggest misconception, Sefa-Boakye said, lies within the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

“This is a federal program to purchase and rehabilitate homes for resale, and used no redevelopment money,” he said. “The former CRA managed the program because it already performed housing duties.”

The NSP program takes on added importance, Sefa-Boakye said, because of AB26.

“This program does not fall under the auspices of the city housing agency,” he said. “The successor agency will continue managing the program.”

If the city were to use bond proceeds to eliminate the general fund deficit, Sefa-Boakye said, city officials would end up in jail.

“Bond money can only be used for its intended purpose, and that is redevelopment,” he said. “If the agency sold all the former CRA properties, only the state budget benefits from the sale.”

Redevelopment makes more sense than holding a fire sale, Sefa- Boakye said, if it adds value to the community.

“There are three bills under consideration at the Statehouse,” he said. “One requires cities to conduct an asset management plan before turning over redevelopment monies to the oversight committee.”

The second bill allows the city to continue using bond proceeds for redevelopment. The third bill combines the successor agency with housing into a community housing agency.

“If these bills pass it will have an impact on future redevelopment efforts,” Sefa-Boakye said.

The CRA spent large sums of money on blighted properties, while recruiting developers to rehabilitate them. The city entered into numerous exclusive negotiation agreements in 2011 and was working towards its goal.

“We had a strategic plan transforming Compton, but the CRA’s demise stopped the effort,” Sefa-Boakye said. “No one donated those properties, we had to buy them. Our end goal is business creation that increases the tax base and helps the general fund.”

The new senior activity center gets $20 million of the remaining $45 million bond money. The bond fund began with $100 million.

Funded projects include the senior center, the proposed city parking facility and Meta housing project.

“They move forward,” Sefa-Boakye said. “The remaining six housing developments discussed at the workshop do not involve successor agency money, and can be sold with less trouble than commercial properties.”

The properties on Compton Boulevard, Santa Fe Avenue and Central Avenue have developers, and the successor agency will move forward once legislators resolve redevelopment issues.

Sefa-Boakye said the successor agency will package and sell those properties as soon as possible.

“There has been some discussion about paying the CRA’s bills,” former Deputy CRA Director Michael Antwine said. “The state now controls the money. After we submit our Enforceable Obligation Payment Schedule (bills the agency must pay) they send money back to us and the agency pays its debts.”

The EOPS has not been sent to the state as of press time.

“The state only pays taxing entities like the Compton Unified School district,” Antwine said.

The list is reviewed every six months and can be amended anytime.

“We need to make changes if we terminate services or do not receive goods,” Antwine said.

The purpose of the time frame is so the state can track the agency’s indebtedness.

“The Council approved the EOPS three times, and on Feb. 27 it was approved as a successor agency obligation since the CRA does not exist anymore,” Antwine said. “The Council approved the $1 million salary expense last year, but it does not mean the agency will spend that much money.”

CRA cutbacks reduce the department’s payroll expense.

“We wrote it that way for projective purposes,” he said. “The agency lost four employees and did not fill two vacant positions.”

The fate of projected developments by Max-Foods, Chase Bank and the proposed redevelopment of Long Beach Boulevard now fall to the Oversight Committee.

“This is why the city became the successor agency,” Sefa-Boakye said. “It is vital that Compton maintain local control of redevelopment in the city.”

Antwine said the Council plans on engaging an expert consultant to make sure the city meets the state requirement for successor agency activities.

Call 310-605-5511 for more information about the successor agency.

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