San Lorenzo Express News

Local Communities Spend Redevelopment Money in Different Ways

JUNE 14, 2005

Part Two of a Series

In Cherryland redevelopment money is being spent on sidewalks, in San Lorenzo on a major commercial center. Each community in the Eden Area Redevelopment District has its own priorities for removing "blight".

By law, redevelopment funds must be spent on removing blight, which is defined very broadly. "Blight" is generally defined as adverse economic or physical conditions. These include a broad variety of conditions, such as outdated or inefficient building design, susceptibility to earthquake or flooding, high business vacancies, lack of neighborhood-serving businesses, and inadequate or obsolete public infrastructure (sewer and stormwater drains, street lighting, etc.). An area need only be 50 percent blighted to qualify for redevelopment.

The Eden Area Redevelopment District covers most of the western urban area of Eden Township, and is divided into five subareas: Castro Valley, San Lorenzo, and Cherryland communities as well two smaller areas, the Foothill and Mt. Eden neighborhoods. Revenues from each subarea are spent within the same subarea. Spending priorities are established by a citizen advisory committee in each subarea, subject to approval by the county board of supervisors .

A percentage of funds must be spent on housing. These funds are divided into separate pots to be spent on housing targeted to buyers with incomes designated very low, low, or moderate. "Moderate income" is a tricky concept that can mean very expensive housing given the hot Bay Area property market.

All other funds can be spent according to the specific preferences of a community.

In the San Lorenzo subarea the spending priority is on the "Town Center" project. This development concept covers almost 19 acres along Hesperian Boulevard, all owned by the Bohannon family, the original developers of San Lorenzo Village. The project would replace existing structures and a difficult traffic pattern with a new commercial center that would include mixed-use buildings -- retail at the ground level and residences in upper stories. The project would include over 120,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, as well as a new post office and senior center.

Almost $6 million is budgeted for this project over a five-year period beginning this year. The agency is planning to issue bonds to raise additional immediate money for the Town Center project (in effect borrowed from future-year revenues).

A related project is a "streetscape plan" for Hesperian Boulevard from I-880 to A Street. The plan to enhance the quality of the pedestrian environment has been completed and the agency plans to seek grants to fund improvements. Improvements include widening sidewalks to provide a more generous walking area, adding street trees, installing pedestrian-scale streetlights, bus shelters, and other pedestrian amenities.

Other priorities in the San Lorenzo area are sidewalk repair ($500,000 over five years) and improvements to commercial building facades ($850,000 over five years).

In the Cherryland subarea many streets are without sidewalks, forcing pedestrians into the streets. The citizen advisory committee voted to spend most of the subarea's funds on construction of sidewalks with curbs and gutters on six streets. This project has a five-year budget of almost $7.5 million beginning this year. See Cherryland sidewalks for photos and more information.

The second priority in Cherryland is neighborhood amenities. The first such project is an entryway sign identifying the Cherryland area. Other projects have yet to be determined. Half a million dollars has been earmarked for amenities over five years. Smaller amounts are being spent on beefing up enforcement of county ordinances that affect quality of life, graffiti removal, improvement of commercial building facades.

The focus in the Castro Valley subarea at present is development of a Castro Valley Redevelopment Strategic Plan. The plan will lay out a development strategy and urban design for future development of the existing commercial corridor along Castro Valley Boulevard. The plan will also include spending priorities for redevelopment funds. Almost $3 million has been earmarked over five years for projects consistent with the plan (but which have not yet been identified).

Construction of a new library in Castro Valley is a long-term priority. The Redevelopment Agency has committed $3.5 million in grants and $1.7 million in a no-interest loan for construction.

In the Foothill subarea the top priority is expansion of a local park ($850,000 over five years). The Mt. Eden subarea priority is expansion of water, sewer, and storm drain connections ($475,000 over five years). These improvements will be made in cooperation with the City of Hayward, which is annexing the unincorporated Mt. Eden subarea.

Rehabilitation of single-family houses is included in the spending plans for housing funds in all subareas. The amounts over five years are: Castro Valley ($400,000), Cherryland ($400,000), Foothill ($380,000), Mt. Eden ($166,000), and San Lorenzo ($240,000).

A separate redevelopment district, the San Leandro Joint Redevelopment Project in Ashland, was formed in 1993. All of the discretionary funds in this district have been poured into improving the appearance of East 14th Street. Utility lines have been put underground and new streetlights and "street furnishings" have been installed. The facades of several commercial buildings have been cosmetically improved to give the street a fresher, more welcoming appearance. Redevelopment funds in this district have been augmented by money from other programs and from grants. See East 14th Streetscape Project for photos and details.

In Part Three we will describe the significant overhead expenditures of the redevelopment agency, how redevelopment agencies operate, and some of the issues that have emerged in California. Part One describes the redevelopment revenues from property taxes in the Eden District.

Visit the Alameda County Redevelopment Agency website.