The Santa Rosa City Council has taken on the responsibility for winding down the work of its redevelopment agency, which is set to be dissolved by the state Feb. 1.
The council voted unanimously Tuesday to become the "successor agency" for the assets and obligations of the agency it first established more than 50 years ago.
A recent state Supreme Court ruling authorizing the state to eliminate about 400 redevelopment agencies statewide requires all agencies to make the successor decision by Jan. 13.
The government bodies that created Sonoma County's 10 redevelopment agencies all have made or were expected to make similar decisions by Friday.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday also accepted responsibility for its agency, which oversees three redevelopment areas. Petaluma did so Monday, and Cotati and Rohnert Park were scheduled to follow suit Tuesday night.
Santa Rosa redevelopment specialist Frank Kasimov told the council that becoming the successor agency was the only way to retain some control over the process of shutting down various pending and also overseeing ongoing projects, such as the sale of the former AT&T building downtown.
"At least the city would be in the driver's seat," Kasimov said, though he acknowledged that control would be subject to a yet-to-be-formed oversight board.
Successor agencies will continue to receive some funding for administration costs. At least $250,000 per year and up to 5 percent of traditional redevelopment tax revenues would be available for such costs in the first year, 3 percent in future years, Kasimov said.
If the city opted not to become the successor agency, one of the other government entities in Santa Rosa that receives property taxes, such as city schools, could be put in charge of the redevelopment agency's assets, Kasimov said.
Last year, the agency's capital assets stood at $14 million.
The redevelopment agency received about $8 million in "tax increment" property tax revenue last year, spending it on projects that ranged from building city parks and affordable housing to revitalizing neighborhoods, to planning to rebuild Highway 101 overpass at Hearn Avenue.
Last year, hoping to shield local redevelopment revenue from the state, the agency scrambled to commit about $12 million in unspent funds to a variety of future projects. But the state invalidated those efforts and that money may be redistributed to other local taxing districts from which the money had been diverted.
Some redevelopment critics said the agencies had strayed from their original purpose of eliminating blight. "Redevelopment should end. It should have ended a long time ago," Richard Canini said.
But council members were unanimous in their defense of the management of local redevelopment projects, the importance of those projects to job creation and the local economy, and their hope that the Legislature finds a way to put off the Feb. 1 deadline and preserve redevelopment in some form.
"I think we've made a lot of progress locally, but we got knocked on our butts here," Mayor Ernesto Olivares said.