If Oakland Is Serious On Homeless Funding, Rip Property Tax Money From Alameda County

Oakland can get homeless funding, and end-run Alameda County. Here’s how.

Oakland has officially forgot how to use government to solve its pressing problem of homelessness. We have the tools at our hands, but the current group of elected officials just can’t seem to collectively bring themselves to use them – let alone discover what they are.

Now let me show what sent this Oakland vlogger over the top on this subject at hand: this Twitter tweet by Oakland District Three Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney:

Where she writes “Two days ago with a 3-2 vote, the Alameda County of Supervisors REJECTED Supervisor Chan and Carson’s request to increase homelessness funding. Oakland and the state is stepping up; its time for the county to do the same. The County MUST match citys’ funds.”

My tweet back was this:

Where I said “SIGH. Lynette, if you want the County’s money for homeless, this is not the way to go about it. Use SB 628 for Investment Zones, then use tax increment financing to get it via grabbing the property tax revenue. Float a bond against that over 40 years!”

Now, you may wonder what my background is, such that I would know that. My degrees are in city planning and from Texas Arlington and Berkeley, for undergrad and graduate level, with a specialization in urban economics. I worked for the planning departments of Ft. Worth and then Dallas. After Berkeley DCRP (Department of City and Regional Planning), my first job was as intern at the Oakland Redevelopment Agency. There, I created a giant spreadsheet computer model called The Area Redevelopment Model, or AREM. It could be used to estimate and evaluate the tax increment revenue and economic impact for any redevelopment project in California.

And if you’re wondering what “Redevelopment” is, or was, it’s a set of California laws in the Health and Safety Code ranging from 33000 to 33999, and that govern California cities ability to establish an office called “redevelopment” and how it can use fiscal tools including tax increment financing (TIF) within what was called a “redevelopment project area” to capture property tax revenue for use in economic development.

With Redevelopment Oakland would not have been able to cause the building development in Downtown Oakland prior to 2011 or have a huge $111 million fund for affordable housing, when California Governor Jerry Brown worked to get rid of the law. He did so under the mistaken idea that he would save billions that could go to the closing of the then-giant deficit. But in truth, the State of California Department of Finance determined that California could have just reduced the budgets of Redevelopment programs in cities and counties, and still came away with a $1 billion surplus.

With Redevelopment, the City of Oakland collected property tax revenue that is normally split between several of what are called “taxing agencies”, including the County of Alameda. In this way, Oakland could, and did on many occasions, override the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to gain money for projects like the removal of crack houses in East Oakland in the early 1980s.

While there’s an effort to return Redevelopment Law called AB 3037 by California Assemblyman David Chiu, and which I support, we can’t just sit and wait for that effort to move along positively. What we must do, the Oakland City Council, is inact SB 628 by Jim Beall which is called “Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts” and allows for the creation of a Redevelopment-like project area by the Oakland City Council, and for the collection of property tax revenue for not just infrastructure, but affordable housing.

Proving that Oakland has lost its once genius-level way of running its government practiced by Henry Gardner and Robert Bobb, and once-aggressive way of solving economic problems, SB 628 by Jim Beall has been in place since late 2014 – it’s 2018 and it’s still not used! I have talked to pretty much every Oakland City Councilmember about this, but still nothing. I even vlogged about this, and with respect to Oak Knoll Development:

(And to be even more honest, some Oakland officials are so upset that others would not help them take down their colleagues, that they engaged in un-Godly, unfair, and completely wrong behavior toward those persons. Publicly, I ask that such behavior stop. Stop the constant crabbarel mentality that causes Oakland Officials to seek to put each other, and people like me, down. We have to pull together to make Oakland better and to stop our homeless problem. We really need all hands on deck. But, I digress.)

SB 628 by Jim Beall can get Oakland the money it needs for the resolution of the homeless problem. TIF can help, and anyone who says it can’t plain just does not understand bond financing. We have to move forward, Oakland, and now, not later. Lives are at stake.

There are not less than seven homeless encampments around Lake Merritt. That, alone, should be cause for action, not for normalizing homelessness, with the giant public health problem, both physical and mental, it comes with.

Stay tuned.

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