The future of redevelopment
June 27, 2011
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This summer I am interning in City Heights, a diverse neighborhood in the eastern part of San Diego known for its large immigrant population. In fact, City Heights has the second largest concentration of Somali refugees in the country. Along with the cultural benefits of diversity come the economic challenges of low income businesses and residences, perpetuated by a lack of educational opportunities and a population with a fast turnover. Despite these challenges, Price Charities, the organization I am interning for, is working to improve the community holistically. They have led commercial and housing development projects, and keep the community in mind in their projects (see the banners lining the parking structure in the photo below: they were designed by a local art group and reflect the neighborhood’s cultural ties).
Every morning, I walk through the heart of the redevelopment area on my way to the office from the bus stop. I pass new medical clinics, shopping strips, and apartment complexes. The changes in City Heights have occurred over a much shorter time period than is the norm in redevelopment areas, and Price Charities is the main reason for this.
With redevelopment agencies still in jeopardy, it is interesting to see how public-private partnerships like those pursued by Price Charities can fill the gap. While private charities and nonprofits certainly benefit from redevelopment money, they are not entirely dependent on it. Place-based organizations know the community needs and desires, and can fund their own projects more efficiently. They don’t have the power of eminent domain–which limits their authority–but they can gain community support and provide social services that cannot be accomplished as easily by a redevelopment agency that is focused almost exclusively on the built environment.
The future of redevelopment in California is still in limbo: the trailer bills that would eliminate redevelopment agencies connected to the budget still have not been signed, and even if they do, there will undoubtedly be lawsuits. While many doubt that redevelopment will be ended completely, it is clear that changes will occur. Charities and nonprofits may become a larger part of neighborhood revitalization efforts as the role of redevelopment agencies is contested and redefined. I am excited to see the possibilities of these public-private partnerships, as they create recognition for nonprofit work and an avenue for real change through collaboration with local government.