Monday, February 28, 2005

City renaming Housing & Redevelopment to stress "Economic Development"

A recent memo from City Manager Jeff Kolin announced, "the City’s Economic Development function will be transferred from the City Manager’s Office to the Department of Housing and Redevelopment." The City is renaming the entire department, to show local business that redevelopment means economic development and affordable housing:

"the Department will be renamed Economic Development and Housing to acknowledge that redevelopment is a supporting program of economic development and affordable housing, and those resources can support the desired program expansion while maintaining its high profile character within the business community." (2/25/05, "Transition of Economic Development", memo emailed to the Council, boards & commissions, and department heads)

Kolin said, "This is the opportune time to make this transfer as we enter the second phase of the economic development strategy, focus on the formation of the Gateway redevelopment project area, respond to renewed interest in Downtown development opportunities, and maintain our expanded affordable housing production effort."

It looks like "Economic Development" is still Kolin's baby: "The City Manager and City Manager’s Office will continue to be intimately involved in our City’s economic development efforts. I plan to continue my participation in the Economic Development and Downtown Council subcommittees." The Council's Economic Development and Downtown subcommittees are little known to the public, but very important to local business.

The memo concluded, "Economic development is a very critical focus area for our community that will require increased staff support and resources in the future. Staff will be presenting a request to amend the City’s Classification and Salary Plan to add staff positions in support of these expanded programs at the February 28 Housing Authority and Redevelopment Agency meetings, and the March 8 City Council meeting." Sure enough, Item 10.2 at today's (2/28) Redevelopment Agency meeting was to create two new Program Specialist positions.

Many talk about "Economic Development", but few bother to define it. Not many years ago, the Council paid the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce half the salary of an E.D. person at the Chamber. Then the Council created an E.D. Specialist position in the City Manager's Office. Now the City is renaming H&R, plans to hire two fulltime staff, and Kolin and his staff are still "intimately involved".

Some say Housing & Redevelopment is a second, even more private City government, for the development industry and Downtown business interests. The Council appoints its members and approves its spending, but it holds its own monthly meetings and acts independently.

The Redevelopment Agency oversees five Redevelopment Areas in Downtown/Railroad Square and SW Santa Rosa, including the proposed Food & Wine Center. It spends taxes from the areas to promote them, receives federal and state money, and sells bonds, yet few citizens know it exists.

Now would be a good time for citizens to become very aware of the Council's H&R Department. Its webpage says, "The Housing and Redevelopment Department provides administration and support for programs and projects designed to assist with affordable housing and revitalize blighted and economically disadvantaged sections of the City. In addition to the City Council, the Council-appointed Housing Authority and Redevelopment Agency provide policy direction to staff in these program areas."

Five members serve on both the Housing Authority and the separate Redevelopment Agency. They are William J. Arnone, Jr., Charles Evans, Chris Johnson, Philip Olsen, and Jake Ours. The Housing Authority has two other members, Veronica Castro and Sara Ingenito. Evans chairs the HA, and Arnone chairs the RA.

H&R staff members work under Acting Director David Gouin. Under him are Jocelyn Lundgren, Economic Development and Redevelopment Manager; Mark Krug, Housing and Redevelopment Manager; and Judi Lynch, Acting Housing and Redevelopment Manager. The webpage is here: .


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