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By Jim E. Winburn
As cities begin winding down redevelopment assets and obligations, strange things can suddenly come to light.
One such example is Sierra Madre’s own City Hall, forgotten by many that it has been listed among those property assets belonging to the former Community Redevelopment Agency. The public will be happy to know that City Hall, as well as Public Safety facilities like the Police and Fire stations (and their parking lot), have all been “returned” to the city.
City Hall Is A Keeper
In the redevelopment wind-down process, one of the Oversight Board’s responsibilities is to direct the CRA Successor Agency (technically the Sierra Madre City Council) in the disposal of assets or properties of the former agency that were funded or purchased through tax increments. In this case, CRA properties that were constructed or used for a governmental purpose, whether City Hall or a parking lot, may be given back to the city.
City Manager Elaine Aguilar explained to board members that City Hall, included among the CRA properties held for government purposes, should have been transferred from the CRA to the city back in 1998, according to the 1998 bond documents. “The transfer just never happened,” she said at the Oversight Board’s meeting on Monday. “But council finally took action to transfer the properties in May 2011.”
So, strange as it may have sounded, Aguilar wrapped up the resolution by saying, “It’s staff’s recommendation that the Oversight Board determine that (City Hall) be retained by the city.” But that’s how things are done in this post-redevelopment era in California.
The board approved the resolution 5-0, with board members Tom Love and David Jaynes absent. Members present for this second meeting included chairwoman Marilyn Diaz, and board members John Buchanan, Karin Schnaider, Bart Doyle, and Robert B. Miller.
Welcome to the Board!
Miller is the Pasadena Area Community College District’s replacement for Richard van Pelt, who is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office. Van Pelt, vice president for Administrative Services at Pasadena City College, was fired Wednesday, Jun. 20 while under investigation for allegedly taking bribes in exchange for granting facility contracts at PCC.
Miller, who is vice president of Educational Services at PCC, introduced himself to the board, stating his background includes degrees in business and public administration. He also listed property management and construction as relevant experience he is bringing to the board.
The board also discussed whether it should retain its own legal services. It was explained at the board’s first meeting on May 31 that City Attorney Teresa Highsmith cannot represent the Oversight Board because she represents the city, that is, the Successor Agency. Highsmith explained that she is only attending the meetings as a resource to the board.
Aguilar explained to the board that other agencies’ Oversight Boards have retained separate legal counsel for providing legal advice regarding member actions that involve real property transactions, contracts, financial matters, and other issues.
She also explained that that ABX1 26, the state law dissolving redevelopment agencies, specifically provides personal immunity from liability to individual Oversight Board members for any action taken within the scope of their responsibilities. In addition, any costs for legal counsel to the Oversight Board would be paid from the administration funds that are forwarded to Successor Agencies to cover general staffing and administration.
Buchanan suggested that the board should not retain any legal counsel at the present time. “We should note that we want it, we consider it as a possible future cost, but not one that should occur right now,” he said.
The board agreed with Buchanan and took no action toward retaining its own legal services at this time.
Redevelopment agencies were dissolved by the state on Feb. 1, and Successor Agencies (such as the City of Sierra Madre) have assumed responsibility for the winding-down process that is subject to review by an Oversight Board.
The Oversight Board for Sierra Madre’s Successor Agency agreed to meet next on Monday, Sep. 24 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.