The Orange County Board of Supervisors Tuesday took the initial step in a project to redevelop Old Town Placentia, which would be a first in the state since a state Supreme Court ruling in 2011 ended redevelopment agencies.
A state law approved in 2014 allows for the formation of Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts, a way for municipalities to target property taxes to be used for redeveloping designated areas in need of improvements.
Supervisor Don Wagner hailed the plan.
“There’s no question there were abuses of redevelopment” in the past, Wagner said.
However, the Supreme Court’s ruling amounted to “a classic case of the saying throwing out the baby with the bath water,” Wagner said.
Placentia officials in February moved to begin the process of creating a redevelopment district. The city wants the county to team up with the project so both governments contribute property taxes to the redevelopment.
The city wants to redevelop Old Town Placentia that includes the Transit Oriented Development Packing House District next to the Orange (57) Freeway and a proposed Metrolink station.
The plan includes improvements to roads, parking, bicycle and pedestrian access and water and sewer upgrades near the projected Metrolink station. The project would lead to residential and commercial development within the district, officials say.
Placentia Mayor Pro Tem Ward Smith told board that the project is expected to include 1,600 residential units, 125,000 square feet of commercial development which could lead to the generation of 3,900 construction jobs and 1,150 permanent jobs.
County officials expect the assessed value of the area would increase from $365 million to $460 million.
The area is bordered by Fullerton and Anaheim and could prove beneficial to those cities as well, Placentia Councilman Chad Wanke told board. The area is about a half-mile from Cal State Fullerton, Wanke said.
Supervisor Doug Chaffee said it would be a first for the state.
Supervisor Michelle Steel voted against the move, saying the county needed to establish a policy for the taxing districts first.
“I have many concerns about going down this road,” Steel said.
“We have limited property tax dollars. Less than any other county in the state so I’m very much concerned about doing it on a case-by-case basis… without a policy… We need to have a discussion if we want to get into this in the first place and that hasn’t happened yet.”
Supervisor Andrew Do agreed the board should establish policies first before moving ahead with the project with Placentia, but he approved of the proposal and voted for it.
Board Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett noted the board was just being asked to approve the first step in the process and that the supervisors could still craft policies as they go.
“Ultimately this has to go to the voters,” and would need to win by at least 55 percent of the vote, Bartlett said.
Also, the Board of Supervisors have to approve final details of the financing plan, Bartlett said.
Placentia officials needed the county’s approval by August to place a measure on a ballot in 2020, officials said.
Under the plan the county would contribute 46 percent of its share of property tax increment within the boundary of the district, which would amount to about $3.5 million over 20 years or $175,000 annually. The city’s contribution would be 46 percent of its property taxes generated in the district, or about $8.2 million over two decades.
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