Blight remaining on Fort Ord

Blighted buildings remain on Fort Ord today. The original law creating FORA included a provision that the agency would sunset after 80 percent of the Army base designated for development was redeveloped or Jone 30, 2014, whichever came first. To date, only 40 to 50 percent of that area has been redeveloped. 

The future of the Fort Ord Reuse Authority has long been shaky. It was first scheduled to sunset in 2014, but goals for redeveloping the former Army base remained unmet. Legislation by State Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, gave it an extension through 2020, but with goals still incomplete, a new bill, SB 189, would give FORA another two years.

The bill—authored by Monning and co-authored by Assemblymembers Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, and Robert Rivas, D-Hollister—would extend the life of FORA for two more years, with some reduced powers and modifications.

As the bill begins going through committee hearings, supporters and opponents are lining up. 

The FORA board itself was divided on a 7-6 vote in recommending a plan for extending FORA (or not) to Monning, so it comes as no surprise that the nay votes are asking Sacramento lawmakers to kill SB 189. 

County Supervisor Jane Parker, one of those six no votes, sent a letter to the Appropriation Committee urging a no vote on SB 189. 

"I regret that I must disagree with Senator Monning, who has often been an ally," she wrote. 

Parker argues that FORA is not required for the collection of developer fees on already-approved projects, and that individual jurisdictions could collect those fees themselves. 

She also asks that if SB 189 is approved, language be added specifying that FORA's ability to spend bond revenue is more clearly defined and limited. "FORA is exploring using bond revenue to remove blighted buildings," Parker writes. "However, there is nothing in the legislation which specifies that bonds can only be issued for blight removal. There is a controversial proposal to build a road [Eastside Parkway] through oak woodlands and sensitive habitat in the open spaces of Fort Ord…I would request that language be added restricting bond issuance for blight removal only."

By FORA's estimate, if developer pull permits and pay fees on already-entitled developments, it would generate as much as $72 million. 

Marina City Manager also sent a letter on April 9 opposing SB 189; Marina's representatives to the FORA board were no votes. Another opponent include the League of Women Voters of Monterey County, which sent a letter on April 22 opposing the bill: "The LWVMC believes that FORA should sunset at the statutory date in 2020 based on an evaluation of its past performance and the availability of alternatives to undertake FORA responsibilities." 

The Committee on Governance and Finance approved the bill with a 7-0 vote on April 10. 

A Governance and Finance staff memo prepared for committee members laid out some considerations.

Among them, "Don't make the same mistake twice: The Legislature already extended the FORA Act once…SB 189 heavily restricts what FORA can do, putting more responsibility on the shoulders of local governments. It is not clear whether local governments will have the same goals as the board and complete all projects in the final base reuse plan. 

"While FORA's continued operation could provide a way to ensure regional collaboration continues, the committee may wish to consider whether an additional extension of FORA is justified." 

The staff memo disagrees with Parker's assessment that various member agencies could collect developer fees instead of FORA, reporting "member agencies would have to negotiate with developers to replace lost revenue…which the developer would not be obligated to agree to."

SB 189 next goes to the Appropriations Committee for a hearing scheduled on April 29. 

There's so far no support officially registered with the Legislature, but some FORA member agencies—such as Del Rey Oaks, whose rep voted yes on the resolution asking for an extension—are considering authoring letters of support. 

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