The Redevelopment Sinkhole

Years of reckless borrowing have sent the city's Redevelopment Agency spiraling into debt. Mayor Brown's pet projects may flush it down the drain entirely.

Besides putting Treasure Island beyond the Redevelopment Agency's reach, Brown also has been steadily transferring planning and redevelopment decisions away from the agency and into the Mayor's Office.Wes Willoughby, longtime agency spokesman who left last summer after 30 years, says the concentration of power in Brown's office is unprecedented. "In effect, the Redevelopment Agency now is being run out of City Hall," Willoughby says.

Between its mounting debts and dwindling autonomy, the Redevelopment Agency may be on the verge of becoming all but irrelevant. Although its statutory powers -- which include the ability to condemn land and relocate businesses -- are potentially potent redevelopment tools, they are of little use in an agency that has no cash to build anything.

If Brown continues to push Mission Bay and Hunters Point, he could very well wring the agency dry and cast it aside. Of course, there will still be that $700 million or so in debt that has to be paid back.

Manny Rosales sits on the Redevelopment Agency Board, even though he was not appointed by Brown. Rosales' term actually expired last year, but he remains in his post until Brown decides whether to replace him.

It may be, Rosales says, that the agency is in its waning days. Brown controls the politics, and only the mayor can decide whether to salvage the agency or relegate it to insignificance.

"I'm not privy to what the mayor's thinking," Rosales says. "I would think the role of any executive is to review the viability of all the departments, and I would hope that's what the mayor is doing. Maybe we're not necessary anymore, in the full context of how he's reviewing the city.

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