Blight Redevelopment In California

The Supreme Court has cautioned that " 'public agencies and courts both should be chary of the use of the redevelopment act unless, . . . there is a situation where the blight is such that it constitutes a real hindrance to the development of the city and cannot be eliminated or improved without public assistance. It never can be used just because the public agency considers that it can make a better use or planning of an area than its present use or plan.' " (Sweetwater Valley Civic Assn. v. City of National City (1976) 18 Cal. 3d 270, 278 133 Cal. Rptr. 859, 555 P.2d 1099.) Thus, the concededly desirable goal of improving an area is "insufficient by itself to justify use of the extraordinary powers of community redevelopment. If it were, tax increment financing at public expense would become commonplace as a subsidy to private enterprise." (Regus v. City of Baldwin Park (1977) 70 Cal. App. 3d 968, 979 139 Cal. Rptr. 196.) A determination of blight is a prerequisite to invoking redevelopment. ( 33030; Gonzales v. City of Santa Ana (1993) 12 Cal. App. 4th 1335, 1342 16 Cal. Rptr. 2d 132.) Section 33031 defines the physical and economic conditions that constitute blight. It states: "(a) This subdivision describes physical conditions that cause blight: (1) Buildings in which it is unsafe or unhealthy for persons to live or work. These conditions can be caused by serious building code violations, dilapidation and deterioration, defective design or physical construction, faulty or inadequate utilities, or other similar factors. (2) Factors that prevent or substantially hinder the economically viable use or capacity of buildings or lots. This condition can be caused by a substandard design, inadequate size given present standards and market conditions, lack of parking, or other similar factors. (3) Adjacent or nearby uses that are incompatible with each other and which prevent the economic development of those parcels or other portions of the project area. (4) the existence of subdivided lots of irregular form and shape and inadequate size for proper usefulness and development that are in multiple ownership. (b) This subdivision describes economic conditions that cause blight: (1) Depreciated or stagnant property values or impaired investments, including, but not necessarily limited to, those properties containing hazardous wastes that require the use of agency authority as specified in Article 12.5 (commencing with Section 33459). (2) Abnormally high business vacancies, abnormally low lease rates, high turnover rates, abandoned buildings, or excessive vacant lots within an area developed for urban use and served by utilities. (3) a lack of necessary commercial facilities that are normally found in neighborhoods, including grocery stores, drug stores, and banks and other lending institutions. (4) Residential overcrowding or an excess of bars, liquor stores, or other businesses that cater exclusively to adults, that has led to problems of public safety and welfare. (5) a high crime rate that constitutes a serious threat to the public safety and welfare." Section 33030 provides: "(b) a blighted area is one that contains both of the following: (1) An area that is predominantly urbanized, as that term is defined in Section 33320.1, and is an area in which the combination of conditions set forth in Section 33031 is so prevalent and so substantial that it causes a reduction of, or lack of, proper utilization of the area to such an extent that it constitutes a serious physical and economic burden on the community which cannot reasonably be expected to be reversed or alleviated by private enterprise or governmental action, or both, without redevelopment. Under section 33320.1, subdivision (b), " 'predominantly urbanized' means that not less than 80 percent of the land in the project area: (1) Has been or is developed for urban uses; or (2) Is characterized by the condition described in paragraph (4) of subdivision (a) of Section 33031; or (3) Is an integral part of one or more areas developed for urban uses which are surrounded or substantially surrounded by parcels which have been or are developed for urban uses. Parcels separated by only an improved right-of-way shall be deemed adjacent for the purpose of this subdivision." (2) An area that is characterized by either of the following: (A) One or more conditions set forth in any paragraph of subdivision (a) of Section 33031 physical blight and one or more conditions set forth in any paragraph of subdivision (b) of Section 33031 economic blight. (B) the condition described in paragraph (4) of subdivision (a) of Section 33031. (c) a blighted area also may be one that contains the conditions described in subdivision (b) and is, in addition, characterized by the existence of inadequate public improvements, parking facilities, or utilities."