With all the attention to large redevelopment agencies like San Jose's, I'd like to offer a glimpse of what redevelopment means to cities with fewer than 50,000 residents and with small tax bases.

I work for the city of Los Banos and grew up in Merced County. In the 1980s, this community had about 10,000 people who all knew one another and in one way or another were connected to agriculture. As homes in San Jose, Gilroy and other South Bay areas became too expensive to purchase, the work force found our little community. In a 20-year period, we grew to 36,000 residents.

Homes became too expensive for locals, and while property taxes increased, our small town continued to lack amenities of larger communities: medical facilities, doctors, white-collar jobs and industrial jobs, for example. Instead, we saw a race of retail and fast-food stores to get a place on Highway 152 so they could capture the commuters on their way to work "over the hill."

Living in a small town with a short supply of stores and employment opportunities means most of our sales tax goes out of town, and those living in town have to commute elsewhere to find a decent-paying job. We lost our small-town atmosphere, gained overpriced homes, and the city was faced with the challenge of providing service for this new population.

In 1996, a redevelopment agency was formed. The RDA service area consists of our commercial and industrial sections as well as a small amount of "old Los Banos." Instead of working with special developers, we have worked with our community to provide projects that citizens and our RDA board felt were necessary. 


Posted by Steve Sinai