Redevelopment was a valuable tool used by local governments to create jobs, build housing, improve local infrastructure, develop or renovate shopping centers in local communities, and raise the value of commercial and residential properties. Funding used by redevelopment agencies were local funds, not new taxes, generated by the appreciation of the assessed value of properties located in a special district called the "Project Area." The Tax Increment generated by the increased property values funded public projects to the benefit of local communities.
Through countless examples of projects across the State of California, redevelopment agencies created tens of thousands of jobs and generated billions of dollars of revenue for the State and local economy used to fund various public services throughout its history. Unfortunately, on February 1, 2012, redevelopment agencies were abolished by the State Legislature and Governor Jerry Brown through the enactment of AB1X 26. As a result, most of these local funds previously used for revitalization will now be used by the State to fund its budget deficit.
The Lake Forest Redevelopment Agency was activated in 1995 to revitalize the area along El Toro Road from the I-5 freeway to Trabuco Road. Territorial jurisdiction of the El Toro Redevelopment Project Area was transferred from the County of Orange in 1998.
During the nearly seventeen years the Agency was active, it accomplished several major goals with significant impacts for the community including the El Toro Road Traffic and Landscape Improvement Project which widened the arterial roadway, improved access to retail centers, and enhanced aesthetics such as landscaped medians and parkways. The Agency contributed nearly $15 million to fund the project.
The El Toro Road Project directly incentivized the development of The Orchard and Home Depot retail centers which is now a regional draw for customers from south Orange County. Additionally, the Agency worked proactively with the business community to ensure commercial development is consistent with the El Toro Redevelopment Project Area Design Guidelines, which is evidenced by the Craftsman architectural style found all along El Toro Road at The Orchard, Home Depot, Fresh & Easy Center, and dozens of businesses along El Toro Road.
The Agency also built other public improvements including needed storm drain improvements along El Toro Frontage Road and is currently constructing streetscape and traffic calming project along Jeronimo Road, Rockfield Boulevard, and El Toro Road. In addition, the Agency worked to improve the quality of life for the community by providing neighborhood preservation and affordable housing opportunities to income-qualified residents and affordable loans to residents desiring to improve their homes.
Despite the elimination of the Agency, the City remains committed to working with its residents and the business community to continue revitalization efforts throughout the community. Major capital projects, such as the Sports Park, Community Center, and Civic Center are unaffected by AB1X 26. Additionally, the City will continue to work with businesses in the former Project Area to ensure the architectural vision for the El Toro Road commercial corridor is fully realized.