The abolishment of redevelopment agencies in 2011 left California cities, including Bakersfield, looking for alternative methods and funding mechanisms to grow and improve their communities.
Bakersfield's Downtown Business Association thinks it has an answer. The DBA plans to create a nonprofit arm that will be eligible to collect private, tax-deductible donations and solicit private and government grants to fund improvements in the downtown business district. In effect, the DBA is going to create its own redevelopment agency.
The importance of redevelopment funding, regardless of where it comes from, can't be emphasized enough. Some of Bakersfield's most visually appealing projects, including Mill Creek Park and McMurtrey Aquatic Center, were built with redevelopment money.
City Manager Alan Tandy points out that the new nonprofit, known as the Downtown Bakersfield Development Corp., isn't a unique concept, and that a similar organization helped raise money to fund the building of Centennial Plaza in 1998. Tandy is correct, but that's no reason to shrug off the potential impact of a nonprofit entity created by local business to serve local business, in a broad sense.
What's important is that businesses are invested in their own economic survival as well as their area's aesthetic quality.
Post-redevelopment California is still in the process of regaining its balance. No single approach is likely to replace those agencies. The DBA is to be applauded for stepping outside of its traditional role, and comfort zone, to help fill the void.