Illustration by Rachel Edelstein.

After several weeks of deliberation, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors finalized a list of projects to be completed in unincorporated areas like Live Oak and Soquel under the county’s redevelopment agency.

Redevelopment agencies do a range of work, from taking on building projects to creating affordable housing to handling basic infrastructure work. Board member John Leopold of the First District said that 55 percent of the population in Santa Cruz County live in unincorporated areas.

In 2009 the county held a hearing to discuss the community projects they wanted to see completed in the area. The result was a five-year plan that consisted of a list of projects tallying $600 million. Now that Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget will result in the closure of redevelopment agencies, the county has been forced to reduce its budget to $75 million.

Due to the closure of redevelopment agencies throughout the state, the county can only finish the projects it has agreed to start. These projects are likely to be the last to break ground under the organization.

Betsy Lynberg, director of the County Redevelopment Agency, said many beneficial projects will be halted.

“I think there’s a lot of other important, worthwhile projects and programs that the agency is engaged in that have a lot of interest and support in the community that will not move forward,” Lynberg said, “which includes a community center in Soquel and a park associated with the community center.”

The required supermajority, which meant four out of the five board members needed to agree in order to pass a motion, complicated the vote on the final approved projects.

Despite difficulties the board members faced when slimming down the prospective projects, individuals like Ellen Pirie, a board member representing the Second District of Santa Cruz County, expressed satisfaction with the final list.

“While it wouldn’t have been the list I drew up, frankly, it wasn’t the list anyone drew up,” Pirie said. “It was a series of compromises.”

One project in particular took a large portion of the redevelopment funds — the new mid-county Sheriff’s Office, which was allocated $44 million out of the total $75 million. Pirie said design consultants originally estimated the Sheriff’s Office would cost $55 million.

Despite agreement that the Sheriff’s Office needs to be constructed in Live Oak to tackle the high volume of calls from the area, Leopold said the price tag was too much. He also said the money he anticipated would be allocated to the economic development project was instead directed toward the Sheriff’s Office.

“It was completely regrettable that we had to sacrifice that for a project … which could clearly be built for significantly less money as we see from other places across the state,” Leopold said.

Because the board attempted to find middle ground and approve projects prioritized by the community, many projects went to the chopping block.

One casualty was the economic development project. The economic development project, like all the projects under consideration, was part of a long-term plan constructed from the concerns and wants of the community.

“I am deeply disappointed that we had to give up the economic redevelopment program,” Leopold said. “This is a program I fought to create here after many discussions with the community. There was a lot of potential for it. I thought we had carved out a million dollars to keep up that work.”

The economic development project would have been a multifaceted venture intended to expand upon existing businesses, assist businesses in marketing, seek out new industries to introduce to the county, and provide overall support through networking.

As the county struggles with double-digit unemployment, the economic development project would have provided businesses and individuals with resources. Such a project is “woefully missing in the tools we have” available, Leopold said.

Lynberg named the economic development program as only one of many projects the county could no longer proceed with because of depleted funds.

Other projects that did not cross the finish line included the establishment of several parks. One of them is Farm Park, which was intended to go hand-in-hand with an affordable housing project.

Board member Pirie said that she would have liked to see the Farm Park proceed as well as the economic development project but reiterated that the decisions boiled down to “compromises” on everyone’s part.

While the finalized list of projects and the immediate issues at hand are resolved, there remains the task of closing redevelopment agencies. The concern now is what that means for local government. When redevelopment agencies no longer possessed the purse or a clearly defined future, such long-term plans — and many projects tacked onto them — became obsolete.

Addressing the reality that lies ahead of redevelopment agencies, Lynberg described their shutdown as sudden and “chaotic,” leaving the county “scrambling.”

“It’s going to be much more difficult for the county to secure funding on its own for even basic infrastructure.”