Driven to Discover

Blogpost

Harris Helps Victorville Make History as California's First CRIA

2.9 minute read

January 09, 2023

Victorville is poised to make history as the first city in California to implement a Community Revitalization and Investment Authority (CRIA).

Established in 2015 with the passing of AB 2, CRIAs help cities fund the revitalization of distressed areas without tax increases. They instead rely on a sustainable cycle that draws on taxes from rising property values within the designated revitalization zone.

Cities can use this property tax increment revenue to fund activities such as:

  • Infrastructure improvements
  • Low- and moderate-income housing development
  • Real property acquisition
  • Loans or grants to owners and tenants to rehabilitate buildings
  • Business assistance

CRIAs can also issue bonds as well as borrow or receive grants from the state and federal government.

New Life for Old Town

Set amidst California’s “High Desert” region in southwestern San Bernardino County, Victorville has grown significantly in recent years. Its population, now over 127,000, roughly doubled between 2000 and 2020.

That said, not all areas in and around Victorville have prospered. The Old Town neighborhood—the focus of the city’s CRIA—is considered a disadvantaged community.

The Old Town CRIA Project Area comprises about 400 acres in the eastern portion of Victorville. It’s home to several cultural sites, as well as an Amtrak station. Historic Route 66, once the leading highway from Chicago to Los Angeles, runs through Old Town.

At the City’s request, Harris analyzed the eligibility of Old Town to become a CRIA. Eligibility requirements for CRIAs include:

  • Annual median household income below 80% of the statewide, countywide, and citywide levels
  • Unemployment at least 3 percent points higher than statewide median
  • Rates of violent crime at least 5% higher than statewide median
  • More than 80% of land comprised of deteriorated commercial and residential structures

Harris has provided housing and community development services to Victorville since 2019. We prepared and updated the City’s Housing, Land Use, Safety, and Environmental Justice Elements. We solicited and coordinated developers, prepared annual housing reports, prepared various financial reports, conducted residual analysis for affordable housing projects, and created an asset management database.

For our CRIA analysis, we factored in information from federal, state, and county governments. We also conducted visual inspections of the area, which revealed deteriorated and inadequate infrastructure such as foundations, walls, ceilings, roofs, chimneys, and more.

A Path Forward

Based on our assessment, the Victorville City Council authorized formation of a CRIA for Old Town Victorville in August 2021. Per law, it established a CRIA Board comprised of three City Council members and two community figures.

In June 2022, the City Council waived development impact fees for all development in the CRIA Project Area. The City is now seeking public input on the Old Town CRIA Plan, which includes:

  • Descriptions of deteriorated infrastructure and programs for repair
  • Affordable housing programs with 5-year estimates of deposits, assisted units, and other factors
  • A program to remove hazardous substances
  • A program to fund economic revitalization
  • A 5-year projected receipt of revenue and projected expenses

The Plan spells out intentions to transform Old Town into a pedestrian-friendly focal point for the region – one that brings in new housing opportunities, businesses, and jobs.

While Victorville would be the first California city to establish a CRIA, it shouldn’t be the last. Victorville and Old Town can serve as a model for other cities and communities seeking options for revitalization that do not involve raising taxes.

Authors

Hitta Mosesman

Hitta Mosesman

Vice President / Community Development + Housing