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How Redevelopment Racks Up

Well-paid officials claim you get what you pay for

IN CONTRAST to Los Angeles and San Francisco--the two agencies most similar in structure to our local redevelopment agency­San Jose spends more of its personnel dollars at the top of its organizational pyramid. By its own definition, the San Jose Redevelopment Agency hires more highly-paid executives than its similar-sized colleagues. In relative terms, it also pays them better.

San Jose's agency argues that's simply the cost of running an exceptionally aggressive, successful program. But others counter that bigger isn't necessarily better.

Take San Francisco's Redevelopment Agency, for instance. After overcoming political resistance that hog-tied it for more than two decades, the agency to the north has made great strides. Since the mid-1980s, the city has built the Moscone Convention Center, the site of the 1984 Democratic convention; Yerba Buena Gardens, a complex that includes the city's new Museum of Modern Art, a theater, a visual arts center and soon a children's center; and numerous hotels and housing complexes.

The agency's annual budget--approximately $86 million--is several shades lighter than San Jose's $102 million budget. Yet San Francisco's executive ranks are thinner than San Jose's.

Although the cost of living is fairly comparable between the two cities, there's a $20,000 difference between the $131,000 salary San Francisco pays its Executive Director, Clifford Graves, and the $151,000 San Jose's Frank Taylor pulls down. Plus, San Francisco doesn't pay for an assistant executive director--a $112,000-a-year bill for San Jose. In fact, the San Francisco agency has only four people on its executive staff--excluding general counsel--the executive director and three deputy executive directors, compared to San Jose's nine.

San Jose also includes another layer of managers that swim below the executive deputies in its executive suite: four division directors and an assistant to the executive director (a post previously held by City Councilmember Pat Dando.)

In total, San Francisco spends 5 percent of its personnel dollars on executives, where as San Jose spends 26 percent.

The pattern is similar further up the redevelopment food chain. The executive director of the largest redevelopment agency in California--the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles--earns $4,000 more than Taylor, although the Southern California agency's $140 million budget is 37 percent larger than San Jose's. Los Angeles also has more than twice the amount of acres in redevelopment. Yet the southern California agency has eight people on its executive staff compared to San Jose's nine: an executive director, a chief deputy executive and six deputy administrators.

The mammoth agency pays its chief deputy director approximately $120,000, about $8,000 more than San Jose's assistant executive director, an equivalent position. The salaries of its deputy administrators are comparable to San Jose's executive deputies and division directors, if San Jose's salaries are adjusted to take into account a 24.3 percent cash payment offered in lieu of benefits to many of the agency's top executives.

Like San Francisco, Los Angeles spends only 4 percent of its personnel dollars on its executives. However, the agency also employs an exceedingly large staff--250 compared to San Jose's 95.5.

"So what?" counters Jim Forsberg, San Jose's assistant executive director, when asked about the wide discrepancy in the depth of its executive fleet between San Jose and its near-sized colleagues. "It's irrelevant." What really matters, he maintains, is whether San Jose's extra, highly-paid executives produce significantly greater results.

"Measure us by what we do," he insists. "This organization is the most aggressive in the state and the most successful in the state." However, Forsberg's opinion is not universally held.

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From the October 3-9, 1996 issue of Metro

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