Business Improvement District Renewal, Formation Activity Picking Up Citywide

Proponents Say BIDs Have Positive Impact On Business, Neighborhoods

By Tiffany Rider - Senior Writer

June 19, 2012 – Long Beach business and community leaders are working with their councilmembers on either renewing or forming improvement districts to provide programs and services in a struggling economy.

The May unemployment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show 10.8 percent of Californians are out of work. This number may be higher due to an unknown number of individuals who have stopped looking for work. In Long Beach, unemployment for May was reported as 12.2 percent, or approximately 28,800 people out of work, but the real number is probably considerably higher.

Cities across the state have also been impacted by the loss of redevelopment agencies, which used tax increment funding to help remove blight and improve business corridors. In this struggle, cities such as Long Beach are working to provide as many economic development opportunities to their communities as possible.

One economic and community development tool being utilized in cities up and down the state are business improvement districts (BIDs), which are areas in which businesses pay a fee or tax to the area’s managing nonprofit. That nonprofit agency and its board of directors are charged to manage the structure of the BID and the implementation of economic and community development support services and programs above what is provided by the city.

In 2009, a study conducted by the RAND Corporation revealed that Los Angeles’ business improvement districts can impact crime and youth violence levels. According to a summary of the report, “Such activities can contribute to community-level attributes that might reduce crime and youth violence by increasing informal social control, reducing visible signs of disorder and blight, improving order maintenance, and providing enriched employment opportunities by facilitating overall improvements in the local business environment.”

Following the California Constitution, BIDs are formed by a vote of the business owners within the designated area. The election process and cast ballots are tallied and certified by the city, which then authorizes the nonprofit agency to collect the tax or fees either directly or through the county assessor’s tax rolls.

The fees collected in business improvement district are to suppose to help fund board-approved, business-related activities and improvements, which benefit the businesses within the district. “Activities, programs and improvements range from street fairs to business promotions to installing street lighting and cleaning sidewalks,” according to the City of Long Beach Web site. “By pooling private resources, business and property owners collectively pay for activities they could not afford on an individual basis. Today there are hundreds of BIDs in the state, eight of which are located in Long Beach.”

Downtown PBID Election Expected To Begin Today, June 19

Property owners in Downtown Long Beach are in the process of renewing their property based improvement district (PBID), which is managed by the nonprofit Downtown Long Beach Associates (DLBA).

In preparation for the legally required election to renew the PBID – and add residential property owners for the first time – the DLBA distributed petitions to each of the property owners within the proposed district. Each property owner has a vote in the process, which is weighted based on the assessment amount to be paid by the property owner. The DLBA collected more than 50 percent of the weighted PBID vote in the petition process, and submitted the petitions to the City of Long Beach the week of June 4, according to the agency.

“The DLBA created and sent an individualized petition packet to every affected property owner as a means of not only collecting support, but also educating our stakeholders,” DLBA President and CEO Kraig Kojian said in a press release. “We’re pleased to see the community’s support of this important initiative, and we will continue to coordinate additional outreach efforts to educate and inform all Downtown property owners thru the mail-in ballot process.”

The results of the petition process, which were reviewed by Jim Fisk, the city’s business improvement district development project manager, will be reported to the Long Beach City Council at tonight’s June 19 meeting. In addition, the council will consider adopting a resolution of intention to form the Downtown Long Beach PBID, allowing ballots to be issued to each individual parcel owner, authorizing the city manager to vote in favor and return the city’s ballot and setting a public hearing for August 7 to count the ballots and either ratify or reject the results.

The city’s vote is for property it owns within the proposed district. The total assessment for those properties is estimated at $389,493 in the first year – $172,710 of which is paid by Developers Diversified Realty as required by its lease of the Pike property. The balance of the assessment will be paid out of the city’s Civic Center Fund.

First formed in 1998, the Downtown Long Beach PBID was renewed in 2003 for a 10-year term. The current renewal process is also for a 10-year term beginning January 2013. The PBID’s services and programs are outlined in management plan, which is available for review online at www.downtownlongbeach.org.

Youngest Business Improvement District Plans For 2013

The East Anaheim Street Business Alliance (EASBA), the nonprofit agency that manages the city’s youngest business improvement district, is currently working on several projects.

The EASBA is finalizing plans for installing security cameras along the business corridor, which will be available to the Long Beach Police Department for surveillance purposes. In addition, gateway signs on Anaheim Street at Junipero Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway are being planned to “further brand the area and remind those who drive by what a valuable resource and unique community exists in East Long Beach,” said Rod Wilson, director of the East Anaheim Street Business Alliance and CEO of Pacific Research.

The organization is also printing its 2012-2013 Business Directory, which will highlight shopping, dining and professional services available within the district. The BID boundaries are Junipero Avenue to the west, Pacific Avenue to the east, 11th Street to the south and 14th Street to the north.

“As the newest and youngest BID in Long Beach, EASBA continues to work hard to provide valuable services to our 500-business membership,” Wilson said. “Our street banner campaign begins its second year in building identity and giving those visiting the area a reason to stop, shop and dine in East Long Beach. . . . EASBA continues to showcase the local history of the area and build research about Zaferia and the surrounding neighborhoods. EASBA continues to be a pipeline of information for local businesses and residents and works hard to give the community a stronger voice.”

The next monthly meeting of the EASBA will feature Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster as a guest speaker. The meeting is June 26 at noon at the Long Beach Playhouse, 5201 E. Anaheim St. For more information, visit www.easba.com.

Proposals Submitted For Potential BID In 9th Council District

“In the last two years since taking office, we have made great strides in building our neighborhood and community groups and it is now time to bring the small business owners to the table,” Floyd Hampton Livingston, district community organizer for 9th District Councilmember Steven Neal, said via e-mail. “With that said, the council office has reached out to the small business owners and property owners in the 9th District to form a business association.”

This association is the North Long Beach Business Alliance (NLBBA), which has been meeting on the last Wednesday of every month at Houghton Park since December 2011. To further the mission of the NLBBA, Councilmember Neal requested district funds be allocated for the purpose of hiring a consultant to review the feasibility of forming a BID along Atlantic Avenue, between South Street and East Artesia Boulevard, and transforming the group into a nonprofit organization.

According to the city’s BID manager, a request for proposal process has been conducted and received 57 inquiries but only four proposals. One of the proposals is from a local company, and another has local ties, Fisk said. “We’re still in the process of analyzing the proposals, and then we will set up meetings and a little committee to evaluate the best fit – the most qualified and cost effective,” he said.

According to Livingston, the interview panel, which is made up of businesses, property owners, city staff and residents, will begin the interview process in June with the hopes of selecting a consultant in July. Once a consultant is selected, a feasibility study will be conducted to determine if a BID would be successful and what type of BID would best fit the community. “If successful, the North Long Beach Business Alliance will join Andy Street Multi-family Improvement Association and Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association as the newest business improvement district in Uptown,” he said.

6th Council District Explores Forming Multiple Improvement Districts

On May 22, the city council voted to allow 6th District Councilmember Dee Andrews to reallocate $75,000 in district funds specified for infrastructure to community benefits for the purpose of exploring the feasibility of forming three BIDs in his district. He initially asked the council for $225,000.

Due to a surplus in the Uplands Oil Fund last year, each council district was allocated approximately $16,000 for community benefits and $500,000 for infrastructure. The reallocated funds would pay for hiring consultants to conduct feasibility studies for BIDs in Cambodia Town, on Pacific Avenue and on Long Beach Boulevard, according to 6th Council District Chief of Staff John Edmond.

“Most of these PBIDs and BIDs have clean and safe programs, and also marketing and promotions,” Edmond said. “One of the things businesses need, in order to thrive, [is that] the area has to be aesthetically pleasing and it has to be a safe place to go. . . . The other thing [about BIDs] is these things are self-controlled. It’s not the councilman or a city bureaucrat deciding what to spend the [assessment] on because its basically a self-imposed fee, and they vote every year to do it. It’s a manifest destiny.”

Plans for a potential Long Beach Boulevard BID in the 6th District will be discussed at a meeting to be scheduled. The BID idea for Pacific Avenue, from Pacific Coast Highway to Willow Street, would be an ideal addition to the $4 million investment of new medians constructed and bike paths in the works, Edmond said.

“I think of Pacific Avenue as a success, however we really need to make it more pedestrian friendly,” Edmond said. “We may not have a lot of vacancies, but we may not have a lot of tenants that promote their services or amenities for the residents who live in Wrigley. So, hopefully, by having a cleaner and safer environment, and having marketing, we will be able to attract better tenants and thereby make that a corridor that is more vibrant.”

Richer San, first vice chair of Cambodia Town Inc., has been working on the development of a BID along the roughly one-mile corridor on Anaheim Street between Atlantic and Junipero avenues. Several donors, including Union Bank of California, have pitched in to help fund the process to explore and possibly form a BID, San said. So far the group has raised $17,500 in private dollars.

“We are trying the best we can because we believe the business improvement district is a good project. It has been proven to be very successful,” San said. “Because of the economy, we haven’t been able to get it done yet. But we are going to make sure it does happen because we believe in that. We have seen these projects in the Downtown, in Bixby Knolls, in Belmont Shore, on 4th Street and even our neighbor here, the East Anaheim Street business improvement district. . . . We have been talking a lot with the established business improvement districts for their help as well.”