City Signs Petition To Renew Downtown Property Based Improvement District
City Vote Represents One-Third Of Support Needed To Reestablish PBID
By Tiffany Rider - Senior Writer
May 8th - On May 1, the Long Beach City Council authorized City Manager Patrick West to sign a petition to support the reestablishment of the Downtown Long Beach Property Based Improvement District (PBID).
First District Councilmember Robert Garcia recused himself because he has property within 500 feet of the proposed PBID boundary, while 5th District Councilmember Gerrie Schipske recused herself on the basis of a property interest within the PBID. Eighth District Councilmember Rae Gabelich was absent. The item passed 6-0.
“I can’t tell you how important this program is to the city, especially the downtown area, now that the redevelopment agency is no longer in existence,” West told the council before the vote. Established in 1998, the PBID is an assessment district in which property owners are charged annual fees for programs and services administered by the Downtown Long Beach Associates (DLBA). The PBID was reestablished in 2003 for a 10-year term, which expires at the end of next year.
The renewal would result in a budget of $2.325 million in assessment dollars to be spent on environmental and economic benefits that are above and beyond existing city services. The PBID reestablishment process is conducted in accordance with the California Constitution. Proposition 218, which dictates the ballot measure, requires a majority vote of the property owners within the proposed boundary.
Votes are weighted by individual property assessment, which is based on the square footage of each property and the level of services provided by the DLBA. As part of this renewal, the proposed PBID will, for the first time, include residential property owners.
All property owners within the proposed PBID have been mailed a petition, and if 50 percent plus one of the petitions are signed, the results will be presented to the city council – with an estimated return on investment – for a formal vote to proceed with the reestablishment of the district. That process includes a ballot drive, in which a majority protest vote would prevent the assessment from passing. Property owners then have no more than 45 days to return the ballot, before the city council holds a public hearing to tabulate the votes.
In preparation for the PBID renewal, the DLBA has spent the past 14 months communicating with various neighborhood and business groups whose members own property within the proposed PBID boundaries. John Sangmeister, chair of the DLBA Board of Directors, told the council, “Over a year ago, our board of directors recognized that many of our longtime partners would be diminished or dissolved outright, as in the case of the redevelopment agency. Without action, these losses would lead to great economic hardship for our community. The DLBA Board of Directors accelerated our renewal efforts in a determined effort to protect the downtown from further negative fiscal impacts.”
He continued, “While it is unlikely that any plan of this scale will meet universal approval, our board and the PBID Steering Committee worked diligently and thoughtfully to incorporate all of the comments, suggestions and criticisms directed at earlier iterations of the management plan.” Several DLBA boardmembers were present at the meeting to show support for the PBID renewal.
According to Michael Conway, director of public works, the assessment total for city-owned property within the proposed PBID is approximately $389,493, “of which $172,710 is paid by Developers Diversified Realty, the tenant at The Pike at Rainbow Harbor.” With the reestablishment of the PBID for another 10-year term, the city’s current assessment has been reduced by 5 percent, Conway noted. However, the city will pay that amount each year for the 10-year length of the agreement.
Conway described to the council that the PBID establishment is a way for “property owners to assess themselves.” The city’s PBID assessment amount equates to 17 percent of the total PBID assessment, or, as Conway put it, “one third of the needed support to reestablish the PBID.”
In addition, because the city is the successor agency to the now-dissolved Long Beach Redevelopment Agency, the assessments for former redevelopment properties within the proposed PBID would be “a continuing obligation of the successor agency or will inure to benefit the owner of record at the time the assessments are due and payable,” Conway said. That assessment, which is currently valuated at $96,000, would increase under the new management plan to $110,000 annually.
“Staff believes the benefits provided by the PBID are critical to the continuing success of the downtown area,” Conway said.
One group against the PBID renewal is Downtown Homeowners Unite, which is up in arms over the inclusion of residential property owners in the PBID. The group’s spokesperson, Sandy Rendell, urged the city council not to sign the petition.
“It is not the property owners who are seeking renewal. It is the DLBA that is seeking the renewal for the PBID,” Rendell said. “There is a big difference between a true initiative by the property owners and an organization like the DLBA seeking to renew its own funding by using taxpayer dollars.”
Rendell told the council that there is “significant opposition amongst homeowners against the PBID.” She continued, “Already the DLBA is the face of the downtown, not the city. Is that what you want? If the city is unwilling to keep the streets clean and safe, and has turned over this function to the DLBA, then I strongly suggest you get rid of the high priced overhead and concentrate on real services. Remember, it is the city who is ultimately responsible. It is the city who is the authorizing agency for this expensive and unnecessary process.”
Not all residents are opposed to residential property owners being included in the PBID. Joe Ganem, a resident of the Blu: Long Beach Contemporary Residences, asked the council to support the action and signed his petition during his public testimony. “[I am] absolutely delighted that we now have an opportunity to participate in a legitimate way,” he said.
For more information on the PBID renewal process, visit www.downtownlongbeach.org.
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