Since 1973, 10 business improvement districts have been formed in the City of Long Beach. These districts, run by nonprofit organizations, provide services beyond those of the city with the intention of improving business corridors. The leadership of the more established BIDs speak of revitalization and renaissance – as they tell it, their efforts have created safer and cleaner streets, attracted new and unique businesses, and encouraged visitors to patronize these areas.
There are two types of BIDs – one in which property owners pay an annual assessment for services and another format where business owners pay the assessment. Each district has its own fiscal year and its own assessment formula. Businesses may be charged a flat rate or may pay different amounts based on the type of establishment and number of employees. Similarly, property owners may pay a flat rate based on square footage, but in some cases, owners of larger parcels pay more.
The nonprofit organizations running the BIDs range in size and structure. Some, like the 4th Street Business Improvement Association, are run by unpaid volunteer boards. Others, like the Uptown Property and Community Association, employ an executive director to oversee operations.
To form a BID, a group of business or property owners must form an association and develop a management plan identifying geographic boundaries, assessment fees, proposed services and a budget. This plan must be submitted to the Long Beach City Council for a public hearing. For property-based districts, a petition signed by at least 50% of the property owners must be submitted with the management plan. Approval of at least 50% of the business or property owners is required to form a BID.
The city’s business-based assessment districts are Belmont Shore, Zaferia (formerly referred to as East Anaheim Street), Bixby Knolls and 4th Street. The property-based improvement districts in Long Beach are known as the Magnolia Industrial Group, Uptown and Midtown/Cambodia Town. The latter two are the city’s newest BIDs.
Downtown Long Beach is unique in that it has both a business-based assessment zone and a property-based assessment zone, both of which are overseen by the Downtown Long Beach Associates.
Another unique case is the Long Beach Tourism Property and Business Improvement Area, which assesses 17 hotel property owners located downtown and near the Long Beach Airport. Those funds contribute to the marketing, promotion and economic development efforts of the Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). This BID is not profiled in this section, as it differs so greatly from the others.
“At the time the BID was formed, the city was in a position where financially it didn’t have additional monies for the CVB, and we had been rather static for several years,” Steve Goodling, president and CEO of the CVB, told the Business Journal. “We had cut and cut. The next cuts were going to be sales people and trade shows.”
The general manager for the Hyatt Regency at the time told Goodling, “If that happens, I might as well just put chain links around my doors and close,” he recalled. She proposed creating a BID to save the efforts of the CVB, and the district was quickly formed. “We had the support of city management. We had the support of [former Mayor] Beverly O’Neill and the council,” Goodling said.
The tourism BID pays for the CVB’s sales efforts, marketing and special events. The district’s assessment constitutes about 52% of the CVB’s funding, according to Goodling. “If it weren’t for the BID, the CVB would not exist. That would greatly impact room nights at the hotels, conventions in the city, the bed tax and the $300 million a year in economic impact,” he said.
Aside from the tourism BID, Long Beach BIDs represent business thoroughfares and corridors. The services provided by their governing nonprofit organizations typically include some combination of security, clean teams, marketing and promotion, special events, beautification and economic development.
Some districts are newer than others, and are still getting off the ground in terms of creating a clean and safe environment, like the Midtown BID. Others, like Downtown or Belmont Shore, are further along in their evolution and, having created appealing environments, are now more focused on economic development matters.
Overall, the goal of each BID is largely the same: to create a welcoming environment for businesses and their patrons and to attract and retain businesses.
Jim Fisk, project manager overseeing BIDs for the City of Long Beach, indicated that corridors along Broadway, Wardlow Road and in the Wrigley neighborhood have expressed interest in forming BIDs, but nothing is official at this time.