Herald American

Area cities considering downtown business districts

By Arnold Adler

Contributing Writer

DOWNEY — Plans for a Downtown Downey Community Benefit District advanced Sept. 11 as the City Council hired a consultant to oversee establishing the organization of about 50 businesses.

The district will be bounded by Nance Street on the south, Brookshire Avenue on the east, an area between Third and Fourth streets on the north and both sides of La Reina on the west with some parcels extending west to the east side of Myrtle Street.

The Bellflower City Council Sept. 10 directed its staff to report back next month with a plans for a similar program on two sections of Bellflower Boulevard.

The improvement or enhancement program gives business owners in a designated district authority to plan their own events, with city approval, and maintain their buildings and areas with a property tax assessment on themselves.

Bellflower’s action followed a special meeting to discuss the issue on Sept. 10.

“It was the consensus of the City Council to direct staff to move forward with the formation of a hybrid type of business improvement district on the north and south proposed areas along Bellflower Boulevard after discussing the matter with the Bellflower Merchant’s Association and business/property owners in those areas; and to bring back the list of potential services to be included in the [districts] for City Council consideration within three to four weeks,” a city clerk spokesperson said.

Downey’s plan was approved July 24 after a public count by City Clerk Maria Alice Duarte, which indicated that 57.67 percent of merchants favored the plan, with 42.32 percent against it.

“Following that action, staff recognized the need to act expeditiously to establish the [community benefit district] board and management corporation,” said Aldo E. Schindler, Downey’s director of community development in a written report Sept. 11.

The ouncil hired San Diego-based New City America, which has been advising the city on the issue, to act as an interim board until the district forms its own leadership made up of affected business owners. The fee is $32,000 under a contract that expires next June. However, the contract could be extended if need be, Schindler said.

He said the job of New City America will be to help property owners in selecting board members and officers, schedule board meetings, adopt the legal articles of incorporation, apply to the IRS for a 501c3 designation as a nonprofit entity, create a contract between management of the district and the city, set up a transfer of funds from the city to the management corporation,  seek proposals of services to be offered by the board and hire an executive director to manage the corporation.

In July, the City Council conducted the ballot count after a public hearing at which only one member of the audience spoke. It then approved a resolution of formation to establish the community benefit district and levy assessments, estimated at $253,589 the first year. The city’s share would be $49,067.

The City Council ordered the vote June 7 after receiving petitions from 30.4 percent of area merchants in favor of the plan. Ballots were mailed out June 8.

Schindler said the community benefit district assessments would help the city pay for some of the services which benefit those businesses, such as street sweeping, steam cleaning of sidewalks, security and public art.

“While the city currently provides regular general services to the downtown area, it is essential that alternative sources be studied to provide continued funding for special services the downtown requires to maintain its vitality,” Schindler said in a written report.

He said assessments would be based on such things as width of the property such as for sidewalks and curbs, size of lot or size of the building.

The council’s Downtown Subcommittee, composed of Mayor Pro Tem Rick Rodriguez and Councilman Alex Saab, along with staff and New City America, have been talking with business owners for three years and several property owners have voiced support for the plan.

They said they would support paying for services such as street sweeping, landscaping, steam cleaning, public art, private security, beautification, marketing, public space development and building enhancement; along with special events such as sales, concerts and other programs, while also dealing with homeless and panhandling issues, Schindler said in his report July 24.

“A Downtown Downey Community Benefit District could raise nearly $232,385 annually, which would be reinvested into making Downtown Downey thrive,” Schindler said.