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Reinventing Downtown SM:

The City of Santa Monica is considering a new way to manage Downtown Santa Monica so its businesses can be more competitive with others in the region. It is hoped the proposed change can help address the ongoing community concerns with Downtown’s cleanliness, parking problems, and homeless population.

Progressive Urban Management Associates’ Brad Siegel described the proposed new management model for downtown at a March 5 meeting sponsored by the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce. The new District would be a Property-Based Assessment District (PBAD), which would be bounded roughly by Ocean Avenue to the west, Wilshire Boulevard to the north, 7th Street to the east, and Santa Monica Freeway to the south.

Currently, the Bayside District Corporation manages downtown, and would continue to do so, though certain elements would change. According to Seigal, Bayside would “develop budgets, adjust annual assessments,” and “provide oversight for day-to-day service delivery.” Ideally, the new Bayside board would be a mixture of downtown property owners, downtown businesses, and Santa Monica residents.

Siegel noted that the draft budget for the District is $3,693,700, which would pay to maintain the District by providing such services as litter removal, machine sweeping, graffiti removal, landscaping, and emergency cleaning. The budget would also cover an Ambassador Program; ambassadors on foot and bicycle to provide information, escort people at night, and help with the restrooms. Lastly, the budget would provide for homeless outreach, special projects, administration, and marketing and promotions.

Concerns about the proposal raised at the meeting were that the assessments might be a burden on some property owners and that increases in rents to some businesses might make it unaffordable for them to continue to do business in the Downtown area. Another issue was that the increased property assessments would change the character of Downtown due to the type of businesses that could afford the assessments. A representative from the senior housing development on 6th Street noted that the proposal would place a hardship on its low-income senior tenants by increasing their rent.

In order to create the District, a petition campaign would be necessary to get signatures from property owners. Those who sign must represent more than the 50 percent of the total $3,693,700 that will be assessed. If this condition is satisfied, the City Council can vote to approve the PBAD. After approval, a ballot will then be mailed to all the affected property owners. If approved by a majority, the District will begin operation in January of 2009 and will have a 20-year life span. The PBAD property owners will vote again in 2019 to continue their assessments.

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