“Clean and Safe area” are the purposes of the Venice Business Improvement District (BID) seeking approval. The Los Angeles City Clerk should announce the ballot results later this month to those who are in the group eligible to vote.
The map shows the commercial and manufacturing property owners within the area. These are the people who will comprise the BID and who have already approved the self-assessment.
This BID includes owners of commercial or industrial properties only and only those within areas shown on the map. Note that neither residential property owners nor business owners are part of this BID. Only members of the BID will be assessed. Of course, all will benefit. All of Venice will benefit.
Last week the Update carried information and reasons that were negative toward a BID. It was stated that the positive side of a BID would be published. I asked the city council office for BID information, history etc., and got almost immediate replies from Debbie Dyner-Harris, District Director, and from David Graham-Caso, Communications Director, with both providing backgrounds and histories of BID and the Venice one in particular with the caveat to check with Tara Devine, Venice organizer, for the Venice peculiar questions. No one withheld information, least of all Tara on the Venice specific questions.
History and Background
BID have been around for many years and are throughout the world, according to Tara Devine, organizer for the BID members.
The first BID began in Canada in 1970; BIDs have become exceedingly effective and popular in less than 50 years. Today, BIDs exist in all US states, most provinces of Canada, the UK, Ireland, Serbia, Albania, Germany, Netherlands, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. There are more than 1,100 in the US, more than 400 in Canada and more than 200 in the UK. Los Angeles has 41 BIDs that have spent nearly $430 million improving LA communities since 1996.
More than 400 community leaders volunteer as BID Board Members, with many more serving on committees. BIDs are formed for a limited period of time and must be renewed. This ensures accountability. The vast majority of BIDs are renewed successfully by a vote of their stakeholders.
David Graham-Caso gave background on bids and the assessment districts and how common they are.
A BID does not govern, manage or control public property. It is merely an assessment district that provides supplemental services to the neighborhood.
Assessment districts are quite common. For instance, in the state of California, that is how street lighting is paid for. Property owners determine whether or not they want street lighting, and if they vote that they do, then each house which benefits from that light directly is assessed on their tax bills the amount of money to pay for it. Pedestrians and drivers also benefit peripherally as they get more lighting when they pass by, but since it is not direct and every single day, they are not assessed. Only property owners within the BID boundary pay anything extra.
In another example, a couple of years ago, property owners in a Mar Vista neighborhood voted to assess themselves money to do curb and gutter repairs in their neighborhood. Only those who front those streets and live with them every day are asked to vote and then pay the additional assessment fee, but they do not get exclusive use of the road in return. The roads still belong to the general public and all sorts of vehicular drivers, pedestrians and bicycle riders also may use the streets and would benefit from the improvement.
Under state law, businesses and property owners are allowed to use assessment districts to create BIDs.
Former Councilmember Bill Rosendahl urged property owners to form a BID as early as 2008, as did the Venice Neighborhood Council. Councilmember Bonin supported the formation of the BID as a candidate in 2012 and 2013, and has been publicly stating his support for it since taking office.
More and More are Stepping Up
More and more property owners are stepping up to the plate to add that extra support necessary to aid Cities that are already “over-used,” and frankly, unfamiliar with the local, peculiar problems. They are formed to supplement the City’s services. And who would be more qualified to know a particular area’s needs than those who own property? Thus a BID gets formed.
Does Venice Need a BID?
Venice Beach —this area forming the BID — has 10 million plus visitors per year! One should not have to ask: Does Venice need extra security, extra help to keep the area clean?
Venice BID Plans to Provide
The Venice BID plans to have a uniformed (uniform to designate who they are) patrol (walking, Segway, bike) of people familiar with the area who can answer visitor questions while also being a deterrent to arguments, crimes. Cleaning programs will include pressure washing, graffiti removal, and sticker/poster removal. They may provide more portable potties during certain holidays, events.
For those who do not think this is necessary, go to Windward at the Ocean Front Walk, 5 am to 6 am on a Monday, and walk the boardwalk, and the Speedway. You will hear the sidewalk cleaning machine and the trash trucks gearing up on the boardwalk. One City-provided-employee starts on Monday each week to eradicate graffiti, just on OFW. He starts on the south end and goes north. Some weeks, it is just a continuous task.
Tara Devine breaks it down
Examples include: bicycle, Segway, vehicular or foot patrols, sidewalk sweeping, pressure washing, landscaping, trash removal, graffiti/poster/sticker/gum removal and other related activities
District Identity & Special Projects
Examples include: Website, newsletter, promotional efforts, outreach programs
Administration & Management
Examples include: Personnel costs, city fees, formation costs, legal, accounting, insurance, office space, office supplies and equipment
Some Venetians are concerned about the welfare of the homeless that “hang” on OFW. The Los Angeles BID members were attributed with finding storage for the homeless and the storage was later turned over to the City for management. The LABID also provided employment opportunities for homeless thru the Chrysalis project. Those are just a few of the concerns and remedies that the Los Angeles BID implemented. This information is not to imply that the Venice BID will do such. No one knows what the Venice BID will encompass at this point other than what is stated.
From Tara Devine regarding homelessness
BIDs are one of many organizations and agencies trying to make a difference in a society that is failing our weakest members. BID ambassadors conduct outreach, provide service referrals and reconnect individuals living on the street with loved ones whenever possible. BIDs try to foster a safer and cleaner environment within the BID for all who live, work, and visit, including the housed and the unhoused. The Venice BID is actively interested in looking at local and regional partnerships to assist the homeless in the BID.
“Downtown Santa Monica, which has probably the largest and most successful BID in the region, has been keeping the 3rd Street Promenade safe, clean, well-maintained and financially successful for about 30 years now. This is a remarkable history of success, when most other commercial and visitor-oriented districts fly high for a while and flame out after a decade or so. Other commercial areas decided to fund their own BIDs (or similar organizations), including Main Street, Montana Ave and Pico Blvd. I don’t see any harassment of homeless or low-income people, and no diminishment in their number. What I do see is trash picked up more often, streets and sidewalks cleaned more often, private “ambassadors” welcoming people to the area and answering questions, extra security (provided by SMPD and Park Rangers) and investment in marketing, way-finding signage, and parking upgrades.” – Howard Robinson, former Economic Development Manager for the City of Santa Monica
City Owned Property Being Assessed?
Some Venetians were concerned about City owned property being part of the BID. Yes, City owned property within the boundaries shown will be assessed as will other properties. In other words, City owned property is not exempt from assessment.
Has it all been transparent, will the organization be transparent?
Some said the formation was not transparent.
Info from Tara Devine
All property owners within the BID have received as least two mailings with information about the BID, a contact for questions, a petition and a ballot. This information was sent to the address of record on file with the Los Angeles County Assessor. Email and phone numbers associated with properties are not publicly available. If the BID is formed, the Board will be comprised of property and business owners within the BID, and business will be conducted at meetings noticed and open to the general public. The City of Los Angeles provides administrative and fiscal oversight for all LA BIDs.
Update has never had such quick, transparent response as this provided by the City and the Venice Organizer. If there are other concerns, please ask. These people will answer.