Redevelopment is gone. Now What?
My Position: We Must Spur Economic Development
The city has spent the last few years working on balancing the budget. This has taken the form of cuts, reductions or the elimination of services.
Balancing a budget is done by reducing expenses, but, the other side of the ledger, increasing revenue, must also be addressed.
How does a city increase revenue?
They, increase fees, taxes and encourage economic development.
Pinole has successfully used its proximity to the Eastbound I-80 corridor to attract business. When speaking of this business corridor, “If they build it they will come”, is truly applicable. However, that is not the case for other commercial corridors in Pinole. In this new economy, one in which redevelopment dollars are no longer available to provide incentives for economic development, it is time to develop new ideas and programs.
Exploring the feasibility of a BID in three commercial corridors
A Welcome to Pinole – Business Concierge Program
A Shared Vision for Old Town Pinole
A Business Walk Program
BID: Business Improvement District
I want to make my position on the BID idea crystal clear. Some have been saying I am anti-business because I have an idea to spur economic development via a BID program. Poppycock. I have spent the last ten years of my life working on behalf of the small business community.
This is simply an idea that will require conversations, exploration and feedback from the stakeholders. Ideas are we what need, some may work other may not, but we can not be afraid to explore them. It is an idea that I will speak to every stakeholder about. If a BID in any of the three corridors is not what the stakeholders want, then we will move on to explore other ideas. But let’s at least have the conversation first.
The business community can not rely on the city for financial sustenance.
It is time to decide how to move on and encourage investment in Pinole.
Let’s start by opening a dialogue with the stakeholders in these three corridors to explore the feasibility of a BID. It may be a good idea, it may not, but it’s still worth talking about.
I do understand the challenges our business community faces. And I also know that there have been situations where the City has imposed its will as the majority stakeholder.
As an example, the lighting and landscape district which was touted by the incumbents was not and is not a popular fee. One reason for the business community’s ire is the fact that the vote taken was skewed as the city had a majority interest.
A. Conduct a Public Hearing Regarding the Pinole Valley Landscape & Lighting Assessment District 2008-01 To Confirm the Assessment & Order The Levy For Fiscal Year 2011/12 [Council Report No. 2011-60 Action: Adopt Resolution Per Staff Recommendation (Allison)]
Dean Allison, Public Works Director presented Council Report 2011-60 into the record. The Public Hearing was held annually to place assessments on the commercial properties along Pinole Valley Road from Henry to Pinole Valley High School. The District was formed so that the benefitting properties pay into the funding mechanism for installing and maintaining the landscaping and lighting in the medians. The total assessment was approximately $28,000; five percent less that the prior year. Allison explained the exemption process and recommended approval of the accompanying resolutions.
At 8:53 p.m., Mayor Swearingen opened and closed the Public Hearing, with no speakers rising to address the Council.
Council Member Green asked whether the redevelopment agency had most of the property under their ownership when the initial vote was taken several years ago and Mr. Allison confirmed that was correct, explaining that the votes are weighted by assessment and at that time the Agency controlled the majority of the property ownership.
Mayor Pro Tem Murray had no questions; he understood that the district was formed to enhance the area for the business district, and it appeared that staff had been efficient in streamlining costs to deliver a five percent decrease.
Council Member Long asked the cost the County charged to collect the fees and how the exemptions were handled. Mr. Allison said the County cost was two hundred thirty seven dollars, and the City had to backfill the exemptions.
Council Member Long said with the exemptions for the small businesses, she now supported the assessment district and found it a necessary funding mechanism.
Council Member Green commented that it was unfair not to go back to the vote of the property owners, since the prior ownerships was mainly held by the Agency. He said he was not in favor of the assessment.
Mayor Swearingen said the intrinsic value of the fee is that the people who receive the benefit pay their share, and no complaints or protests had been filed.
Mr. Allison advised Council of the outreach and notification process, stating the City goes above the statutory requirements.
At a recent Council meeting City attorney Ben Reyes noted that the exemptions given were an illegal act. I believe our business leaders should have a voice and a seat at the table. I will look for ways to create dialogue, explore ideas, and create a panel of business and property owners who can represent these stakeholders.
A. The exploration of a BID for three commercial corridors in Pinole:
San Pablo Ave South from Appian Way
We must leave no stone unturned in order to help our businesses and spur economic development. I will hold meetings with the business and property owners to explore this idea. I will listen to everyone as we open up a dialogue. I will not support additional fees or taxes if they are not the will of the majority.
I have been a small business advocate for the last ten years, I do not intend to turn my back on them. But if we, collectively, agree that this is a tool that will help us, then we must at least start the conversation.
Q: What is a BID?
Q: Will I be taxed without a say in the process?
Q: Will the city control the funds?
A Business Improvement District is where businesses or property owners within a defined geographic area choose to tax themselves. The taxes paid by the owners within the district are spent on improving the business climate within the district. Usually, the money is actually controlled by a committee of the assessed in the district. Certainly, some of the money goes to the administration of the tax and the district, but the vast majority is spent on the district. Usually, the money is spent on physical improvements, landscaping, events, promotions, marketing and publicity.
* A BID is an opportunity for businesses to tax themselves, then control the use of the tax revenues for the benefits of their own property/business by improving their neighborhoods and paying for services and events.
* It is really a self-help tool that gives the property owners in the BID area control and use of collected funds and the ability to prioritize the areas of need.
* There is a process by which all property owners have the opportunity and the right to weigh in on this idea, a majority is needed to create a BID.
* It is a democratic process that can enable property owners to set goals and use their funds to achieve those goals.
* Business improvement districts are usually governed by the city (a resolution establishing the BID is needed) but managed by a private, non-profit organization with a board of directors made up of stakeholders.
* The municipal government typically collects the revenue and remits the funds to the BID.
* Advisory and administrative boards are primarily made up of businesspeople and landowners.
* The city collects but remits those funds to the BID.
* All decisions for the use and control of BID funds is the responsibility of the BID board.
B. Welcome to Pinole – Business Concierge Program
I took this idea to staff in 2011. The Town of Danville has been successful in developing a business-friendly attitude with the help of this program. Small businesses are often stymied and frustrated by the paperwork and processes involved in opening or relocating a business in Pinole. The Concierge Program helps them through the process by providing a road map to success. It also helps them to understand what the costs are before they set out on a venture that may not be feasible in Pinole due to zoning restrictions or land use issues.
There is a need to be proactive and customer friendly towards small businesses interested in doing business Pinole.
C. A Shared Vision for Old Town
How often have you heard how charmed visitors are by Pinole’s Old Town? It is one of the most unique areas in Pinole and the surrounding communities.
Historic Down Towns have become largely irrelevant throughout the nation as businesses change their business models to meet consumer needs and demands, in spite of the efforts of organizations such as California Main Street Alliance.
Pinole’s Old Town is still the center of our community. It holds a special place in the hearts of Pinoleans. There have been some improvements over the years in Old Town, primarily due to the use of Redevelopment Funds. However, without redevelopment funds and without a shared and clear vision for Old Town, we will continue to see vacant store fronts and little foot traffic. People need a reason to visit Old Town.
I believe we can and should define the vision for Old Town with input from residents and the business community.
There is little reason for visitors to spend their time and/or their dollars in Old Town with the exception of patronizing the restaurants in the Old Town area.
I believe that Old Town can become a destination by adding an entertainment element to its business district.
Collaborative events that incorporate existing venues while encouraging businesses to offer appropriate forms of entertainment, such as music, comedy and theatre, can make Old Town a real destination.
The city’s vision is to bring in retail businesses. That is a good way to increase sales tax revenue, I’m in favor of that. But we must try to work towards making Old Town a true destination that will set Old Town apart.
D. A Business Walk Program:
Communities in California have successfully reached out to their local businesses to learn from them exactly what their needs and concerns are.
It is a simple premise, teams of local residents, council members, staff, and community organizations, select a day to walk to every business and ask three questions:
- How’s business?
- What do you like about doing business at your location?
- How can business be made better?
The business walk gives individual business owners an opportunity to interact with civic leadership in their community, those who have the ability to act on their behalf to ensure a prosperous business climate. Let’s start this conversation, sooner rather than later.
Pinole needs new Leadership, new ideas and a positive and creative approach to the future of our City.