What is it?
The BLVD Association has partnered with the City of Lancaster to form a Property and Business Improvement District (PBID) in Downtown Lancaster. Utilized in thriving downtown areas throughout California, including Long Beach, Pasadena, and Sacramento, PBIDs provide a stable funding source for much-needed services and promotions. They are funded through an assessment on real property located within the benefit district.
Where does the money go? All funds generated by the assessment district are reinvested in the downtown area for the benefit of assessed properties. As laid out in the Downtown Lancaster PBID Management District Plan, funding is allocated among the following categories:
- Clean & Safe:
This category aims to make The BLVD a cleaner, safer place, thus making it a more desirable location to live and shop while benefiting property owners by increasing commerce and tenancy rates. Examples of services include private security, sidewalk steam-cleaning, and general maintenance and cleaning efforts.
- Marketing & Promotions:
These efforts aim to increase patronage of downtown businesses by building awareness of The BLVD as the region’s premier shopping, dining, entertainment, services and cultural destination. Examples may include marketing materials; print, web, radio, and television advertising; special events and promotions; and other promotional activities.
- Administration & Advocacy:
The District established a unified voice to advocate on behalf of property owners with various agencies. Activities under this category may include working with potential tenants, developers, banks, and government agencies to attract new businesses downtown. Services include administrative staffing to assist the Board of Directors in the implementation of programs and activities, as well as office space, legal and accounting fees, telephone and postage charges, insurance, meeting space, and similar administrative expenses.
The budget includes a prudent fiscal reserve. Changes in data and other issues may change revenue and expenses. In order to buffer the organization for unexpected changes in revenue and/or allow the PBID to fund other overhead or renewal costs, the reserve is included as a budget item.
What’s in it for business and property owners?
The purpose of a PBID is to create a sustainable, stable funding source for needed services and joint marketing in the downtown area. The goal of these efforts is to attract more customers and generate increased revenue, which in turn increases tenancy rates and property values. By joining the PBID effort, you leverage your individual contribution into more than $250,000 in investment into the downtown area. Every dollar of these funds is dedicated to making the downtown a more desirable, and thus profitable, place to be.
How is the PBID governed? Who decides exactly how the money is spent?
The PBID is governed by a nonprofit organization called The BLVD Association. All business and property owners located within the district are automatically members of the Association, which is governed by a Board of Directors. While the Board is bound by the general budget categories outlined above, they create the budget and make decisions on specific line items. All meetings of The BLVD Association and its Board of Directors are subject to the Brown Act and open to the public.
The Board of Directors consists of a majority of downtown property owners, as well as downtown business owners. Two seats on the board are dedicated to the two largest property owners (who, by extension, also pay the largest assessments). The remainder of the seats are chosen by election, in which all downtown business and property owners may run and vote.
Assessment vs. Tax
The PBID created a new assessment on real property in the downtown area, which is different from a tax. Once taxes are collected, you as a taxpayer may not know how and where the money is spent, and it may or may not benefit you personally. However, assessment funds must be used to benefit the properties paying the assessment. All funds are reinvested in the downtown for the benefit of properties within the district. Expenditures are controlled by the Board of Directors, which consists of property and business owners.
How long does it last?
The PBID lasts five years, from January 2014 through December 2018. At that time, if the property and business owners wish to continue the district, the formation process completed in 2013 will begin again and the district could be renewed for up to ten years.
The formation process formally kicked off in November 2012 with a series of outreach meetings and surveys. Notices regarding the meetings, as well as written surveys, were sent to all property owners within the district to the address on file with the County Assessor. Based on the feedback collected through these meetings and surveys, a Management District Plan was formulated to provide the structure for a PBID that would provide the services requested by property owners. On April 2, 2013, we conducted outreach meetings to go over this plan with property owners. Throughout April and May 2013, a petition drive was conducted, during which petitions in support of the PBID were collected from property owners representing more than 50% of all properties in the downtown area, thus initiating the balloting process.
On May 30, 2013, ballots were mailed to all property owners in the proposed PBID area at the address on file with the Los Angeles County Assessor. Property owners were able to submit ballots until July 23, the date of the public hearing. The ballots were counted immediately following this hearing, with more than 73% of votes cast in favor of forming the district.
Per State law, in both the petition phase and the balloting process, votes were weighted based on percentage of ownership. For example, a property owner who owns 1% of the total property in the downtown and will pay 1% of the total assessment had 1% of the total voting weight.