Steppke objects to the district’s boundaries, which include residential areas within one or two blocks of the main corridors — University Avenue, between Interstate 805 and Florida Street, and 30th Street, between Howard and Thorn. He says the western section of University, near Mississippi and Florida, a dozen blocks from the center of North Park, should not be included in the district.
“The businesses along [the western end of] University are small mom-and-pop operations,” he says. “I have issues with the large number of residential properties” that are captured when western University is included in the district.
“I live along this area,” Steppke says, “and the most impact I see from the small businesses around my house is when someone drops a sock on the sidewalk walking from the Laundromat.”
Don and Debbie Leichtling live one block from the heart of North Park’s business area, at University and 30th. If the new assessment district is formed, Leichtling will be responsible for an extra $108.90 every year, in addition to the $18.70 he already pays for the existing maintenance assessment district.
Leichtling attended the scoping meeting that was held after the clean and safe district was proposed. At the outset, he suggested raising fees on the existing maintenance assessment district so that all of North Park could see improvements.
“They didn’t want to listen,” says Leichtling. “This whole thing is to make things better for the business district, North Park Main Street.”
Councilmember Gloria says that enhanced services will “strengthen the quality of life for current and future residents and visitors throughout the area.”
He writes in a June 27 email, “Residential property owners, like commercial property owners, will benefit from the services provided through the program, so an assessment is appropriate.”
Adds Gloria, “Because commercial businesses have a greater impact on the community, their assessments are proportionately higher than those for residential neighbors.”
But residential property owners point out that those higher assessments also mean that the commercial votes count more.
According to the engineer’s report, votes are weighted in proportion to a parcel’s assessment, which leads Steppke to believe that even if all residential property owners voted against the proposed district, the votes from commercial property owners would still be enough for the proposal to pass.
“We are essentially having it forced on us,” he says.
North Park resident Steve Tweedale concurs. If the district is approved, Tweedale will pay an extra $128.60 per year for his two North Park properties.
“North Park Main Street colluded with Gloria to gerrymander a new assessment district and to pick the pockets of some North Park residents [in order] to shoulder the burden of the successful business district and to fund projects that [Gloria] will be first to claim as feathers in his cap.”
He continues, “The process was manipulated. Sadly, they have more staff, time, and money than I, and at this point I’ve voted my disapproval but will be subject to the vote of the business property owners.
“If it passes, I’ll simply deal with my pocket being picked twice a year when I pay property taxes. You can bet that I have no respect for the organizations, nor the individuals involved in this thievery.”