Jeff Smith 2 p.m., Dec. 18
Proposal for newly drawn assessment district in North Park once again in the works
More than a year after the previous attempt failed, North Park Main Street is back again
The required one-and-a-half year cooling off period has expired and North Park Main Street is back with a new proposal to bring a Property-based Improvement District (PBID) to North Park.
In July 2011, a proposal to expand the current assessment district failed to get the necessary votes. Many residents objected to the super-sized district and, more importantly, two businesses, the Vons Grocery Store and Albertsons, voted against tacking on additional taxes to their annual property bills.
But Angela Landsberg, executive director of North Park Main Street, the nonprofit that manages North Park’s business improvement district, is back at it, this time hoping to learn from the non-profit's failed attempt.
"North Park has so much potential," Landsberg said in a September 17 phone interview. "If I had the ability to fix sidewalk, scrape gum off the sidewalks, place more trash cans and plant more trees, I would and North Park would be an even better community. Unfortunately, with such a small budget for North Park Main Street, we are unable to do those things without some help."
Landsberg has already spent months trying to find consultants to draft district boundaries and tally potential assessments. That can't be done, however, without funding.
In March, Landsberg began reaching out to Council President, now Interim-Mayor Todd Gloria, for help.
One month later, according to emails obtained through a public records request, Gloria's staffer Anthony Bernal began looking for funds.
"Regarding the formation of the Community Benefit District, what our office needs is a written formal proposal," Bernal wrote to Landsberg in an April 22 email. "If you can get me this information in the next week I will see if we can include it in the budget discussion."
The proposal didn't make it into the budget and Landsberg has returned to the drawing board.
"My personal preference is that it focuses on commercial and not residential. But we will have to wait and see what is best."
Some residents are still skeptical, especially those who were not keen on having to pay a few hundred dollars more each year to help pay for improvements which would mainly be directed at commercial corridors and neatly maintained streetscapes.
"There has been talk ever since the last one failed that North Park Main Street would rework the details and appeal factor to guile the residents into voting for it," wrote North Park property owner Rick Pyles. "They're going to have to find a way to convince the big businesses, like Von's of the benefits, because it was they who defeated the last one, with their heavier weight of votes. If they're on board, the residents are sunk."
As Landsberg continues to work out the kinks and search for support from property owners, there is another factor at play; that being the legality of Property-based Improvement Districts and other assessment districts.
Hearings in a court case challenging similar districts has already begun. The suit was filed earlier this year by San Diegans for Open Government.
"This lawsuit challenges Defendants' authorization of a variety of "tax" levies and collections euphemistically labeled "assessments" by Defendants in order to avoid public scrutiny without first obtaining the requisite approval of the voters of the City of San Diego," reads the lawsuit.
Attorneys for the City will undoubtedly have their hands full, especially considering they have already lost one case over an illegally formed assessment district in Golden Hill.
More like this:
- City can’t drag its heels any longer — May 17, 2014
- San Diegans for Open Government challenges legality of assessment districts in a June 12 lawsuit — June 13, 2013
- Watchdog group questions the legality of maintenance assessment districts in a new lawsuit against the City of San Diego — Sept. 27, 2012
- North Park Maintenance Assessment Fails — July 12, 2011
- Assess Much? The North Park Clean and Safe Program — June 24, 2011