There is a conversation happening in Venice right now about the formation of a Business Improvement District (BID) to help improve the neighborhood. David Graham-Caso, the Communications Director & Environmental Policy Advisor to Councilmember Mike Bonin reached out to Yo! Venice, saying there has been some inaccurate information about BIDs circulating Venice.
Here Caso provides some background information to help explain what a BID actually is…
WHAT IS A BID?
A Business Improvement District, or BID, is a geographically defined area in which property owners form an assessment district to charge themselves a fee to pay for agreed upon services, activities and programs above and beyond those provided by the City of Los Angeles.
BIDs exist all over the United States, and are a common and popular tool to improve and beautify neighborhoods. Every major city in America has BIDs. San Francisco, San Diego, New York City all have multiple BIDs. There are more than 40 BIDs in the City of Los Angeles, in a wide and diverse range of communities, including in Downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, Westchester, Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, Canoga Park, Encino, Leimert Park, South Los Angeles, and Wilmington.
BIDs can choose to provide a range of services to supplement those provided by the City. That can include cleaning and maintenance, additional security, special event programming, and marketing. The BID itself determines which services to provide through the fees raised by the special assessment district.
In the case of the Venice BID, assessed fees could be used for more frequent restroom cleaning, maintenance of the boardwalk, or additional security. The goal is to provide a safer and cleaner neighborhood for everyone to enjoy. Despite considerable attention and resources directed to the area, Venice Beach and nearby areas are still in dire need of the kind of extra attention that a BID could provide.
BACKGROUND ON BIDs AND ASSESSMENT DISTRICTS
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.
THE APPROVAL PROCESS
The Venice BID has gone through the exact same public process as each and every BID and other assessment district in Los Angeles, with public hearings and opportunities for input from neighbors and people who love Venice. The process includes petitions, public hearings, and an election.
To start a BID in Los Angeles, a group of property owners or business owners (the Venice BID is a property owner BID, not a business owner BID) get together to determine they want to create a BID to assess themselves to make improvements to the neighborhood. Once they determine they want to move forward, they hire a project manager who helps them determine proposed boundaries and proposed priority services. They then consult with the City Clerk to ensure that they follow the City’s implementation processes and develop a boundary map and a management plan. Then the proposed BID is subject to a petition process. Petitions explaining the BID, its boundaries and what it would do are sent to all property owners within the BID boundaries. Property owners then submit their petitions with either a yes or no vote on whether or not they want a formal BID to be considered. Approval of the owners of a majority of the total value of the properties in the BID area is required to move forward (for example, if the combined property values in a bid area equal $100, the owners of at least $51 dollars worth of the properties must approve the BID for it to move forward). Following a public hearing, the City Council certifies the petitions. The next step is an actual election. Ballots are mailed to every property owner in the proposed BID area. To win approval, the proposed BID must win support from the owners of a majority of the total value of property who return ballots.
Because BIDs are assessment districts that levy fees on its members, state law restricts the voting to those being asked to pay, and though everyone gets to benefit from the improvements made by the BID, only the property owners paying for it get to vote in the BID election.