Sixth District Councilmember Dee Andrews’s latest townhall meeting introduced his constituents to the idea of developing a Property-Based Improvement District (PBID) in the central area of Long Beach. Residents attentively listened to community leaders as they shared their successes in establishing property- and business-based improvement districts, and now the 6th district staff is hoping that the community can rise to the occasion to help fuel positive changes for their own district.
The April 24, one-hour discussion was led by Andrews’s chief of staff, John Edmond, and started off with an explanation of a PBID given by Kraig Kojian, the director of Downtown Long Beach Associates. “With redevelopment going away [and] with city services being depleted for the last four years, some of the things that residents have discussed are infrastructure maintenance, improvements for public safety,” Edmond said. “This is one of the vehicles to allow that to happen.”
Kojian explained how the city currently has two PBIDs, one in downtown and the other in the Magnolia Industrial Group. In comparison to other cities, Kojian revealed that the city of Los Angeles has 35 while New York City has about 90. “It starts with the investment that you’re making into this community,” Kojian said. “How can we protect that investment?”
According to a definition breakdown found on the Downtown Long Beach Associates website, a PBID is a special benefit district where property is assessed to fund district improvements and services in addition to those provided by the City of Long Beach. The concept was established in 1994 by the State of California as a resource to place a special assessment on real property and has since been dedicated to helping fund programs to make districts clean, safe and vital.
“We know how much the City can do, and the community understands how much it wants to do above and beyond what the City can do,” said Kojian. “It’s going to be up to the nonprofit organizations that are responsible for managing the funding and the programs to really do the work that the community wants done.”
For the Sixth District, Kojian explained that the process would take about 12 to 15 months, starts off by building a consensus, and then ultimately creates a management plan. “You want to be able to understand the levels of service and frequency that these programs will provide,” he said.
Numerous attendees asked further questions regarding the establishment of a PBID in their community, even after the meeting ended. The solid turnout on Tuesday would likely help garner resident participation as the necessary 50-percent-plus weighted vote of those people paying into the district, which is needed to give the district its jumpstart. Once signatures have been collected, they can be presented to the city council that will then declare resolution of intent to create the district.
“Sixty-five percent of the downtown Long Beach budget goes to the ‘clean and safe’ program,” added Kojian. “The greater the demand, the greater the services and the higher the assessment.”
Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) West Division Commander Josef Levy provided attendees with a crime and safety update along with the division’s focuses as summer approaches. Levy anticipates a busy summer for the police department with gang activity and residential burglaries increasing around that time. “Crooks are opportunists. You have to remove the opportunity,” Levy said.
Chain-snatch robberies were also reported as a growing concern as the price of gold continues to go up. Levy also announced that the Summer Night Lights program would be continuing this year. The program, which partners with the Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine Department, the LBPD and other nonprofit, community-based organizations, is a violence-prevention strategy and youth-development project offered at Martin Luther King, Drake and Admiral Kidd parks from July 5 through Sept 2.
Rod Wilson, president and CEO of Pacific Research and Strategies, and Blair Cohn, executive director of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association (BKBIA), shared their journeys, obstacles and tips for establishing a successful business-based improvement district. “It’s a way to get to know your neighborhoods,” said Wilson. “It gives the community finally a voice– a strong voice.”
Although the meeting emphasized more of a property-based aspect of district improvement, to close out the meeting, Cohn used his experiences on one common factor found in both concepts and repeatedly mentioned throughout the meeting– you cannot wait for the City to do it all.