And The PBID Beat Goes On

LA MESA -- The City Council had its first official group discussion of the Property Based Improvement District Tuesday night but there was little in the way of substantial comment or action. In fact, this discussion suggested the PBID debate eventually may end up being a mix of short memories, rhetoric and political kibuki theater.

At one point a local attorney who seemed angry about everything stood and wildly ranted about disrespect, welfare for merchants and political process. He was apparently against the PBID but ran out of time before he could get around to explaining why. 

As with all recent PBID meetings, there was a string of supporters and a string of opponents and their respective arguments are becoming so familiar it can feel like this whole idea may be talked to death before any vote is taken by anyone.

And yet, the City Council members started asking questions like this whole PBID thing was a new concept. That's where the short memories come in.

The City Council did hire the consultant who spent the last year leading a process that resulted in the formal PBID proposal being floated around town. Mayor Art Madrid sat on the Steering Committee and at least twice there were formal updates for the council on the progress of the PBID process. In addition there were exhaustive coverage of each PBID meeting on local news websites and a three-part, in depth series in an East County magazine.

For the last month the PBID maps and the working document have been posted on the city's website. Yet, Councilwoman Ruth Sterling was asking questions Tuesday about what benefit the city would get from paying a PBID assessment even as the list of services were displayed on the screen before her. One would think that might have been understood before hiring a consultant to pursue this issue.

And other questions by the other council members were only slightly less obvious. Either they had paid no attention at all to an issue that has had signs for and against adorning main street storefronts or they were trying to convince PBID critics of an independence that is hard to square with the council's role in starting this whole PBID process.

If all of this is confusing, you are not alone. Unless you have a long attention span or a wonkish love for government, the PBID process is challenging.

On Tuesday night, a long series of local merchants, a school official and a few landlords stood before the council asking it to shoot down the PBID by refusing to sign the supporting petition, which, as a land owner, the city has a right to do. Some wore buttons saying "Save Our Village.''

Then Jim Wieboldt, a local business owner and, as he reminded, a former board member of the Village Merchants Association, stood and reminded the council that the whole PBID idea actually started eight years ago when the merchants asked the city to help form one.

By night's end there was more heat than light and more than enough questions for the council to ask City Manager David Witt and his troops to research and bring back for future discussions of the issue. Madrid said he hoped the council would vote on whether or not it would sign the petition that would allow a formal PBID balloting process by the first meeting in April.

If approved by a majority of Village property owners, the PBID would assess each property and would raise about $370,000 per year to fund extra maintenance, security and marketing for the city's traditional Village commercial core. If the PBID is not approved, the city council has implied it would cut back on the scope of a $5-million rehab project being planned for La Mesa Boulevard.

Witt was asked to report back on exactly what would be cut from the street redesign if there was no maintenance support from a PBID. That, too, will be brought to a future meeting.

The PBID pulse goes on.






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Tags: Government, La Mesa Today, La Mesa news, Property Based Improvement District


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Comment by Jenna Zeledon on March 3, 2012 at 11:04pm

Hi Russel

All great points!  I think the "challenge" if I may for City Council at this point is to fully wrap their heads around what the Formation Committee (a group of volunteers comprised of property owners, business owners and a resident-at-large)  was thinking when finalizing and formulating the budget.  they worked diligently for months over 14 meetings (I attended all but the last one in full from start to finish) meticulously talking out services, what realistic costs were, what they felt should be included to really make the most of the PBID.  As one member said, "if we're going to do this we should do it right".    

Baseline services now take care of existing infrastructure... right now the trees in the village haven't been watered in 20+ years, the sidewalks aren't powerwashed by the City, etc.  The bottom line is that the City is willing to pull together $5million in funds to upgrade La Mesa Village... and they can't pull money out of a hat.  Why put in new, beautiful sidewalks, plans, the "Streetscape" if they can't find a way to pull together additional funds to maintain those? They don't want to invest in something they can't afford to keep in the condition it deserves.  The PBID includes additional security, marketing for all of the niche jewel businesses in the Village, funds to assist LMVMA and other associations with their efforts, dayporter service (someone who picks up trash and other 'maintenance' in the area), streetsweeping, seasonal holiday decor throughout the year.... the PBID has a LOT of benefits which many (along with myself) feel would not only enhance the Village visually but really reinvigorate the area and businesses within it.  Quality services come at a cost.  I work in real estate property management and provided members numerous tools and realistic figures of what services cost.  There are some who say figures were "pulled out of a hat" when in reality they took what they knew was the going-rate for that service was and based their numbers off of that.  

The City wants to invest in the downtown village; what they'd like to see is a renewed interest in the property owners wanting to invest in the area and the City itself.  The level of Streetscape Improvements is highly dependent on the PBID passing - while improvements will be made, we won't get the beautiful Allison Ave. project on every street as the current drawings show.  

I'm a resident of La Mesa and just happen to also have a large property owner who is in the planned PBID and supports it.  I've spent a lot of personal time researching PBIDs and time working with fellow supporters to at least get the facts and honest truth out there to the community. 

'd be more than happy to sit down with you (or Lisa!) sometime to go over the the PBID line by line. 

Comment by Russell Buckley on March 1, 2012 at 8:43pm

Hi Chris. thanks also for the explanation. I can see why this issue is contentious. I hope that others who favor one side or the other and have given it much more thought than I will chime in and give their points of view. Russell

Comment by Lisa Moore on March 1, 2012 at 7:39pm

Thanks Chris for your explanation on the PBID.  I definitely will be following what goes on at future meetings.  I love ready La Mesa Today as it really has brought news of our beloved Village that I would have otherwise missed.  Keep up the great work!  Lisa

Comment by La Mesa Today on March 1, 2012 at 7:28pm

Russell, Lisa,

I may have raced through the details too quickly in this specific story. According to those involved in the PBID, the city has established and chronicled a baseline of services they now give to the PBID area. Those services, including tree trimming, some landscaping, street sweeping and police coverage, would continue. The PBID would fund "enhanced" services beyond that baseline, including care for some elements of the new streetscape the city would be adding when they rebuild the streets and sidewalks. It would also fund some marketing and the administrative costs of running the PBID.

As I have written on a number of occasions, one could see this whole issue in terms of putting in place a way to require all property owners to contribute to the sorts of things the La Mesa Village Merchants Association could get only some to contribute to in the past. Malls like the Grossmont Center and Parkway Plaza essentially have this kind of forced contribution for upkeep and marketing built into their rent agreements, but La Mesa Village is not a centrally managed mall and clearly not everyone wants to mimic that model along La Mesa Boulevard; others do.

I hope this helps. I'll endeavor to explain these details more thoroughly in the future.

Chris Lavin, Editor

Comment by Lisa Moore on March 1, 2012 at 6:39pm

Russell -I'm also just a LM property taxpayer since 1975 and like you have been watching this from afar. As a former small LM business owner in the "Village" area, I can see the side of the business owners involved as far as the cost to them.  Are the things the PBID taxes will cover necessary and should they be funded through the regular tax revenues....I am still trying to decide on that.  Of course from what I understand, the City of La Mesa will also be paying a large share of the PBID taxes, but of course the money the City pays is our tax money so I guess it's safe to say, our regular tax revenue will be funding this.  I guess it's the process of making the decision I find interesting.... if indeed a council member still can't figure out what is going on after all the information and discussion that has already preceded last Tues. council meeting.   

Comment by Russell Buckley on March 1, 2012 at 11:36am

Lisa - I have been watching this issue from afar and don't have skin in the game (except for being a La Mesa taxpayer) so I am not heated up about it. But I do have one question that you might be able to answer: Are the things the PBID taxes will pay for something that we should expect to be funded with regular tax revenues - or they things above and beyond? 

Comment by Lisa Moore on March 1, 2012 at 10:58am

The report on the PBID discussion at the council meeting Tues. describes an almost comical version of the keystone cops.  Maybe it's the political season we are in....everyone needs to be heard whether they have any useful to say or not.  Hard to believe Council Ruth Sterling not knowing what is being discussed at this stage in the game in the PBID discussion.  It's starting to sound a little like the workings of the Calif. State legislature.  La Mesa is better than that!

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