Does A New PBID 2.0 Loom?

LA MESA -- With news of the last piece of funding potentially in place, attention quickly turned to the unfinished business of determining how refined the finishing touches will be for La Mesa's downtown Village revitalization effort.

City Councilman Ernie Ewin filed an agenda item for the next City Council meeting asking for a formal update on the Property Based Improvement District effort that largely disappeared from the radar after the council's last meeting in July.

Leaders of the PBID effort, while not slugging it out with opponents on local bulletin boards, were making noises of perhaps hammering out a compromise aimed at attracting the three votes from City Council that could push the PBID effort toward success.

Lynn McRea, the local accountant who served as chairwoman of the PBID Steering Committee, said for the first time Thursday that if the City Council agreed to sign its own PBID petition, the effort would have enough support to push the PBID process through to a formal referendum.

"Listen, we heard the concerns raised in the meetings and, of course, we'd love to have the council's support,'' McRea said. "Truth is, we're still mystified as to why the council support hasn't been there yet, but we're willing to compromise and if that brings us to something that can have even wider support of the community, it will be worth the extra effort.''

The PBID has been at the heart of a struggle between the city and some local merchants and Village property owners who view the $370,000 annual PBID budget as too big and a challenge to some businesses struggling to survive in a difficult economy.

For years, however, city officials have struggled to form a workable partnership in which the merchants and property owners who benefit from the city's downtown investments contribute to maintain improvements paid for with taxpayer funds.

As the need for a refurbishment of La Mesa Boulevard increased, the city and a group of local merchants and property owners began looking into a formal PBID, which would require that all property owners contribute to help maintain and market the quaint, traditional core of the this city.

As it stands, the city would cut back on some of the finer finishing touches of the $5-million proposed project if some form of formal support for the improvements isn't established.

Opponents of the PBID have declared the effort dead, as recently as today on comments on, but the supporters say those death knells have been premature and squarely put the council and its five votes at the center of its target.

"We've been working right along,'' said Jim Wieboldt local business owner and chamber of commerce board member. "We do feel we would have been further along at this point had the council shown more leadership on this issue, but now that the funding is in place and it is clear we want the full project with all the amenities, I believe we can find the recipe that gets  us moving forward.''

Wieboldt acknowledged the recipe may require making substantive changes in the PBID proposal to persuade council members to support the effort the council itself has funded to this point.

"We look forward to the council members expressing what those changes would be,'' he said.

Mayor Art Madrid represented the city on the PBID Steering Committee and has been a vocal supporter of the concept, but even he was saying changes may be needed to find the three votes on council to push the effort forward. "Everything needs to be on the table," Madrid said.

The other four council members, however, have been more opaque in where they stand on the PBID proposal. The issue got caught up in November's election and, frankly, there were probably more votes to be lost in supporting an effort the detractors could and did describe as a "tax.''

But distanced now from a looming election, the votes needed are more those of current property owners, the only people who can sign the petitions and create the PBID. Many property owners support having a system that would require full participation in supporting the downtown Village environment and those supporters believe that once the council votes its own petition, a number of other significant property owners will follow suit.

The Steering Committee (shown above during an August, 2011 meeting) also has a wide variety of steps it can take to reshape the issue, including reducing the overall size of the PBID area or eliminating specific types of property from participating in the effort. Such changes could alter the overall cost as well as adjusting the number of petitions and eventual votes it would take to establish the district.

PBIDs have been used in a number of cities across California, including Little Italy, the Gaslamp and El Cajon in San Diego County among others.




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Tags: Art Madrid, Ernie Ewin, Government, Jim Wieboldt, La Mesa Today, La Mesa newspaper, Lynn McRea, PBID


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Comment by David Smyle on April 20, 2013 at 4:07pm

So here is the bottom line.  The streetscape improvements and the PBID are mutually exclusive.  Either the City wants to do the improvements because it will enhance the downtown and pay for the annual maintenance or it doesn't.  If you just breakdown the cost of maintenance from the rest of the PBID, it is affordable and can be paid for by the City all by itself from the existing tax dollars or from other savings such as outsourcing all paramedic and ambulance service and keeping high priced firefighters in the station rather than have the trucks roll out for medical calls or have employees both safety and non-safety pay for a larger portion of their healthcare benefits or by putting all employees on Obamacare.  The rest of the PBID costs are administrative and these activities are already handled by the Merchants Assoc. (events life XMAS in the Village, Oktoberfest, Car Show, Antique Faire)  If the businesses don't think the Merchants Assoc is doing a good job, then form a BID rather than a PBID and let the businesses run the downtown events.  If the City thinks spending $310K on non-maintenance issues is important, that justify to all of us how this is beneficial and how the cost is going to be recouped.  Question? is City cost recovery figured into all the proposed events the PBID would be putting on as part of the $380K budget?  The only businesses that might benefit from the PBID are retail.  Non-profits and offices and apartments will not.  PBID is a bad idea.  BID puts the costs where the ought to be, by those who benefit.  Businesses, not real estate owners.  Better yet,  just do the streetscape, improve the look of downtown and the City maintain it like our tax dollars are already paying them to.

Comment by Scott H. Kidwell on April 20, 2013 at 5:22am

So the PBID has floated to the surface again like a mobsters bloated corpse previously thrown in New York's East River. l recall that the city council previously committed to not use the power of the city vote to force the PBID upon those who oppose it. It was the PBIDians job to achieve 50% + 1 support on their own for the current version or any other cooked up  or watered down scheme.

Comment by Marie McLaughlin on April 19, 2013 at 7:22am

As I mentioned in comments on yesterday's article: Since the proposed PBID assessments would be included on our property tax bill, it seems vital that property owners not be delinquent.  If a member of the PBID committee is not current on property taxes in the PBID district, how does that individual have the right to make decisions effecting what the rest of us should pay for proposed assessments?

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