Ewin And PBID Supporters Talk Turkey

LA MESA -- After last month's City Council meeting, supporters of creating a Property Based Improvement District for the La Mesa Village left stunned by the council's decision not to sign the pro-PBID petition.

At the heart of their ire was City Councilman Ernie Ewin, whose statements and body language throughout the debate had convinced many he had decided to oppose the proposal the council itself had already funded to the tune of $337,000.

On Monday night, Ewin agreed to meet with the PBID supporters in the accounting offices of PBID Steering Committee leader Lynn McRae and cut through the rumors and tea leaf reading about where he stands.

Ewin said he is not opposed to the PBID.

"Do I think the PBID will work? Yes,'' Ewin said. "Is the PBID needed? Yes. Do I think it will benefit the village? Yes. But I need to see more movement among other property owners. I don't want the city to be the big stick behind this and then having people come back at us and say we shoved it down their throats.''

McRae and other PBID supporters, however, were obviously not happy with the city officials taking a neutral, wait-and-see attitude on the PBID process. In their view, the council started this process by funding a street scape redesign and paying for a consultant to organize the effort to form a new method of funding Village maintenance, safety and promotion.

"Based on that we went out there and put our own funds and our own reputations into this,'' said Village merchant Jim Wieboldt. "The way I see it, when I say I have your back and we're out there, I have your back. Now we want you to have our backs.''

Other merchants said the supporters represent the civil leadership of the Village and it appeared the council was siding with a vocal minority.

"We want the city to take a leadership position on this,'' art shop owner Shannon O'Dunn said, comparing this situation to the time a few years back when the council led the debate which eventually approved Proposition L, which raised the sales tax and has helped keep city services intact through the recession.

But Ewin was mostly sticking to his guns, saying he needed to see a stronger demonstration of support for the PBID from property owners before he would recommend the city express its official support.

Ewin did say he would propose that the council remove the end of July deadline it had imposed for completing the petition phase of the PBID process. That was seen as a big concession by PBID supporters who have struggled to efficiently identify and contact many of the Village property owners. A number of properties are owned by trusts and out-of-town absentee landlords.

Ewin also said he would see if city staff could assist with better contact numbers for property owners and would work to clarify the city's position on plans to rebuild La Mesa Boulevard as it passes through the Village.

The PBID supporters said they have toiled for the past two years believing that if the PBID effort did not succeed, much of the city's plan for redeveloping the boulevard would be abandoned.

Ewin said he knew of no vote of the council that linked the streetscape plan to the PBID success.

PBID supporters said city staff had repeatedly said the scale and scope of the redesign was linked to whether a PBID would eventually be in place to care for some of the more elaborate design changes that a full-blown redevelopment effort would include.

What exactly a down-sized La Mesa Boulevard project would look like, was never elaborated in detail during the PBID process.

Opponents of the PBID were not present at Ewin's meeting with the PBID supporters, but Bill Jaynes, owner of All Things Bright & British and a PBID opponent, said he would oppose any effort to end the July deadline the council has endorsed.

"We'd like to see them make a decision and stick with it for 30 days instead of changing it,'' Jaynes said.

The opponents felt like they had been handed a significant victory when council voted for a July deadline for either producing enough petitions to support the PBID or abandoning the effort. State law does not set deadlines and the effort's proponents had been struggling to contact property owners and getting quick decisions on the petition question.

In order to go forward, a majority of the Village property owners -- a vote weighted according to property values -- would be needed to move the PBID process on to a formal ballot. During the formal ballot phase, only a majority of property owners who vote would be needed to impose assessments that would raise about $370,000 annually to fund improved security, maintenance and marketing of the Village.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tags: All Things Bright & British, Bill Jaynes, City Councilman Ernie Ewin, City of La Mesa, Ernie Ewin, Ewin, Jim Wieboldt, La Mesa, La Mesa Boulevard, La Mesa News, More…La Mesa Village, La Mesa newspaper, Lynn McRae, PBID, Property Based Improvement District, Shannon O'Dunn, The Village

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Comment by Marie McLaughlin on June 9, 2012 at 12:44am

This article itself emphasizes that La Mesa Blvd. is the street earmarked for improvement.  That is the gist of my complaint.  Why should the surrounding area be charged assessments at rates that are supposedly equal to those of La Mesa Blvd., when we do not derive the same benefits?  Why are the assessments proposed 10 times higher than the average BID fees?   I am very gratified that Councilman Ewin is being cautious about moving forward with PBID.  It is likely that the majority of businesses effected by the proposed PBID are not in favor, and we deserve to be heard.

Comment by Marie McLaughlin on June 7, 2012 at 11:19am

Much has been said by PBIB proponents about how successful PBIDS are in other areas of San Diego.  Here's an interesting article to the contrary:

http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/this_just_in/article_19673c96-16d7-1...

From what I gleaned from this article an independent engineering company over assessed many properties, and property owners are not being refunded the overcharges.  I think it's a fair question to ask what engineering company was hired to compile the figures, and are they in the proposed PBID district?  If so, their PBID vote would likely be in favor, correct?

Comment by Jim Wieboldt on June 5, 2012 at 9:57pm

Hi Marie:

Sorry its taken a few days to get back to you. Unique Travel has just been hopping. Costa Rica is an excellent choice for summer travel. Vacation anyone?

My offer to you still stands. I would love to get together as property owners and discuss the benefits that a PBID might afford our businesses that the current business model of the village has not, does not and will not address. My schedule is very flexible. Please feel free to call the office for an appointment.

As for the PBID Action Committee, we continue to work towards open, transparent and honest dialogue by providing a factual website and related documents which bear the signatures of all of our members. If there are questions related to the documents released through some Public Records Request, please feel free to contact the agency which provided those records with any concerns or comments. 

For further information, please refer to our website at: www.downtownlamesa.org.

PBID...Good for OUR Businesses and good for OUR Village!

Jim Wieboldt

Unique Travel Concepts - 619.464.6426

Celebrating 40 Years of Service in La Mesa to Our Valued Clients - Thank You La Mesa!

Comment by Marie McLaughlin on June 5, 2012 at 9:13am

Bill, it was interesting to note in one of your links that "According to the City of San Diego's Economic Development Division, most BID fees range from $40-$500 per business annually."  That would be a bit more palatable than the $3848 assessed for my building.  The La Mesa PBID assessments are not based on reality, as my business would not derive more benefit than shops on the boulevard simply because my lot size is large.  The opposite is true, and that has always been the case, as my corner has never had the benefits or business activity of being on La Mesa Blvd., and property values reflect that. 

If I may quote from La Mesa Patch, April 25th 2012, one of our concerned citizens questioned:  "If the City will be a stake holder, that means tax money will be used to pay into PBID. ( please tell me if I'm wrong).  Therefore the taxpayers must be consulted. Our representation on the Council is not the proper method for that, it must be put to a vote if taxpayer money is used.

Something that also dawned on me was the fact that if the one of the responsibilities of PBID is security... then doesn't it follow that the City will be using taxpayer money to provide security for our own police station?"

These are questions that I would like to have addressed as well.

Comment by Bill Jaynes on June 4, 2012 at 9:49pm

Hi Jenna!

May I ask a few questions?

As you know, many of us in the so-called opposition have argued that a superior approach, if assessment districts are the only choices under consideration, is to combine:

a) a Maintenance Assessment District (MAD) that would address the Council's reasonable desire for a mechanism to recover the costs of any "enhanced" benefits due to the long-delayed Streetscape Project,

along with

b) a traditional Business Improvement District (BID) that would be better able to distribute benefits and burdens among participants than the PBID under discussion, which pits the City's $60,000 and Auerbach Redevelopment's $40,000 interests against the remainder of the "stakeholders".

1. You state, "Numerous communities like Hillcrest, Northpark and Little Italy have seen great benefits to having a mechanism in place like the proposed PBID."

Are you aware that of Hillcrest, North Park, and Little Italy, not one utilizes your preferred "PBID" mechanism?

a) Here is a link to the San Diego BID Council if you don't want to take my word for it:

http://bidcouncil.org/find-your-neighborhood/san-diego-bids/

In fact, each and every community you cite as an example of having gone down this road has opted for our alternative approach:

Information on Hillcrest's BID may be found here:

http://hillcrestbia.org/

and it's Maintenance District here:

http://hillcrestbia.org/news/maintenance-assessment-district-mad-co...

You may verify this information with the Hillcrest Executive Director, Benjamin Nicholls. You may recall Mr. Nicholls as the expert that TeamPBID and the City (but I repeat myself) brought to one of the meetings. Here are two highlights of his testimony to refresh your recollection:

i) He stated that municipalities are very adept at skirting their obligations under the Baseline Services Agreements (BSA's), such as the one proposed here, that are designed to ensure that these districts don't end up double charging us for commitments we have every right to expect are already being paid for through our current taxes.

ii) He further expounded that the primary raison d'etre of these districts is to "scream the loudest" for access to limited City funds.

Oddly, the City stopped shopping experts after that.

b) Information on Little Italy's BID may be found here:

http://www.littleitalysd.com/

Here's a PDF link to the June 2010 Engineer's Report for the Little Italy MAD:

http://www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/pdf/11littleitaly.pdf

On page 1, you will find an Executive summary of costs. Please note how well the MAD's fees compare with your proposed PBID. For example, the entirety of the Little Italy MAD assessment averages out to about $2.25 per linear foot of "land facing a street." PBID's Street Frontage Fee, alluded to by Commissioner Wieboldt below, is more than double that amount in Zone 1, even before we include the remainder of the charges he extols.

c) Information on North Park's BID may be found here:

http://www.northparkmainstreet.com/business-resources/north-park-bu...

and it's Maintenance District here:

http://npmad.org/

http://www.northparkmainstreet.com/business-resources/north-park-ma...

North Park also offers fascinating parallels to the currently proposed PBID scheme. As a recent article in the Reader, "Let’s Assess the Assessments", notes,

"...assessment districts have come under fire in recent years. Reports of flawed assessment engineer’s reports and allegations that the districts were illegally formed and ill conceived have made some residents rethink the benefits that maintenance assessment districts offer. In February, a judge ordered the dissolution of the maintenance assessment district in Golden Hill and South Park. Last year, residential and commercial property owners in North Park defeated a proposal to create a second maintenance assessment district. And downtown, after three years of waiting, residents still have not been refunded hundreds of thousands of dollars they paid in miscalculated assessments."

http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2012/apr/25/citylights2-assessme...

I hope this helps explain our somewhat cynical take on "PBID", what with the documentation we've uncovered that, for example, establishes the

---top down orchestration from elements at City Hall of what has been touted as an organic, grass roots movement

---the secret meetings of 2010 from which certain unsolicited "stakeholders" were turned away

---the seemingly coordinated behind-the-scenes maneuvering to eliminate a board position rather than let even one skeptic have a seat at the table

---the arbitrary nature of the assessment formula that hammers property owners not fortunate enough to have been on the Team
---and the cavalier attitude that saw the Project Engineer, paid with our money, write the following  (apparently without rebuke):

"To be safe, I will probably do a quick scaling off of a scaled aerial and arrive at a measured gross bldg figure or figures slightly higher than the net figures provided by [name redacted] - just in case I'm ever called upon to testify about the origin of these numbers since the County figures are totally bogus"


(Email from Project Engineer Ed Henning to Chris Gonzales, October 18, 2011)

To the best of my knowledge, every other property owner in the proposed district would pay an assessment based on those self-same "County figures.")

2.  You write to Marie McLaughlin, "One key part of the plan that would probably benefit you more than others is the marketing aspect... .  Usually the types of businesses that benefit most are the opposite of insurance companies, etc."

a) Might I ask, if "PBID" will charge Village "stakeholders" for services you acknowledge in advance they won't benefit from, isn't that more properly considered a bug rather than a feature?

b) If PBID Project Engineer Ed Henning were to write (as he in fact did):

"OK- here's the beauty of us "peeking" at the info ahead of time is that - we CAN lower the "government" rate to 50% - which actually is not uncommon in my other PBIDs because they don't really benefit from the marketing, special events and promos like commercial properties do."

(Email from Project Engineer Ed Henning to City Staff, August 9, 2010),

isn't it foolish for the City of La Mesa to relinquish $60,000 (mostly carved out of the General Fund), per annum, to a private cabal of property owners, while simultaneously binding the hands of future Councils?

c) Do you agree it would be even more unwise to do so if a recipient of Mr. Henning's email is on record responding as follows:

"Chris, What do you think? I'm inclined to agree with Ed's reasoning on the changes described below."

before the City's burden almost doubled from $32,000 to $60,000?

d) And as a final question on this facet of "PBID", what do you envision a marketing program that could serve the interests of an out-of-town redeveloper (who is also the largest private landholder in the proposed district) while still fairly accommodating the needs of, for example, a "2% margin chocolate bar salesman" might look like?

It might be an interesting exercise to run us through a mock-up of such a plan, with explicit documentary reference to the actual costs "of billboards, circulations, publications in local print media, etc." that the Team used in creating its "budget". I can't find anything like that at the City's website.

3. Going back to your examples of Hillcrest, Little Italy, and North Park, one thing that seems to distinguish successful Districts, be they BIDs or "PBIDs" from one-sided land scams and capricious private capital exsanguination apparati is the relative homogeneity of their participants that allows for more equitable assessments and fairer representation.

Here are the boundary maps for each of your asserted comparables:

Hillcrest

Little Italy

North Park

And here is the Final Map for the proposed PBID:

I know you are busy, so let's make this my last question of the evening:

Do you see the difference?

The other day, Parking Commissioner James Wieboldt offered "to meet with any in our community to give an honest and factual account."

I suggested that we might do so "either here on La Mesa today or in any public forum of [his] choosing, debate rules to be set by [Mr. Wieboldt] or the "Action Committee". To date he has not responded.

I would like to extend the same courtesy to you. Whether you prefer a one-on-one debate, Q&A, Point/Counterpoint, or any other format you can think of, I am ready and willing to work with you to foster informed discussion on these matters of public interest . Should Commissioner Wieboldt ever respond, Craig Maxwell has agreed to partner with me in a two-on-two discussion that promises to give the  citizens of La Mesa the opportunity to hear all the "pure and honest facts" they can stomach.

Sincerely,

Bill Jaynes

ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BRITISH

619 464 2298

Comment by Bill Jaynes on June 3, 2012 at 10:44am

Hi Commissioner Wieboldt!

May I ask a few questions?

1. You state "the California Streets and Highway Code allows for a 5% yearly increase for PBID's." (You have previously claimed in open council that the code mandates providing for this potential increase.)

The Property and Business Improvement District Law of 1994 is codified in Streets and Highways Code sections 36600-36604. You may find the law by clicking "1" at the following link:

http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/calawquery?codesection=shc&co...

Would you please point me to the relevant section of the code that mandates or permits "a 5% yearly increase for PBID's"?

2. You state The PBID Formation Committee (your neighboring business and property owners) have consistently affirmed... there would be no increase in the first five years."

A) The proposed PBID Management District Plan may be found here as a PDF:

http://www.cityoflamesa.com/DocumentView.aspx?DID=2448

Chris Gonzales, the City's "liaison" to your Committee has described this Plan as "the completed, collaborative work product of the committee/group."

(Email exchange between Chris Gonzales and Project Engineer Ed Henning, October 25 2011, in which Mr. Henning cautions the City Staffer to "BEWARE OF SPIES!")

Would you please direct me to the relevant portion of the MDP that directs there shall be no assessment "be no increase in the first five years"?

B) If you can't find such a statement in the only binding document the Committee has produced, will you join me in asking the Committee to come back to the table to correct this and other oversights we have brought to your attention?

C) If you can't find such a statement and you are unwilling to reopen talks, will you clarify if we are merely supposed to rely on Committee assurances as to your intent?

D) If we are to rely on your intent, should we take into account the Committee's refusal to consider limiting assessment increases to no more than 2% per annum, in line with Proposition 13 protections, as I and others repeatedly requested?

E) On October 10, 2011, mere weeks before the MDP was finalized, Project Engineer Ed Henning wrote the following to Chris Gonzales:

"Plan allows for up to 5% assessment rate increase per year upon Board approval. Many PBIDs have kept rates level over past few "lean" years but are now increasing them because contract prices are going up."


i) Did Mr. Henning ever share this professional, expert opinion with you or other members of the Committee?

ii) The minutes of the Formation Committee may be found here:

http://www.cityoflamesa.com/search.aspx?M=DOC&S=1&SearchStr...

If Mr. Henning shared this bit of expertise with you or the Committee, would you please direct me to where in the minutes I may find the Committee discussing how to fulfill its affirmation that "there would be no increase in the first five years", let alone how to guarantee "contributions by the property owners would decrease over the five year life span of the district" in the face of the macroeconomic trends cited by your own expert?

3) You mock longtime property owner and Village Merchant Marie McLaughlin for thinking it is unfair that she will have to pay at the same rate as buildings on the Boulevard when she sits on a quiet side street next to the Methodist Church.

A) When you claim "The assessment for all properties in either Zones 1, 2 or 3 are the same for their specific zones", would you concede  that this is a misstatement? Isn't it rather true that while the assessment rate is constant within each zone, the assessments themselves vary greatly?

B) You observe that Marie found this site suitable in 1998 and scorn her as "disingenuous" for thinking that a Procrustean assessment scheme puts her at a disadvantage today. 

i) Do you think the purchase price of the old NAPA building reflected its location on a quiet side street? Or would you pay just as much to purchase a property at Palm and Lemon as an otherwise identical one at Palm and La Mesa Boulevard?

ii) Would you credit the McLaughlins with enough business sense to have included these facts in their calculations?

iii) If not, how do you explain their continued operation for a decade and a half on this very spot?
If so, why will you minimize their concerns now?

I would like to take you up on your offer on behalf of the PBID Action Committee "to meet with any in our community to give an honest and factual account." May I take you up on that offer, either here on La Mesa today or in any public forum of your choosing, debate rules to be set by you or the "Action Committee"?

Thank you for your anticipated courtesy and cooperation, and, as always, thank you so so much for continuing to spread the word about our commitment to low, low, low prices!

Bill Jaynes

ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BRITISH

(selling fine English chocolates from the same location at 4th and La Mesa for 30 years)

619 464 2298

Comment by Marie McLaughlin on June 1, 2012 at 11:21am

I would like to add that there is nothing disingenuous about fighting for my rights as a business owner.  We oppose big government and a city council run PBID.  Business owners already voted "no" by failing to submit the required number of petitions in support of PBID.  Downtown La Mesa is charming the way it is, and my vote is to leave well enough alone.

Comment by Marie McLaughlin on May 31, 2012 at 8:58pm

Jim,  I've studied what other properties are proposed to be paying in relation to mine, and I can tell you that my fees are exorbitant to what most other comparable businesses are paying.  Let me compare my business to yours, if I may.  Although my property is on a corner with a parking lot, my property is probably not worth much more than yours, although my assessment would be more than 4.5 times what your assessment would be.  I would be delighted to be paying $860 a year instead of $3848.   The next largest antique shop, in PRIME location on La Mesa Blvd., one fifth smaller than mine, is assessed at $1560.  My property is .29 acres, a .23 acre property on PRIME La Mesa Blvd. property will pay $1249.   Obviously I'm being charged plenty extra for having a corner parcel with a parking lot, but my property is still worth less than even smaller properties on La Mesa Blvd. without a corner or parking lot.

Whatever method was devised to assess properties may work for those on the PBID committee, but it doesn't work for me.  My parking lot does not bring me revenue, in fact, it is an asset to the shops on the boulevard, as there is limited parking in The Village.  Most times we are happy to let our customers stay in our lot while shopping and dining on the boulevard.

We bought our property after having subleased it for years.  We leased our property in 1998 because it was the only affordable one available in downtown La Mesa, and we had to move quickly.   It was significantly cheaper than properties on La Mesa Blvd., and it had been sitting vacant for years before Napa Auto Parts leased it.  Napa moved out within a few months, as it was not a good location for them, and they were happy to have a sublease take it off their hands.  Our property may be a premium piece as far as PBID assessments are concerned, but it's been hard work for us to build a business that was not "In The Village."  I learned very quickly that my business at the corner of Lemon & Palm did not enjoy The Village benefits as did those on La Mesa Blvd.  When events such as Oktoberfest & Christmas in The Village occur, La Mesa Blvd gets street vendors and concessions, horse driven carriages, carnivals & street entertainment...my street gets the porta potties.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it looks like North Park businesses pay assessments based on number of full time employees.  That would seem a more fair system, as businesses that are smaller but make a great deal of money would be assessed more equally to businesses that are larger but don't produce a lot of income.   It also appears that they are assessed at significantly smaller rates than those proposed for La Mesa.  That would certainly explain why it would be successful. 

PBID has divided the community.  Those who are getting a good deal are pleased; those of us who are getting hosed are angry.  If the committee is using "self-assessed contributions", then may I choose to opt out? 

Comment by Jim Wieboldt on May 31, 2012 at 4:56pm

Hi Marie:

Just a quick factual update regarding your statements. As to the "quickly escalating" cost of the PBID. The PBID Formation Committee (your neighboring business and property owners) have consistently affirmed that while the California Streets and Highway Code allows for a 5% yearly increase for PBID's, there would be no increase in the first five years. In fact, with the professional administration of the district, a sound written marketing plan, solid audited financials and new and exciting events drawing customers into our village, the business model that the committee has embraced shows that the "SELF (not taxation by any means) ASSESSED" contributions by the property owners would decrease over the five year life span of the district.

Your statement that "Properties on La Mesa Blvd with square footage not much smaller than my building will be paying one-fourth to one-half as much" is a misstatement. The assessment for all properties in either Zones 1, 2 or 3 are the same for their specific zones. Your property is a premium corner piece with frontage on Palm Avenue and Lemon Avenue. The Draft Management Plan calls for three distinct fees per property. A BUILDING AREA FEE (square footage), LAND AREA FEE (lot size) and a STREET FRONTAGE FEE (land facing a street). Whether or not your property is located on La Mesa Boulevard is irrelevant. During the purchase process, you chose this property and it's location. If it was good enough then but some how now the PBID places you and the property at some great disadvantage because of its location seems profoundly disingenuous.

The PBID Action Committee is always available to meet with any in our community to give an honest and factual account or you may visit our website at www.downtownlamesa.org. I would also be open to meeting with you in person.

PBID...Good for OUR Businesses and good for OUR Village! 

Comment by Marie McLaughlin on May 31, 2012 at 3:27pm

Zenna, I appreciate your input.  However, there isn't much convincing you can do to change my mind about how unfair an assessment of nearly $4000 (quickly escalating to $5000 in 5 years) is to a business such as mine.  Properties on La Mesa Blvd with square footage not much smaller than my building will be paying one-fourth to one-half as much.  Those properties will benefit much more directly than my business, which has never enjoyed the benefits of being on La Mesa Blvd. 

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