goes to council this month

BY CHRISTINA HANFORD

Property owners in Santa Monica have spoken — and the majority of them want a new Property Based Assessment District (PBAD) in Downtown Santa Monica.

Those who voted in favor of the assessment district represented about $1.6 million in assessments, while those opposed represented about $1.2 million in assessments.

If approved by the Santa Monica City Council later this month, the assessment district will generate about $3.6 million in new assessments, said Brad Segal, a project consultant.

The funds raised under the assessment district would be used for maintenance, an ambassador program, marketing, homeless outreach, special projects and administration.

The assessment district basically will include properties bounded by Ocean Avenue, Seventh Street, the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) and Wilshire Boulevard.

Although previously included, the fenced area of the Big Blue Bus maintenance yard is no longer included in the proposed assessment district boundaries.

Several people spoke during a public hearing at a City Council meeting earlier this month, offering their support for the assessment district, which they saw as an opportunity to protect and enhance the downtown neighborhood.

“At Macerich, we are happy to support the recommendation for the downtown Santa Monica Property Based Business Assessment District,” said Phil Vise, vice president of consumer marketing for Macerich, the owner and operator of regional shopping centers, including Santa Monica Place.

“Although an additional cost to property owners, we believe this assessment will support long-term improvements to benefit residents, business and visitors to Santa Monica. We encourage everyone involved to support the community’s success by recognizing the potential of a unified district.

“We believe Bayside District has created a flexible, reasonable, well thought-out plan that maximizes potential to improve the quality of life in Santa Monica and meets the city’s diverse community.”

Even small business owners like Kelly Wallace — who has a newsstand on the Third Street Promenade and will be unable to pass the assessment on to his customers — voiced their support for the district.

But some, including representatives of the Santa Monica YMCA, were opposed to the assessment and said they think it’s unfair and inequitable.

“I am here to express the YMCA’s deep concern over the negative financial impact that will result from the PBAD assessment,” said Don Cohen, president of the board of directors of the Santa Monica YMCA, which has over 7,200 members.

“We should not have to pass along the cost of the assessment to our membership. Why impose such a hefty assessment on us when our mission is to provide a service to the community?”

Representatives of Santa Monica Christian Towers, a 163-unit senior-housing complex, were also opposed to the assessment.

“Make no mistake, we think downtown needs to be cleaned up,” said Donna Alvarez, who serves on the Christian Towers board. “We don’t think we should have to pay to help to do that. If this passes, every resident will have to pay $31.”

Alvarez noted that most of the tenants of Christian Towers are on Social Security and have a very limited income.

Rates under the assessment district will vary. They will be higher for commercial properties along the Third Street Promenade and significantly lower for nonprofit organizations like the Santa Monica YMCA.

The city and Bayside District will work collaboratively to manage the existing and enhanced maintenance in downtown, said Elana Buegoff, a city senior administrative analyst.

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