The Santa Barbara City Council declared its intention to levy Business Improvement District and Old Town Business Improvement District assessments for the year 2020, and adopted the annual assessment report.
The council voted unanimously to approve the report and initiated the annual levy process, which includes a public hearing scheduled for March 3.
The vote was held after a report from Senior Assistant to the City Administrator Nina Johnson. Carrie Kelly, Executive Director of Downtown Santa Barbara, also gave remarks.
“2019 was a year of positive growth and partnerships. The downtown study and the Kosmont recommendations gave us a great foundation, and the Radius forecast for downtown was very rosy for the upcoming year,” said Ms. Kelly.
The Downtown and Old Town Business Improvement Districts have provided marketing and promotional services for Downtown businesses for more than 40 years, including the Cruise Ship Volunteer Program and Visitor Outreach, 1st Thursdays, Art and Wine Tour events and Holiday Parade, Community Holiday Tree and Seasonal Programming.
The Downtown Business Improvement District includes businesses between Chapala and Anacapa Streets, from Ortega Street north to Micheltorena Street. The Old Town Improvement District includes businesses between Chapala and Anacapa Streets, from Gutierrez Street north to Ortega Street.
Business owners in those districts pay an assessment to receive specific benefits and services. The city collects the funds and then remits them to Downtown Santa Barbara, according to Ms. Johnson.
The report approved by the council Tuesday provides the method and basis of the assessment for business owners to estimate the assessment amount for their business.
This year there are no proposed changes to the district boundaries or assessment rates. Revenues are projected to be $280,000.
For the Old Town district: Businesses located on State Street will be charged equal to 100% of business license. Minimum of $100. Businesses not located on State Street will be charged equal to 75 percent of business license. Minimum of $100. For Automobile Sales and Service Businesses, businesses in Classification “B” of Santa Barbara Municipal Code Section 5.04.390 shall pay a maximum charge of $600.00 per year. Wholesale, Professional, and Real Estate business will be charged $100.
For the Downtown district: Professionals Services will pay equal to 15% of business tax
paid. Minimum of $50. All other business will pay equal to 100% of business license.
With empty storefronts along State Street and a nationwide retail struggle, Ms. Johnson acknowledged the challenges facing Downtown Santa Barbara but said they were prepared to address them now and in the future.
“Our own organization has experienced great momentum and the work on our strategic plan has allowed us to focus on our organizational strengths, weaknesses and opportunities, while planning for future activities and the vitality of downtown Santa Barbara,” said Ms. Kelly.
Part of Downtown Santa Barbara planning includes four strategic priorities: Economic vitality, special events and marketing, clean, green and safe, and advocacy.
“Our focus for 2020 will be storytelling and broadening local support in the downtown,” said Ms. Kelly.
The council will hold a hearing on March 3 to confirm whether there is opposition from business owners who pay 50 percent or more of the total assessments to be levied. If there is none, Council can adopt a resolution to assess rates consistent with the Downtown and Old Town Business Improvement District Annual Assessment Report for 2020 prepared by city staff.
Notice of the public hearing will be mailed to all affected businesses in the districts.
Ms. Kelly, who has been in her role for a year and a month, also told the Council she will return to give a thorough presentation on Downtown Santa Barbara’s 2020 plans at the March 3 hearing.
“When I came in I really wanted the first year to be focused on planning. Tell me exactly what you want to do as an organization, what the stakeholders want to do, what the property owners want to do, and let’s lay that plan out there and then let’s figure out how to fund that plan. That is sort of where we are right now. We’ve got the plan laid out and now let’s look at funding,” said Ms. Kelly.
Councilmember Mike Jordan, who has served on the board and executive committee of Downtown Santa Barbara, praised the work done by the group and others, like former mayor Hal Conklin with the Santa Barbara Leadership Group.
“There are so many things lined up right now that are positive to look through the light at the end of the tunnel that’s been blurry for the last few years. The actual vacancies on downtown State Street can be spun to a positive because there’s a potential to put extra focus on them and to bring the people that are involved to bear on that issue,” said Mr. Jordan.
Councilmember Megan Harmon said the road to revitalize downtown has been long but she has heard good news from business owners.
“Something that I have really noticed recently in my conversation is just this renewed sense of excitement about what you guys are going to do, and I think that is born out of your creativity about your willingness to see how different areas of policy here in the city come together to sort of create this whole, and I’m really hearing that excitement and energy,” said Ms. Harmon.