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HUNTINGTON PARK : Fee Proposed to Improve Downtown

August 01, 1993|MARY HELEN BERG

The Chamber of Commerce wants to form a business improvement district that would raise $500,000 annually to help make the downtown shopping area safer and cleaner.

A chamber committee will submit a preliminary proposal to the City Council within 30 days and later ask it to pass an ordinance creating a special business assessment district for the Pacific Boulevard shopping area.

If the ordinance is approved, merchants within the area bounded by Slauson Avenue on the north, Rita Avenue on the east, Florence Avenue on the south and Rugby Avenue on the west will pay an assessment when they renew their annual business licenses. The money could be used for beautification or promotion projects for the boulevard.

Ideas for using the funds include a maintenance project to steam-clean sidewalks and a security program for the streets and public parking lots. Chamber committee members hope the improvements will attract shoppers who have left the outdoor shopping district for malls.

"Crews similar to those at Disneyland will pick up the (trash on the) sidewalks," said Dante D'Eramo, executive manager of the chamber. "People will be very excited and content to come here and shop."

The state law that allows cities to form assessment districts for business areas has been in place since 1965, said Edward Henning, an urban planning consultant hired by the city to advise the chamber. Use of the districts has risen in the last few years as city budgets have been tapped by the state and cities cannot earmark extra funds to better sell their downtowns.

At least 150 California cities have downtown business improvement districts, said Henning, who has helped two dozen cities enact a parking and business improvement law under the California Streets and Highways Code.

Under the proposal, businesses would pay fees based on their location and frontage, said Henry Gray, assistant community development director. Under one hypothetical formula, the highest rate would charge merchants with ground-floor stores along Pacific Boulevard about $25 per foot, Gray said.

The services arranged by the improvement association would supplement, but not replace, city services, Gray said. As part of the proposal, the city will agree to continue its current maintenance and law enforcement services to the area.

A cleaner, safer Pacific Boulevard could benefit the whole city, Gray said. Sales tax revenue from the area is estimated to account for more than half the sales taxes collected in the city, according to a committee report on the revitalization of Pacific Boulevard. The approximately 400 businesses in the downtown area provided about $1.7 million of the $3.1 million in sales tax revenue raised during fiscal year 1992-93, the report said.

In order for the council to pass the ordinance, the proposal must be tacitly accepted by owners paying more than 50% of the assessment. "They can decide whether it's worth it or not and whether it's in their best interest," Gray said.

The chamber committee hopes the council will pass an ordinance early next year, D'Eramo said.

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