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WESTWOOD : Business Assessment Would Help Revitalize Village, Consultant Says

August 04, 1994|SCOTT SHIBUYA BROWN

It seemingly is the last thing the people who own and operate businesses in the economically pressed Westwood Village would need or want: an additional levy on their business licenses of as much as several thousand dollars annually.

But in the opinion of the management team brought in to spearhead the revitalization of the once-prosperous shopping district near UCLA, a new assessment is exactly what the area needs.

In a mailing sent out Monday by the Westwood Village Management Corp., 1,200 merchants and business people in Westwood Village are being asked to consider implementing what would be Los Angeles' second "business improvement district," known as a BID. In such a district, fees are collected and put into a general fund that is used to promote local businesses and improve the maintenance and security of the area, among other things. The city's first BID was created a year ago for Downtown merchants along Broadway.

"This empowers people by giving them money to control their local areas," said Tom Carroll, executive director of the management corporation, who estimated that a BID would net nearly $1 million annually. "With it, you can have a managed environment and shared promotion."

The amount each merchant would pay would depend on the location and type of business, Carroll said. For example, a merchant in the heart of the village might be assessed a few thousand dollars annually, because such a business would receive direct benefit from BID money spent on advertising and promotion. Conversely, a Wilshire Boulevard corporation on the periphery would likely be assessed less--perhaps only a few hundred dollars--because it would receive only indirect benefits, such as a better, safer business environment.

Although the money would be collected by the city, the fund would be controlled by a newly established association made up of businesses that have paid into the BID.

Reaction to the proposal so far has been favorable. Derek Chasin, owner and manager of Chasin Chicken, said such a district could help attract more business and visitors to Westwood Village, and do so without the interference of local government.

"If they do it right, it could be excellent," said Chasin, who opened his restaurant in March. "We may be able to do something because it's our money. We want to see things get done."

Likewise, Stan Berman, owner of the popular Stan's Donuts shop on the corner of Broxton and Weyburn avenues, called the BID a "terrific" idea, though he added that it wouldn't solve all of the village's problems. The larger needs, he said, have to be addressed by the relative handful of people who own most of the land and businesses in Westwood.

"The big landlords have to give us a step in the right direction," Berman said. "They really should set an example."

Carroll said that the proposed BID might be put to a City Council vote as early as late October. Although it is too soon to gauge the feelings of most of the village's merchants, he said that executives who have created other BIDs have told him that despite the added money, business people in many cases generally favor the idea.

"The worse times are, the more people feel they have to pull together in a cooperative way to make things work," said Carroll, who noted that BIDs now exist in 2,000 cities nationwide, including 200 in California. "Obviously, this area has got to come up; it's just a question of how."

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