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Property And Business Improvement Districts Ramping Up In Long Beach

Activity In North Long Beach, Westside Intended To Support Security, Economic Development

By Tiffany Rider - Senior Writer

June 18, 2013 - As a network of neighborhoods and business corridors, Long Beach has areas that are thriving and those that are in need of assistance. Some members of the community and elected officials are currently working to improve three areas in Long Beach using a tool called a property and business improvement district (PBID).

PBIDs became legal in 1994 as part of the California Streets and Highways Code. They are used in communities to allow property owners and business owners to assess themselves and use those funds for programs and services above what government can offer. These programs and services may include safety and security, beautification and cleanup, and economic development.

The activity surrounding three property and business improvement districts (PBIDs)
in Long Beach is supporting safety programs, beautification and economic
development around the city. Three PBIDs in action currently are: the Magnolia
Industrial Group’s third renewal of its district, Andy Street’s transition from a
multi-family district into a PBID and the formation of the Uptown PBID in North
Long Beach. Pictured, from left, are LaVerne Duncan, founder of the Andy Street
Community Association; 9th District City Councilmember Steve Neal; and Yanki
Greenspan, vice president of development for Westland Real Estate Group and an
advocate for the Uptown PBID.
(Photograph by the Business Journal’s Thomas McConville)

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There are currently two PBIDs in place – one operated by the Downtown Long Beach Associates and the other by Magnolia Industrial Group on the Westside. The Downtown PBID went through its renewal last year, and the Magnolia PBID is currently in its renewal. Two more PBIDs are in formation, both in North Long Beach – the Andy Street PBID and the Uptown PBID.

Jim Fisk, business improvement district manager for the City of Long Beach, told the Business Journal that these three PBIDs in the works – Magnolia, Andy Street and Uptown – have had their challenges with crime and economic development. The three are all in the ballot drive process of their renewal/formation. To get their PBIDs approved, each district needs to get owners of 50 percent-plus of the total property in the district to vote in favor of formation or renewal.

Uptown PBID

Yanki Greenspan, vice president of development for Westland Real Estate Group in North Long Beach, is an advocate for the formation of the Uptown PBID. Westland owns a shopping center at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Harding Street, which would be part of and pay into the district for clean and safe services.

“North Long Beach has a chance,” Greenspand told the Business Journal. “I see it being able to forge what Bixby Knolls did.” Greenspan connected the 9th District office with Civitas Advisors, the consulting company that developed the Uptown PBID Management Plan and supports the development of the district. If formed, the Uptown PBID would be the largest such district in the city with a total assessment for the initial year of a five-year term of $199,769.46.

The district spans from Market Street north to Artesia Boulevard, then east to Orange Avenue and includes Jordan High School. That region is part of both the 8th and 9th Council Districts, represented by Al Austin and Steven Neal, respectively. “This potentially could be transformational for North Long Beach, the Atlantic corridor as well as the Artesia corridor,” Austin said at the council meeting.

After two-plus years working on the project, the Uptown PBID recently surpassed a major hurdle in the effort of its formation – acquiring 50 percent-plus in petition signatures in support. The Long Beach City Council approved a resolution of intention to form the district at its June 11 meeting, which initiated a 45-day ballot drive. A hearing date has been set for August 6 at 5 p.m. to count the ballots, determine approval and assign an administrative body to manage the district.

“We are hoping that the North Long Beach Business Alliance will get someone to administer [the district],” Neal later told the Business Journal. “The next big hurdle is to make sure that we get the votes to continue to move forward. . . . We are really hoping that a majority of the owners see the value in it.”

Magnolia Industrial Group PBID

Bill Townsend, president of the non-profit Magnolia Industrial Group, has been involved with the PBID since its initial formation in 1996. The district was reestablished in 1999 and continued again in 2003 for a 10-year term. The PBID is now in its third renewal process to maintain safety, beautification and economic development programs within the 24-blocks of the district for another 10 years.

Bill Townsend, president of the Magnolia Industrial Group, has worked with Long
Beach’s Business Improvement District Manager Jim Fisk over several years to
maintain and improve the property and business improvement district (PBID) on
the Westside. According to Townsend, the region located within the 1st Council
District had been plagued by crime for years before the PBID was formed. Today,
crime rates in the district have dropped. Describing the process for renewing
the PBID this year, Townsend told the Business Journal, “It takes hundreds of
man hours, paid and volunteer, to make it happen. It’s a lot of work. But we
are seeing results, and people are committed to it.”
(Photograph by the Business Journal’s Thomas McConville)

Townsend has been an active commercial real estate broker for more than 20 years, and having handled property deals in the district generally bounded east of San Francisco Avenue, south of Pacific Coast Highway, west of Magnolia Avenue and north of Anaheim Street with an extended portion south of Anaheim Street and east of DeForest Avenue. A resolution of intention was approved by the city council on June 4. The proposed initial assessment for the first year of a 10-year term is $85,890.52. A hearing date has been scheduled for July 23.

Townsend told the Business Journal how the PBID has transformed the value of the area and why property owners in the district should renew the PBID. “There is a strong interest to keep it going,” he said. “They see that this has provided the result we hoped we could have. We have kept the crime rate low in the area. By having that, it is easier to attract new buyers to the area. It’s easier to attract good tenants to the area. It keeps the real estate prices up. We’re passionate about it and we feel it’s successful. We will continue to work at it and do everything we can to make it a successful program.”

Andy Street PBID

LaVerne Duncan initially met with property owners between 2001 and 2002 to form a property owners association along Andy Street in North Long Beach. Finding it difficult to get property owners on board – there were some 24 buildings with 20 different owners, many of whom were not owner-operators – Duncan utilized a new law passed in California in 2004 to establish a multi-family district.

The threshold to form that district was 66.7 percent of property owners, a more attainable goal than 100 percent to form a property owners association. It took about a year, but Duncan was able to form a district with 33 businesses as well as commercial and multi-family property owners. The goal was to use property owner self-assessments for security, and in doing so Duncan said crime dropped significantly. “It changed from crimes like murder, prostitution and drugs to parking violations,” she told the Business Journal.

Essentially the district operated like a PBID, only with multifamily property owners involved and a higher threshold to meet. In 2009, Duncan formed the Andy Street Community Association (ASCA) as a 501(c)3 to manage the district assessment dollars and develop programs to benefit the community. “To have a successful neighborhood, you have to put in quality of life programming that benefit the physical plans and public safety,” Duncan said. “You have to give them options.”

To continue the efforts, Duncan and the ASCA are also working with Civitas to form a PBID. The district requires a 50 percent-plus threshold to form without multi-family property owners, who formed a residential tenants association and were no longer involved. The proposed total assessment for the initial year of a five-year term is $94,475.35. According to Duncan, the Andy Street PBID got 54 percent of property owners to sign petitions in favor of the new district, received a resolution of intention from the city council on May 21 and ballots for a final vote were mailed out. A hearing date has been scheduled for July 16, according to PBID Manager Fisk.

“Property owners and businesses are more likely to get involved in revitalization and health of a city with these districts,” Duncan said. “Once you have people involved, you can achieve a lot.”