The downtown Business Improvement District will not host a Christmas parade and tree-lighting ceremony this year.
Months after the Crescent City Council dropped mandatory assessments in the face of angry opposition, BID representatives say they have only collected about $1,600 in voluntary assessments from a handful of businesses.
BID sent donation requests to downtown merchants Sept. 1, but less than a third responded, said BID board member and spokeswoman Cheryl Corpstein.
“In light of that and in light of the comments made during the Council meeting, we are working to send out a letter to the people who donated money to ask how they would like that money spent,” she said, referring to the Council’s June 3 meeting. “We hope at the first of the year to come back to the Council and say this is what we plan to do with the money that’s coming in. There was no time to plan Christmas.”
In June, the Council approved a reduction in the annual BID assessment to $100 for retail shops, restaurants, financial institutions and service professionals. The BID assessment for non-profit organizations, booth rentals and business owned by veterans was also changed to $50.
Associate City Attorney said then that if 50 percent or more of downtown merchants either spoke in protest or sent a protest letter to the city, the resolution connecting the BID assessments to downtown business licenses would have been quashed. But despite not receiving enough protests, the Council opted for a voluntary assessment.
Those who spoke against the assessment said most downtown businesses aren’t interested in participating in BID-sponsored activities. Some said they would be more inclined to pay the assessment if they were voluntary.
“They feel it’s something somebody else should be putting on, not the business district,” Corpstein said, adding that some said they didn’t see an increase in foot traffic or business before, during or after the parade. “We can’t make any clear decisions until we have more communication.”
The business owners who said they’d pay the assessments if they were voluntary have not been forthcoming, Corpstein said.
BID has sponsored the parade since 1993 and took over the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in the early ’90s, Corpstein said. With advertising, trophies, portable toilets and a stage, it can cost about $900 to put on the parade. Last year, the professional Santa who participated volunteered his time, but if hiring one was necessary that would be an additional $200 to $400, she said.
Despite the lack of support for the Christmas parade, BID’s Wednesday Farmer’s Market was a success, Corpstein said. The organization had moved the market to the library parking lot on Front Street after receiving complaints that it blocked customer parking in its former location.
“We had foot traffic from the National Parks office and tourists coming through town and we didn’t block any merchant parking. It was good for everybody,” she said. “We’re still on tap for next year, but it’s self-sustaining.”
Ideas for activities that the BID Board is working on include setting up with a walking tour highlighting information about the 1964 tsunami, Corpstein said. BID is hoping to start that in March and is working on a map.
BID’s borders include Front Street to the south, 5th Street to the north, U.S. Highway 101 to the east and G Street to the west.
The Board’s next meeting is at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 5 at the Edward Jones conference room at 3rd and H streets in Crescent City. For more information, visit visitdowntowncc.com.