Now is not the time to dissolve downtown Crescent City’s Business Improvement District.
The city and a handful of business leaders have gone to a lot of trouble to set it up, then make changes to see that it is actually funded. So let’s give it a chance and see if it works.
The BID was created in 1993, but its efforts were hampered from the start because there was no effective mechanism in place to actually collect the BID fees established for downtown businesses to pay for efforts to improve the area’s business climate. Those who served on the BID Advisory Board did what they could with extremely limited resources, organizing among other things some holiday celebrations and modest beautification projects.
The city recently addressed the issue by tying the payment of BID fees directly to business license fees. Note that the BID fees have never been increased, and in some cases they have been lowered. The change simply assured that they would actually be paid.
This creates a nice opportunity for downtown. All the work to establish the district has already been done, and now it will have some money. BID leaders have proposed some ways to spend that money, including providing wi-fi service to make the district more inviting to those who may linger for coffee, dinner or drinks; installing new streetlights and security cameras to make the area safer; and providing public restrooms.
There are probably plenty of other ideas out there for reinvigorating Crescent City’s downtown, and we encourage the business operators here to join the process rather than pushing for BID’s dissolution. The fact is, it never really had a chance to succeed until now, so let’s give it a little time.
It’s understandable that some people reacted negatively when the BID fees, which were always supposed to be mandatory, actually became mandatory. These are hard economic times, and some businesses are barely getting by. The annual fees range from $50 for booth renters (such as hairstylists) to $432 for retailers with 10 or more employees.
Those aren’t dollar amounts that will singlehandedly jeopardize an enterprise, although they might seem like a lot to business operators who are looking at what BID has accomplished so far. But again, we haven’t seen what BID can do when it’s fully funded.
Here’s a suggestion: Put all that energy that some people have exerted in calling for BID’s demise into making it work for the next couple of years. Help make it work, and if it proves ineffectual, then push the city to change it or pull the plug. At least the idea of improving the core area through teamwork and concerted efforts will have had a legitimate opportunity.
There are better days ahead for Crescent City’s economy. Ensconced as we are between old-growth redwoods and a pristine coast, it is inevitable that we will become more and more of a tourist and retirement destination. There will be more people here, and the community’s median income will rise.
Downtown will be a part of that. The BID is an affordable opportunity to try to make it happen sooner rather than later.