The city of West Hollywood plans to take over the effort to form a Santa Monica Boulevard Business Improvement District (BID) from the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
For the past two years, the Chamber has been in charge of overseeing the initial BID formation meetings and getting businesses to sign on. However, the Chamber has not yet been able to get the legally required 51 percent of the businesses to agree to the BID’s formation. At last report, 41 percent had signed the petition.
The city has paid the Chamber a total of $12,500 over the last two years to oversee the Santa Monica Boulevard BID’s formation – $7,500 in fiscal year 2011-12 and $5,000 in fiscal year 2012-13.
There’s no ill will between the city and the Chamber said Maribel Louie, the city’s acting economic development manager. Louie said the city wants to have direct oversight of Civitas, the Sacramento-based consulting group handling the legal paperwork for the BID’s formation.
“The decision to bring the effort ‘in-house’ is simply an administrative decision,” said Louie. “The work has evolved to a point that it requires the city and Civitas work more closely together to coordinate the final phase. The Chamber has done great work helping us get signatures and moving the effort forward and will continue to remain involved.”
Whenever the BID is formed, it will include all businesses on Santa Monica Boulevard between La Cienega Boulevard and Doheny Drive and the adjacent side streets. The BID’s primary mission will be to help promote and brand the area plus sponsor various special events like sidewalk sales or themed nights. Additionally, the BID will serve as an advocate for the businesses to the city.
The Chamber has had difficulty getting 51 percent of businesses signed on because they aren’t convinced of the need for the BID and are reluctant to pay the assessment fee/tax the BID carries. That assessment fee, which can range from $375 to $12,000 per year, is determined by the type of business, square footage, occupancy, gross receipts and alcohol sales.
Once the BID is approved by a majority, all businesses in the district must pay the assessment fee regardless of whether they supported the BID or not. The city also has a Sunset Strip BID and a Design District BID covering Melrose Avenue, Robertson and Beverly Boulevards. Additionally, Visit West Hollywood, the city’s recently renamed marketing and visitor’s bureau, is trying to form a similar Tourist Improvement District made up of the area hotels.
While they will no longer pay the Chamber to oversee the Santa Monica Boulevard BID, the City Council just approved an agreement with the Chamber to provide various business services for the next year. That contact will pay for $28,000 worth of business related services including small business seminars, the annual State of the City luncheon and the implementation of Eat Shop Play, an online business directory that sells advertising in competition with WEHOville’s WeShopWeHo business directory.
That contract, which expires on June 30, 2014, also allots up to $7,000 for sponsorship of various chamber events, each of which has to be approved by Louie.