Efforts to turn around the troubled lower Fillmore neighborhood have suffered a setback after a 5-year-old special benefit district was disbanded when the largest property owners opposed its renewal.
The Fillmore Community Benefit District was established in 2006 to help heal the scars left behind by the Redevelopment Agency, whose urban renewal efforts of the 1960s forced thousands of residents and business owners out of the largely black community. The district launched with a mission to promote the area based on its rich jazz heritage.
Under community benefit districts, property owners in a defined area agree through a voting process to pay a special assessment; the money is spent on extra cleaning, security and marketing. The district raised about $300,000 annually in assessments.
The Fillmore benefit district had trouble in its early years, with infighting and questions raised over the use of funds. But those who currently serve on the district’s board of directors said the effort has started to pay off in increased foot traffic and cleaner sidewalks and streets.
But earlier this month, when its renewal came up for a weighted vote — the higher the property owner’s assessment would be, the more weight the vote carries — it lost 66 percent to 34 percent. It is the first time one of these local districts, which The City encourages, was not renewed. There are now 11 such districts established throughout San Francisco.
Two of the larger property owners in the Fillmore benefit district — Safeway and the Fillmore Center, a large complex of residential apartments and commercial businesses — opposed renewing the assessment.
“The CBD was not accomplishing the goals it was originally formed to achieve,” said John Chartier, a spokesman for Prudential Real Estate Investors, which manages a fund with an investment in the Fillmore Center. He said the center has voluntarily invested in the community, including sponsoring a farmers market and concerts.
Safeway spokeswoman Susan Houghton said the district has had “ethical issues” in the past, and that the services it provides the company already does on its own.
The failure to renew the district, which dissolves this month, is the latest disappointment in The City’s strategy to help the lower Fillmore transform itself. Earlier efforts to promote the area as a jazz epicenter were also abandoned for not going far enough. Yoshi’s, which was supported through loans from The City and Redevelopment Agency since opening its San Francisco location in 2007, was forced to broaden its entertainment beyond jazz to survive.
Kaz Kajimura, owner of Yoshi’s, was disappointed that the benefit district wasn’t renewed. He said that there are more people coming to the area and tourist buses now stop there. “A lot of that has to do with the benefit district work,” he said. “Now we are back at square one. It’s terrible.”
2006 Year the Fillmore Jazz Community Benefit District formed (the name was shortened later)
303 Number of properties within the Fillmore Community Benefit District
$354,060 Total spent by the district in 2010
$162,909 Spent in 2010 on sidewalk cleaning
$85,229 Spent in 2010 on marketing
$74,970 Spent in 2010 on administrative costs
Source: Fillmore Community Benefit District