Property owners see pluses of community benefit districts 

Community benefit districts are popping up all over The City as property owners see them as a way to revitalize and market their neighborhoods.

Mayor Gavin Newsom has trumpeted the establishment of community benefit districts since coming into office, calling them a "proven, grass-roots economic development tool" that would clean up The City and make it safer.

For years Union Square was The City’s only community benefit district. But last year, five new benefit districts were adopted.

The City’s seventh community benefit district was approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors for the Fillmore Jazz District, after 88 percent of the property owners in the area voted in favor of it.

A benefit district imposes a tax on local property owners, with a committee of community members deciding how to spend the money. Often the money is spent on street cleaning, security, new storefronts or marketing.

To be implemented, a majority of the property owners within the prescribed area must vote in favor of it and then it has to receive approval from the Board of Supervisors.

More community benefit districts are on the way. Central Market Street, Japantown, North Beach, Yerba Buena and the Financial District are considering forming these community benefit districts, according to Lisa Pagan, of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Workforce and Development, helping communities form these districts.

It’s unclear what the real impact these districts are having on their communities since this is the first year they went into effect. But early in the game, some improvements have been noted.

For example, Pagan said "everybody says the Tenderloin looks way better" since forming a community benefit district. The benefit district has allowed the community committee to hire local people to clean up the streets. The newly formed benefit district in Noe Valley is behind a "huge tree-planting in September," Pagan said.

There was little opposition to the formation of the community benefit district for the Lower Fillmore. But those who did speak against it were worried that the district would only serve the interests of businesses and leave longtime residents behind.

The community benefit district for the Lower Fillmore will generate $327,488 in the first year. The tax on property owners varies between $25 and $100,000 a year, depending on a set of factors, including lot size and square footage.

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