By Jorge Casuso
April 28 -- The drive to create a new assessment district
Downtown got off to a good start last month with nearly half of
the property owners needed signing a petition to take the plan to
The equivalent of 20 percent of the property owners who would bankroll
the plan – or half of the 40 percent needed – had already
signed on before petitions were mailed to the majority of the 360
property owners on April 18, Bayside officials said.
With the signatures weighed according to the assessed value of a
property, the drive was given an early boost by Macerich Company,
which, as the owner of Santa Monica Place, represents 7 percent
of the vote. The City, which represents 10 percent, agreed to sign
on to the plan in March.
“Many, many of the Promenade property owners have signed on,”
said Kathleen Rawson, executive director of the Bayside District.
“There’s a lot of people talking to a lot of people
right now. Lots of property owners are calling other property owners
to get their support.”
Among those signing on, Rawson said, are owners of residential buildings
and some office building owners.
Downtown’s largest residential landlord, JSM Capital, which
owns residential buildings along 5th, 6th and 7th streets, backs
“What’s exciting is it’s an opportunity to re-energize
and reposition the Bayside District for the next 20 years,”
said Allen Freeman, the company’s chief operating officer.
“It provides a stream of revenue for Downtown that makes it
more livable for residents, workers and visitors.
"It also gives property owners a better opportunity to oversee
how their money is spent,” Freeman said.
If the necessary signatures are gathered, the Downtown property
owners would then vote on a plan that would change the way the entire
Downtown is managed for the first time since the wildly successful
Third Street Promenade was launched two decades ago.
The plan – which was approved by the City Council –
would revamp the Bayside Board and the way it is chosen and pump
an additional $3.6 million in new assessments to boost maintenance,
enhance marketing efforts and create an “ambassador program”
to inform visitors and help keep the streets safe.
“It’s an investment, and an insurance policy,”
Rawson said. “It’s not charity. The property owners
realize they’re getting something for it and that the purchasing
power of the collective is much greater than any individual.”
Under the proposed plan, assessments would be based on the property’s
size, type of use and location in an expanded district divided into
three zones – one comprised by the Promenade, another along
2nd and 4th streets and Ocean Avenue and a third between 5th and
A property on the Promenade would pay the most at 76¢ a square
foot, properties on neighboring 2nd and 4th streets and Ocean Avenue
would pay 34¢, while those on 5th to 7th streets would pay
A building on the Promenade with retail and office use, for example,
might pay $16,500 a year, while a large office building could pay
as much as $45,000, Bayside consultants said. While a hotel might
pay $20,000, a non-profit could pay as little as $1,500 per year.
Under the plan, the streets would reap benefits proportional to
the assessments paid by their property owners.
The assessments would help tackle some of the longstanding problems
facing a thriving strip that must retain its edge in the face of
increased competition from new venues, such as the Grove in the
Fairfax District and Hollywood and Highland, Bayside officials said.
The new assessments would bankroll $1.3 million in enhanced maintenance
of Downtown streets, which are showing the wear and tear of millions
of visitors a year and add $400,000 in marketing.
The money also would launch a $1.23 million ambassador program that
would provide a concierge service for visitors, act as a “neighborhood
watch” by adding extra eyes and ears to help keep the streets
safe, as well as serve as witnesses to help charge individuals that
commit nuisance crimes. The plan also would include money to put
attendants in public restrooms 15 hours a day, seven days a week.
In addition to the new assessment, the plan dramatically overhauls
the way the Bayside is managed, giving property owners more power
over who makes policy decisions. Under the plan, the existing 11-member
Bayside Board currently appointed by the council would be replaced
with a 13-member board, six of whose members would be appointed
by the council, six by the property owners and one by the City Manager.
Although the board’s makeup would not be prescribed, the members
would come from the three proposed zones in the district, which
stretches from the east side of Ocean Avenue to the east side of
7th Street and from the north side of Wilshire Boulevard to the
The proposed assessment district would have a 20-year limit, with
property owners voting after ten years to determine if it should
The council already has given the plan – which has been in
the works for two years – an enthusiastic thumbs up, noting
that the details can be hammered out if it receives a majority vote
in support from the property owners, based on their assessments
when the concept comes to the final ballot.
“I think it’s a terrific idea and a plan . . . to make
the Downtown a better area . . . and a more inviting atmosphere,”
Council member Bob Holbrook said when the plan was presented to
the council in February.
“I think this is really good,” Council member Ken Genser
said in March, when the council directed the City Manager to sign
on. “There’s general consensus now. We’re clearly
moving forward on this.”