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Thursday, Aug 18, 2022
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Commentary

SAM ROTNER Property and business owners along the Northridge commercial corridor, primarily those on Reseda Boulevard, have been concerned for several years about steady physical deterioration, as well as the decline of property values, in the area. To cope with these issues, approximately 40 property and business owners, homeowners and civic leaders united with academic leaders from Cal State Northridge beginning in 1996 to create a Business Improvement District. A BID is an organization established by property owners and/or businesses to reverse an area’s negative image and attract new customers in an effort to increase sales, occupancy and property values. It provides enhanced improvements and activities such as security, maintenance, landscaping and marketing, in addition to service currently provided by local government. The district is proposed to run along Reseda Boulevard, from Roscoe Boulevard to Lassen Street. The Northridge BID will be a single non-profit organization governed by a board primarily representing those who pay an agreed-upon assessment. With support from CSUN faculty and students, an innovative five-year marketing and public relations campaign has been developed by the BID. This plan will make residents aware of the transformation occurring in the area and will foster a sense of community through artistic expression of the diverse individuals who live and work in Northridge. After conducting extensive surveys with business owners and residents on ways to improve Reseda Boulevard, and after reviewing recommendations from CSUN students, the BID’s Advisory Board settled on the “Northridge Oasis” as an appropriate theme for the district. In fact, an underground spring flows under the railroad tracks at Reseda Boulevard and Parthenia Street. To the Gabrioleno Indians, this was their “zelzah,” or oasis. The Northridge Oasis theme will encompass music and art and establish Northridge as the center of culture in the Valley. Sub-themes may be developed within the district, such as a Health and Wellness Oasis or a Campus Oasis. The Historical Northridge Oasis will be at the center of the district. Each year during the BID’s five-year term, a theme-related festival will be held to increase resident involvement in the area’s improvements and to promote a sense of community celebration. The first annual event may be a Renaissance Fair on Jan. 17, 1999. This date will be the fifth anniversary of the Northridge Earthquake. The process of creating a BID for the boulevard is in its final phase. The final draft plan for the district was presented to and approved by property and business owners over the summer. The Northridge Business Improvement District (BID) formation advisory board submitted its management plan to the city Clerks Office in August, along with supportive petitions from owners of the majority of property owned in the district. The clerk will process the documents and schedule an approval hearing before the Los Angeles City Council, but no time has been set. The problems that are normally confronted in establishing a new volunteer group are numerous. Starting from “scratch” was very time consuming. It is difficult to sell a concept that is only beginning to develop. As the concept for what this district should be became clear, the efforts to form the district gained momentum. The BID is fortunate to have a very dedicated and determined group to see the project through to completion. The major contributing group is CSUN, with its hundreds of students and many faculty and advisors. CSUN President Blenda Wilson is very supportive of the BID and is aware how important this project can be to the future of CSUN and the surrounding community. Because of the strong support from the entire community and the broad inclusiveness of interested parties in the process, including property and business owners, CSUN, residents, community leaders, city officials, and major companies, we were able to bypass many problems associated with forming a new BID. The Northridge BID seized an opportunity to seek the experts and resources available at CSUN, and CSUN seized the opportunity to develop their community relations for the benefit of all concerned. Although there are at least 11 other BID’s developing in the San Fernando Valley, Northridge is unique in its use of the local university as a key resource in its formation and continued development. It is also unique in combining property owners and tenant business owners simultaneously into a single jointly funded BID. Sam Rotner is chair of the Northridge BID Formation Committee. He is the former owner of Cycle World, the Reseda Boulevard business he opened in 1963, and still owns the property.

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