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New Valley BIDs Still Face Wait to Get Off the Ground

Backers of the Reseda Business Improvement District have big plans. With local businesses having voted to pump $400,000 a year into the area, they promise that more than 350 trees will be planted along the sidewalks, and banners will adorn lampposts to advertise the area. But for now, they must wait to get the money. And like other BIDs in the San Fernando Valley, it’s getting a little frustrating. “By and large, no process happens as quickly as you expect,” said Steve Offhauser, chairman of the Reseda BID, which was approved by the L.A. City Council last spring. “Community projects are always that way. I’ve been here 15 years and I expected this.” Over the last year, seven BIDs were approved in the San Fernando Valley. Three others were approved in prior years. When a BID is formed, business or property owners agree to assess themselves through a special tax, but that money does not come back to the BID until it is distributed by the city in February. Many new BIDs, like the one in Reseda, are waiting anxiously for those checks. The Valley BIDs have lagged those in the Los Angeles basin, partly because the Valley took longer to get out of recession and longer to propose BIDs, said David Wilcox, a BID consultant with Economic Research Associates. The business landscape in the Valley has also been an issue. While each of the BIDs in the L.A. basin are clustered into a relatively compact geographic area, the Valley BIDs tend to be much more linear, meaning businesses may be miles apart. “The core issue in the Valley is that many BIDs are along single corridors, such as Ventura or Reseda (boulevards) or Sherman Way,” Wilcox said. “That requires more work in bringing people together and sustaining the process, because they are more diverse.” Judith Hennessey, chairwoman of the Northridge Business Improvement District (which has yet to be approved), agreed that many Valley BIDs have encountered difficulties in convincing the diverse groups of businesses in their areas to sign on. “It’s been slow; it’s a relatively new process,” Hennessey said. “Some have had difficulty finding the right path. You have to do it in a way that’s not antagonistic.” Northridge Oasis, as the BID has been dubbed, is expected to be approved in January, and the city will collect the tax that month, rather than wait until January 2001, Hennessey said. The BID won’t formally launch until May. In Reseda, business owners almost didn’t sign on for the district, which covers businesses along parts of Reseda Boulevard and Sherman Way. After several business owners balked, BID advocates decided to shrink the size of the Reseda district, which has about 500 businesses, some 200 fewer than the originally envisioned BID. Until the first assessment checks arrive in early February, most BID officials are in preparation stages. They are busy electing officers and planning for their first projects, which usually include new trees along boulevards and decorative banners. The Studio City BID has already started spending money even though its first assessment checks haven’t arrived, thanks to a loan from the local Chamber of Commerce. The funds will be reimbursed in February when the tax money appears. “We’re trying to get a jump on the work ahead,” said Donald Duckworth, a consultant with the Studio City BID. “We’re getting trash receptors on the street as part of our streetscape, and trying to keep down debris.” Most of Studio City’s $280,000 in annual funding will go toward making parking improvements along Ventura Boulevard. Reseda organizers, meanwhile, plan to have 24-hour security patrols and a streetscape project to clean up the sidewalks. But for most Valley BIDs, the real work, such as creating new parking structures, adding security squads and major streetscape projects, will come in the second year, the groups say. Valley BID officials are currently studying successful BIDs over the hill, such as the Hollywood Entertainment District and the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, in hopes of imitating them.

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