By Janis Mork
September 12, 2013 (La Mesa)- At Tuesday’s City Council Meeting, Council got a status report and update of a revised and scaled down Planned Business Improvement District (PBID) development plan from two members of the PBID Formation Committee, Lynn McRey and Bill Ratan. Council voted 4-1 to stop funding consulting fees for the faltering PBID effort, dimming prospects for a PBID in La Mesa’s future. Mayor Art Madrid was the lone dissenting vote.
Lynn McRey (photo, right) told Council that “cooperation is important to success.” She handed out a paper listing chronology of PBID efforts dating back to 2001, adding that there are currently over 400 improvement based programs in California, “all serving the same goals.”
Bill Ratan said the limited budget may make it impossible to fund a full-time executive director to run PBID. “What we need to make PBID successful is to have La Mesa be a destination location.” He gave examples, like high school battle of the bands or summer movie nights. “With your approval tonight, we hope to go forward,” he told Council. But that approval was not granted.
McRey noted, “We’re strictly providing a PBID proposal, no new petitions.” An earlier, broader effort failed to secure enough signatures of downtown stakeholders to gain approval, with smaller business owners contending they could not afford the fees that would be assessed to each property owner for efforts to include marketing downtown activities as well as maintenance of trees, lighting and more.
Councilmember Ruth Sterling stated, “I want to thank both of you. I appreciate that you downsized it. I feel like with that, you have tried to work with Council and the suggestions. [But] I don’t know how I can support this going forward with how it is now.”
When Councilmember Ernie Ewin asked about how many properties there were then and now, McRey answered, “293 properties originally, 80 now.”
Mayor Art Madrid gave his opinion. “It is premature to say we’re not going to accept it. We don’t have the data.”
First to speak from the public was David Smyle from La Mesa Citizens Oversight. “I would ask you to give a vote of ‘no confidence.’ There’s not enough money.”
Next up was Marie McLaughlin from La Mesa. “I’m still in the PBID district.. The restaurants and businesses I have spoken with aren’t in favor of PBID… We want to see more restaurants and businesses come in.” She said that plan has “just too many inequities.”
Former mayoral candidate and downtown business owner Craig Maxwell, gave his opinion. “[Mayor] Art [Madrid] has been the driving force all along,” he said of the PBID effort, which Maxwell opposes.
Bill Jaynes from All Thing Bright and British was the last to speak. He recalled that the initial goal of a PBID was “ to establish maintenance mechanism to help streetscape. The time for Council to act is now,” he urged. “ Simply vote against giving any more money to this process.”
Jaynes wanted to talk about a maintenance concept instead of PBID. Sterling wanted to include Jaynes on the Council agenda in the future to discuss the matter. Vice Mayor Kristine Alessio agreed. Councilmember Mark Arapostathis concurred, but only if Jaynes brings some stakeholders with him to give their opinions. Jaynes agreed with that.
No one spoke in favor of PBID from the public.
Council voted not to approve the PBID report before moving to defund the PBID consultancy. Councilmember Ewin told ECM that "We asked questions as we have been able to do a number of times in the past 19 months" but did not receive substantive replies. "They wanted the Council to accept intentions and little data so they could move to the next phase.." He also raised concern that as structured, the PBID could allow a handful or property owners to control the PBID. "It's not based on the number of property of property owners, it's based on the size of their parcels. While it could be well intentioned it could be more punitive than beneficial."
Councilmember Ewin wanted an update on any further work by Ed Henning, PBID committee, and any city staff on PBID. Ewin first wanted to know when the PBID process ends.
City attorney Glenn Sabine answered, “There’s no provision for ending of the process.. It can go on forever.”
Ewin then asked what actions the Council could take on PBID.
Sabine told him, “You could take a vote of ‘no confidence.’ It doesn’t have to move forward.”
Mayor Madrid said, “I’d like to add it depends on a number of factors. It varies.” He observed that in some areas, approval of a PBID has taken years before ultimately succeeding.
City manager David Witt told Ewin, “Realistically, it can go on or die off from lack of interest.”
Ewin then proposed that the remainder of the money for PBID be returned to the city’s parking funds. Sterling seconded the motion. The vote was 4-1 with Mayor Madrid the sole vote against the money transfer.