Friday, March 23 , 2018, 11:36 am | Fair 59º



Association Hosting Outreach Event for Proposed Eastside Business Improvement District

Instead of just telling locals what a proposed Eastside Business Improvement District could do for Santa Barbara’s Milpas corridor, business leaders want to show them.

The Milpas Community Association will host an outreach “walkthrough” event Friday, explaining what the EBID and MCA do and even letting the public pretend they’re members of the EBID board, according to MCA Executive Director Sharon Byrne.

Since last year, the MCA has been working on plans for the proposed business improvement district, which would assess businesses along the Milpas Street corridor and Eastside commercial/industrial area to pay for marketing and promotion services, events, security and more.

The City of Santa Barbara would collect the EBID fees, and the nonprofit improvement district would decide how to spend funds on services the city doesn’t already cover.

So far, the MCA is about halfway through efforts to gather enough business owner signatures to present the EBID to the City Council for approval sometime in July, Byrne said.

At the event Friday, scheduled for noon to 6:30 p.m. at 331 North Milpas St., an old pot dispensary, Byrne said the MCA would work to “de-mystify” those who have already spoken against the district.

Opposition alleges the EBID could lead to gentrification of the neighborhood or force smaller businesses to close, especially those with owners in the Latino community.

Byrne said that’s the opposite of what the district would do. An EBID would provide funding to help the Milpas corridor as a whole, she said, with a focus on keeping mom-and-pop shops around.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” she said. “We want to make this very transparent.”

While collecting signatures — often after more than one visit — Byrne said most businesses weren’t aware they could actually be members who sit on the EBID board. When they found that out, she said, they were more receptive.

The MCA plans to bring bilingual speakers to Friday’s walkthrough, where the public can visit six different stations.

Byrne said she was most excited about an EBID game, where locals make-believe they’re on the board with five other people and then decide how to dole out money based on priorities.

“Here’s a budget,” she said. “Now make budget calls. Anybody can play it. We want them to see how this really is going to work.”

Other stations explain the history of business on the Eastside, what an EBID is and how the Milpas area one would work.

Byrne said the MCA hopes to make peace with EBID opponents, some of whom have formed a group called the Greater Eastside Merchant and Business Association.

The association represents the historical part of Milpas and focuses on improving the business economy, supporting the community and (soon) suggesting some EBID alternatives, according to association leader Jacqueline Inda.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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