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Eastside Santa Barbara Groups Working Toward Business Improvement District Consensus

City officials have heard 2 proposals to tax Eastside businesses for marketing, security and event funding, but have postponed a decision until January

The Greater Eastside Merchants Association is proposing a business improvement district with boundaries between the 200 and 600 blocks of Milpas Street, while the Milpas Community Association wants to establish such a district in a larger area of the Lower Eastside neighborhood.
The Greater Eastside Merchants Association is proposing a business improvement district with boundaries between the 200 and 600 blocks of Milpas Street, while the Milpas Community Association wants to establish such a district in a larger area of the Lower Eastside neighborhood. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk file photo)

Santa Barbara officials want two groups proposing different business improvement districts for the city’s Lower Eastside to come to a consensus, but one side of that equation is frustrated with the process of setting up a meeting.

The City Council on Tuesday officially approved a move to wait to initiate any proceedings to form a new business improvement district in the Milpas Street or Eastside area until Jan. 12.

Council members have said they don’t want to be forced to consider approving two proposals, which have been made by the Milpas Community Association and the Greater Eastside Merchants Association.

The latter told the City Council in July that it planned to meet with the MCA on Aug. 3, but that meeting never happened.

MCA president Alan Bleecker told council members Tuesday he was at a loss for who to get in touch with to schedule a meeting, since no one seemed to be leading the Greater Eastside Merchants Association, a group taking on the name of an organization founded in the Milpas Street corridor 60 years ago.

“It has been very clear to us that since November, the opposition has never been interested in working with us,” Bleecker said, adding that his 5-year-old organization would continue to try setting up a mediated meeting.

MCA executive director Sharon Byrne told Noozhawk the nonprofit organization is afraid to approach businesses in the opposing proposed district, since it could be viewed as harassment.

Her group has been working to collect business signatures for an Eastside Business Improvement District, which would tax all businesses along the Milpas Street corridor from Cabrillo Boulevard to the Santa Barbara Bowl and the western boundary of Salsipuedes Street.

The city would collect funds that an elected nonprofit board could spend on marketing and promotional services, events, security, graffiti removal and other activities.

As proposed, the MCA’s EBID would generate $150,000 to $220,000, according to early estimates.

Assessments per business would tentatively fall between $215 and $745 annually, and larger hotels would have one vote instead of two on an elected governing board.

Although originally staunchly opposed to an EBID because of its perceived threat of gentrifying the area, the Greater Eastside Merchants Association presented the council with a counterproposal last month.

The group — the most recent iteration of an organization founded in the Milpas corridor 60 years ago — asked to form a Milpas Business Improvement District, which would levy assessments on 106 businesses located between the 200 and 600 blocks of Milpas Street. Its five blocks would generate an estimated $6,000 through annual assessments, charging flat rates based on business type, ranging from $35 to $70.

Eastside resident Jacqueline Inda has been involved in the recently resurrected Merchants Association — she’s running for a City Council seat, as is Byrne — and told Noozhawk last week that a meeting hasn’t yet taken place.

She said there was no rush, since the groups have until January. Old Spanish Days celebrations kept everyone busy that week, Inda said.

“The plan is to do so in the near future,” she said.

“We’ll see what the outcome of that is. It’s not a rushed issue like before that last meeting.”

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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