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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 6:19 pm | Fog/Mist 58º


Santa Barbara Council Renews Business Improvement Assessments

Santa Barbara City Council voted Tuesday to continue assessing downtown businesses fees that fund marketing and promotional efforts in the Downtown and Old Town Business Improvement Districts.

Although the city received 86 letters of protest from businesses within the boundaries — mostly individual professionals with office space — officials unanimously adopted a resolution to continue assessing the same rates in 2016.

Council members Randy Rowse and Frank Hotchkiss recused themselves from the discussion and vote, since both own or operate out of businesses within the districts.

Downtown Santa Barbara, which until recently went by Downtown Organization of Santa Barbara, has been collecting fees and providing marketing and other services for downtown business for 40 years, merging in 2005 with the Old Town Merchants Association.

The exact fee depends on business license fee, location and type of business, but this year’s revenues were estimated to generate $282,000.

Fees go toward funding the Downtown Host program, First Thursdays, Holiday Parade, State Street holiday decor, Musical Wine Tour and promotion of the area as a whole via website and social media.

The Downtown Business Improvement District serves businesses between Chapala and Anacapa streets, from Ortega Street north to Micheltorena Street, with a minimum fee of $50. 

The Old Town Improvement District covers between Chapala and Anacapa streets, from Gutierrez Street north to Ortega Street, assessing at least $100.

The city of Santa Barbara collects the assessment for the nonprofit Downtown Santa Barbara, which by state law requires council to hold an annual public hearing before renewing assessments to ensure that a majority of the 1,215 businesses in the Downtown District and 238 businesses in the Old Town District don’t protest the fees.

Councilwoman Cathy Murillo was surprised the protest number was so high, but city staff said it wasn’t enough to change the assessment plan.

No mention was made of two different business improvement districts proposed last year for the Eastside Milpas Street corridor. 

Last summer, council members said they wouldn’t consider either proposal until January at the earliest, but it looks like neither will be moving forward anytime soon, according to Sharon Byrne, executive director of the Milpas Community Association.

She said the MCA might re-envision its proposal in the future and hold more community meetings, but nothing was set in stone.

The Milpas Business Improvement District was proposed by the recently resurrected Greater Eastside Merchants Association, while MCA proposed an Eastside Business Improvement District.

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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