Mills-Peninsula Health Services is withholding its support for a proposed downtown improvement district unless its fees are slashed by two-thirds.
The Downtown San Mateo Association’s proposed property-based improvement district would charge downtown property owners for street cleaning, trash gathering, landscaping, and economic development.
But there’s a hang-up.
To create the district, property owners representing over half the $700,000 the district would levy each year must sign a petition to support it.
Downtown Association President Rob Edwards had received oral agreements for 40 percent of that sum before the city’s largest property owner, Mills Peninsula, got cold feet.
Mills-Peninsula Vice President of Communications, Margie O’Claire, said the hospital wants the nearly $80,000 annual fee dropped to $25,000.
“This program is designed to improve downtown,” O’Claire said. “We’re all for that, but it’s not going to have the same benefit for us,” she said.
As Edwards admits, the hospital doesn’t rely on a snappy downtown to attract clients, and since it is unlikely to sell its property, would not benefit from boosts in property values an improved downtown might bring.
“If they say no, I’d have to talk to like 27 more property owners,” Edwards said. “That’s two months of work and it would probably derail the whole thing.”
The district would charge downtown property owners fees based on the size of their buildings and parcels, as well as their proximity to downtown, and commercial or retail status.
Edwards said existing downtown services provided by the city of San Mateo would continue at levels established before the special district was created — as stipulated by the state’s Vehicle and Highway code.
O’Claire said the hospital is already doing its part to help the community.
Mills offered $27 million in charity care last year, on top of $300,000 in grants for local organizations involved in health care, and sponsors a senior health fair, the chamber of commerce and the city’s annual summer concert series. Additional expenses incurred by the special district would work against the hospital’s goal of keeping health care costs down, she said.
But Kris Cesena, president of the downtown association, disagrees that the hospital doesn’t stand to benefit.
“The hospital has a lot of clients who have to drive through downtown,” Cesena said. “Not having to drive through dirty streets and past graffiti-laden buildings makes their hospital more enticing,” she said.