Burlingame creates new district in face of opposition

With the selection of a board to oversee a newly formed business improvement district, Burlingame Avenue merchants are turning their attention to how they will spend roughly $91,000 to drive customers to the shopping area.

Nine business representatives were nominated to oversee the newly created district, which was approved by the City Council this week despite opposition from many shop owners.

Some 216 businesses submitted written protests to the city, making up about 44 percent of the total $91,000 in fees that will be collected.

City officials said not all of the protests were valid, however, and in any case they fell short of the 50 percent majority protest needed to block the district.

“I think it’s the right thing to do to give these merchants the opportunity to show what they can do,” Mayor Cathy Baylock said.

The board’s next major task will be crafting a spending plan. Among the ideas already being floated are shopping maps distributed to local hotels, streetscape improvements and events for the holidays to draw people to the street.

Critics said many merchants weren’t aware of the district plan until recently and said participation should have been voluntary.

“I just think it’s a bad time in the economy,” said Michele Porrazzo, owner of Aida Opera Candies. “It’s truly in the tank and that’s why people are scared. They don’t know from day to day are they going to be able to pay the bills.”

But proponents say the district will allow merchants to combine forces for marketing and events that no single business owner could do alone. Businesses will pay $125 to $625 annually, depending on size and location.

“It gets us networked as a group, which is stronger,” said Karen Frances Ulrich, the owner of Plum Studios Salon. “If I were to market my business or put some signage up, it’s going to cost me a lot more rather than if we did shopping maps together.”

sbishop@sfexaminer.com

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