Improvement district will face a fight

Burlingame Avenue-area business owners fighting an assessment they say is a waste of money have gathered enough support in their fight to possibly force the city to disband a downtown business improvement district.

The city has received some 337 protests, out of the 477 businesses in the Burlingame Avenue Business Improvement District, from business owners and employees saying they don’t want to be part of the organization created to promote and beautify the popular shopping district, according to a city staff report. The protests must be filed by businesses representing more than 50 percent of the total BID value to be successful. Quent Cordair, owner of Quent Cordair Fine Art on Lorton Avenue, submitted several hundred protests last week, but they came in too late to be validated.

The City Council is charged with approving the protests at tonight’s meeting.

Promoting business is good, but many of the smaller businesses believe the district is wasting money on costly Web site services and too-pricey parking lot signs, among other expenses, said Isabelle de Paz, owner of All That Glitters on Primrose Road. She pays $350 annually.

“Even if they charged me $20 a month, I would be upset,” de Paz said. “It’s the principle. I want to know how they’re spending my money, and I don’t agree with how they’re doing it.”

Businesses pay $50 to $1,000 annually to be part of the district, which would have received an estimated $133,450 in the upcoming fiscal year. City Manager Jim Nantell said he was concerned about who would fund the programs and efforts supported partially or in full by the BID should it be disbanded, including holiday decorations, the downtown trolley, signs and maintenance.

BID officials, who did not return calls by press time yesterday, stepped up their efforts to get the word out about the district’s good points starting in April, approving $3,000 for a fact sheet to distribute to businesses.

Cordair, a Burlingame Avenue-area business owner for nearly 10 years, would prefer a more unofficial, “traditional” assessment method, where businesses spend money on what they want.

“It’s an organization that is very inflexible,” Cordair said. “There are 20 different ways this has started to smell bad over the years.”

The council will meet at 6 p.m. tonight in the Lane Community Room in the Burlingame Public Library, 480 Primrose Road.

tramroop@examiner.com

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