These are some of the terrific arguments people have made in favor of the proposed business improvement district for the Eastside:

EyeGlass Factory: We, at the Eyeglass Factory, are very enthused and supportive of the BID idea.
Having observed what happens in the “MILPAS CORRIDOR” for over 20 years, we are qualified to say that the efforts of the MILPAS Community Assn have definitely contributed to an improvement in quality of life there. The latest initiative to establish a BID district will, no doubt, bring about further Improvements.
Congratulations to Alan Bleeker, ED Sharon Byrne, and the MCA Board for progress to date.
They have clearly acted in a most responsible manner to date which speaks volumes about their capacity to establish a BID District.
Rick Feldman
CEO Eyeglass Factory

The Attic: own a prominent business on Milpas and I will vote for the BID. I’m for progress and cleaning up Milpas. It’s inevitable! Why wouldn’t you want successful shops on Milpas. Regardless of what kind of shop. Why would you want it to revert to the homeless infested, dirty, unkempt, street of years past? My shop got tagged this week in three places? Clean up the Eastside I say! I’ll pay!

Business owner on lower Milpas St:  Yes, I am against taxes in excess. BUT this is not a tax, it is a fee for being in a Business Improvement District. For example, here in SB we live in a homeowners association to which we pay fees. We vote for our board, vote on our assessments from time to time, and decide the best use of our assessment monies. Notice the ‘we’ in these statements.
Well, a business district is just an association of the businesses that occupy a given area. Businesses are drawn to that area because they can gain customers (the reason they’re in business). Each BID decides its assessments, votes for its own board, and decides HOW it wants to spend its money. It is usually formed when the business district sees a need for improvements that are not being met by city provisions, such as policing or dollars for events etc. This particular BID came after many years of a few holding the bag for the many, and it was decided that the businesses in the district were all enjoying the attention the city was finally paying to this area, the Taste Of Milpas, less gang activity, less homelessness, more and improved neighborhood identity, etc etc, so that it was time to ask for all of the businesses enjoying all these benefits to be part of the team. Yes, to help pay for them, and yes to help decide what are the important needs of this business community and to decide, across the community how best to meet those needs – fundraisers, friendraisers, increased fees- all these will be decided at the BID level.
There is no money going elsewhere out the district for anything else , like how our taxes are being used (we pay them and have no control over how they are spent, either on the state or federal level).
There simply are no extra monies in the city or state coffers to pay for Christmas parades or decorations, or the Taste of Milpas or the myriad other neighborhood gatherings that help to make this an area enjoyable for the people who live here, work here, play here – (the mission statement from MCA!). I am really surprised by any reluctance of any business owners, because really the fees are so minimal compared to the added value that the BID would bring (based on what MCA is doing now, which is what the BID would be doing and then some).
The Downtown merchants have been part of a BID for years, at least 40, I think, and each and every one of the business owners in the BID has an opportunity to effect what is happening in their district by being vocal on the board. Again, the money raised in each BID, STAYS in the BID. This would be true of the EBID, too.
I vote yes!

Mariah Motorsports:  Yes, Mariah Motorsports supports the BID.  While no one enjoys additional fees, this one supports all businesses in the Milpas area directly.  It will go towards keeping our area clean and safe, which will encourage customers to come to our area and do more business on the Eastside. It will also make our area more unified and cohesive with holiday activities.  The annual contribution will be a benefit to all of us who do business here.

Kathleen Mackins, Santa Barbara Stone: As a third generation business owner in the same location since 1918 and born and raised on the Eastside our family has witnessed first-hand and dealt with the up and downs in this area for over 80 years.  The organizers are doing this by the book and it should be noted as such.  Those who are spreading the vicious lies and half-truths to the residents and businesses in the area are doing a great injustice to the community.
Without Sharon Byrne, Alan Bleecker, Bruce Giffin, John Dixon, Bea Molina and several others unnamed here this area would be a nightmare with the homeless situation alone.  Their outreach over the past couple of years has made the area much more safe than it has been for years. 

Jeff Harding, Santa Barbara Sentinel. March 3rd Column, Bi-Weekly Capitalist: Which brings me to the Eastside Business Improvement District (EBID). The group PODER (Spanish for “power”) noisily opposes EBID. So does Cathy Murillo, maybe not noisily. I reviewed articles about PODER and looked at material on their website. For the record they are a Progressive group. I think their argument is that EBID will improve the area and thus foster gentrification which will raise rents and drive out low income Hispanic tenants.
I also looked at the website of the Milpas Community Association (MCA) which is sponsoring EBID. For the record they are mostly business folks in the Milpas area. EBID will “assess” (tax) the 600 or so businesses in the area. A majority vote of these businesses will create the district. The plan is to use the $164,000 raised annually to clean sidewalks, remove graffiti, do landscaping, stage holiday events, and the like. They will also act to support or oppose development in the area.
If the reason PODER is opposing EBID is because of gentrification, they are way off. Cleaning sidewalks and removing graffiti won’t bring gentrification. Gentrification is where “bad” areas are cleaned up and people move in because the area is more appealing and housing costs are lower than in other areas.
There are only two things that promote gentrification. One is market forces. With high housing costs here middle-income folks are squeezed out of most housing and look for deals in areas with cheaper housing. They buy a small bungalow, fix it up, and move in. But they won’t move in if crime is high and schools are bad. EBID won’t do a thing about this.
The other thing is zoning. If areas are rezoned for higher density development, developers and investors will move in and take advantage of these cheaper properties and develop them into more expensive properties. The City (not EBID or MCA) has already rezoned the Milpas corridor to high density commercial and residential use. Also the area east of Milpas over to Salinas St. (from Carpinteria Ave. to the Freeway) has been rezoned for medium high density residential (15-26 You will start to see your neighbors selling out to developers who wish to build nice condos or apartments. EBID didn’t cause this.
PODER should be thanking the Milpas business folks who are trying to make things better.

Great comment on EdHat arguing the BID does NOT promote gentrification: Think it through: would business predators have more to gain financially by an influx of hipster-friendly new development or by helping businesses in the Milpas corridor continue, except stronger and more organized through a BID? The eBID’s most vocal opponents, including Councilmember Murillo, are still missing that it is aimed at helping existing businesses to hold on, the exact opposite of selling them out as the protestors falsely claim. Weak and dirty areas get redeveloped, renewed, revitalized, and transformed; that’s the city’s zoning plan for Milpas. But strong ones don’t need it. Instead, they prosper and keep their character. They get called quaint, Old California, small-town feel, and charming – like what a clean and prosperous Milpas neighborhood can be.

Do a logic test: why would someone interested in hurting eastside businesses actively promote a tool for their mutual betterment? Why try to help them thrive? Why work to empower them? It makes no sense. Cold business logic would say don’t do anything but let the weak ones fall as fast as possible, then pick up some bargains to renovate and resell to the highest bidders. Don’t let them organize to get a stronger voice for all. Divide and conquer.

But instead, we have a bunch of volunteer business owners and even neighborhood residents offering up the best template they could come up with to improve conditions and give all the businesses – not just their own – better odds of surviving and thriving. Apparently, the opponents don’t like that. They paint the eBID as a developers’ dream and the MCA as a dark predatory force serving gentrification and sellout. On both they’re so utterly wrong; and it’s illogical. With stronger businesses pulling together, it’s much harder for developers to move in and push them out. When small businesses are doing well, even if a greedy landlord jacked up the rent, they could absorb it easier; and they’re less vulnerable to low-ball buyouts when they’re doing OK. Costs do rise in Santa Barbara, and a healthy eastside business community can weather that better than a weak disjointed one. The same applies to the westside and other commercial strips, of course. The proposed eBID is a way for the businesses to do some things together to make their area more self-sufficient and attractive. Is that really such a bad idea?

Insightful op-ed from Councilman Rowse in the Santa Barbara Independent (click here for full essay): I am in a BID downtown, pay annual dues, and serve on the Board of Directors. Decades ago, downtown businesses formed a coalition and agreed to assess themselves membership dues in order to promote downtown Santa Barbara and to have a unified voice with a local government. This coalition (Downtown Santa Barbara) also performs sidewalk cleaning and landscape maintenance in the BID under contract with the city. Of the various business organizations in which I have participated during four decades of operating the Paradise Café, it is by far the most useful and provides tangible benefits to the district. In short the downtown BID functions well for its stakeholders, and fosters cohesion and cooperation.


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