Two new Community Benefit Districts (CBDs) located in the Fillmore and Mid-Market neighborhoods moved forward yesterday, but only after enduring unusually contentious hearings that raised questions about their formation process. CBDs, which levy a tax on property owners, then direct the revenue towards improvements in the community, have until this point represented rare instances of broad consensus in often fractious neighborhoods. It appears that neither the Fillmore or Mid-Market CBDs will be sailing such calm waters, however, as accusations of trying to rush both proposals at the expense of adequate community outreach were leveled at the CBD organizers yesterday. The next obstacle for the CBDs comes today, when the full Board of Supervisors will vote on whether to allow these districts to take the next step towards formation.
In order to be formed, CBDs must first prove that 30 percent of property owners in the area are interested in the idea. The Board of Supervisors must then authorize an election to take place in the community, the result of which will determine whether the CBD will move forward or not.
Yesterday, the Government Audit and Oversight Committee took up the issue as to whether to allow elections occur in both the Fillmore and Mid-Market districts. In both instances, members of the Committee had concerns about the districts moving forward.
Supervisor Aaron Peksin, who drafted the initial legislation allowing for the creation of CBDs, first raised his concern that the economic analysis of the legislation creating the districts was being waived. This waiver comes at the urging of those supporting the districts, who argue that in order to meet a deadline for obtaining tax funding during the next year, the CBDs must be approved extremely fast.
However, many of the people supporting the formation of the CBDs, including the Chamber of Commerce and Committee on Jobs, are the same people currently suing the city to disallow such waivers to ever occur. Peskin called this fact both “unfortunate and ironic.”
The fact that both CBDs were racing against a deadline sparked the majority of the rest of the concerns surrounding the districts. Peskin and Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi and Tom Ammiano all voiced concern that some members of the communities had contacted the Board and declared their opposition to the districts. Their complaints centered around being uninvolved in the process and uncertain of the effects a CBD would have on their neighborhood.
Peskin said his primary concern with this lack of consensus was that as the CBD process moved to new areas across the city, communities may be less willing to welcome it if a bad precedent is set for how they’re formed. Moving forward with any CBD without a high level of buy-in could cause potential districts to see it as less of a neighborhood-wide effort to improve the community, and more of a plot forwarded by a small group of interests to gentrify or otherwise change the area, regardless of community opposition.
The committee eventually forwarded the proposals along. However, the Fillmore proposal only moved after Mirkarimi made a variety of important amendments to it. The Mid-Market district moved forward without recommendation from the committee, and Peskin said he has questions that need answering before he’s prepared to vote for it.