City Raises Montrose Merchants' Assessment

Times Staff Writer

The Glendale City Council this week granted a request by the Montrose Shopping Park Assn. to increase special assessments on merchants for advertising and promotion, but ignored another request seeking changes in how decisions are made to spend the money.

Some merchants had complained to the city that decisions about spending the advertising money are made "foolishly," and that only a handful of shopkeepers control the association.

Merchants have been privately squabbling over what can be done to turn around sagging sales in the area, a three-block commercial strip with more than 130 stores and novelty shops along Honolulu Avenue at the northern border of Glendale. Taxable sales in Montrose have remained stagnant for four years while receipts at other Glendale shopping centers have soared.

In an effort to increase sales through promotions, the City Council on Tuesday approved the merchants' request to increase assessments about 35% beginning Oct. 1. That is expected to raise the group's annual allotment for promotional campaigns from $16,000 to $35,000. The city collects the taxes, then turns the money over to the association.

The new tax will boost the fee charged an average retailer earning $100,000 in gross receipts a year from an annual assessment of $150 to $200. The largest increase will affect banks and other non-retail businesses that had been contributing $15 a year to the association. Under the new fee structure, which is based on the number of employees, banks and other non-retail businesses will be assessed up to $2,000 a year. The council, however, decided to take no action on the accompanying request to adopt strict controls over spending the money. Those rules would have required that all association meetings be held publicly, and that all decisions on spending be considered by the full nine-member board of directors. Some members have charged that decisions were made secretly.

But council members said the city is merely a collection agency for the merchant group and cannot get involved in internal disputes. Councilman Carl Raggio told the group: "If there is this much distrust among you, then you have another problem and one that the City Council should not get into."

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