City renews Business Improvement District

City officials were more than happy to renew the Business Improvement District, the financial program initiated by local hotels to fund art projects and organizations that bring tourists to town.

The BID has bumped up the city budget by millions since it was founded in 2001. In the current fiscal year, the BID is contributing $1.67 million, a 10% increase over estimates. The money is generated by a 2% levy skimmed off the top of the city's regulated bed taxes and must be renewed annually by the hotels, motels and the city.

"It is important to note that [the 2%] is self-imposed," Councilman Steve Dicterow said at the May 21 meeting.

The Laguna Beach Visitors & Conference Bureau gets half of the annual assessment, $835,000 this fiscal year. The rest will be divvied up equally with $167,000 going to the Laguna College of Art + Design, Laguna Playhouse, Laguna Art Museum, the city's Arts Commission for projects approved by the council and the community arts organizations, also to be approved by the council.

The 30% allocated to the three named organizations — LCAD, Laguna Playhouse and Laguna Art Museum — must meet standards set by the district. Eligibility requirements include:

•Principal place of business in Laguna for a minimum of five years on property owned or ground leased within the city limits.

•501 c 3 non-profit status.

•Professional management.

•Full-time paid employee artists, curators and or educators.

•Full-time operations and programs.

•Verified audited gross revenues of at least $850,000, not including the BID funding.

•Full membership in national accrediting bodies or associations.

Any written materials produced by the recipients for public distribution are required to include "Funds for this program are provided by the lodging establishments and the city of Laguna Beach."

An advisory board reports on district activities. Board members include Laguna's mayor, mayor pro tem and city manager, and four visitor's bureau appointees.

Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Pearson recused herself from voting on the extension because of her recent employment at Laguna Playhouse.

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