Adams Square getting lighter wallet

Josh Kleinbaum

Merchants in Adams Square will soon be forced to pool their financial

resources, but the final sum will not be as large as expected.

The City Council is expected to create a business improvement

district in Adams Square with a $120 annual fee, satisfying area

merchants who protested a proposed $300 fee. Once the business

district is created, the city will collect the money -- $6,000 in

all, instead of $15,000 -- and turn it over to a merchants

association to use for advertising and special events.

Because the city will continue to give the area $15,000 per year, the business district's budget will be about $21,000.

"For a lot of small businesses, $300 is a big hit," said Bob

Gallegos, owner of Doctor Bob's Auto Repair. "The first step in any

organization, you need to start off a little smaller."

The district will force every business in the area, which lines

Chevy Chase Drive, Palmer Avenue and Adams Street, to join a

merchants association. The assessment fees are collected by the city

and then turned over to the merchants association.

Membership in the merchants association is not mandatory, and only

12 of the 50 businesses pay the $100 membership fee.

Gallegos organized the protest, getting 27 Adams Square businesses

to join him. He proposed a $100 fee at Tuesday's City Council

meeting. Mayor Bob Yousefian negotiated the fee up to $120 per year,

or $10 per month. Gallegos will try to sell the new rate to Adams

Square businesses before next week's City Council meeting, and he

expects most of the protesting merchants to withdraw the objection.

The council is not allowed to create a business improvement

district if more than half of the businesses object.

City Atty. Scott Howard said two of the protests were disqualified

on a technicality, so at least one more business must withdraw its

objection for the council to proceed.

Despite the lower assessment fee, the council pledged to continue

giving the merchants $15,000 each year, an about-face from an earlier

promise to match the assessment revenue up to $15,000. Yousefian said

the council made the pledge to ensure that the business improvement

district would be created.

Members of the Adams Square Merchants Assn., who set the $300 fee,

believe the council used them as scapegoats, making them appear

greedy for setting the high assessment. They settled on the $300 fee

to maximize the matching funds.

"Had we known that the council was going to flip-flop the way they

did, we would have come in with the $50 to $100 fee, knowing they

were still going to give us $15,000," board member Carol Cianfrini

said. "We feel like we were stabbed in the back."

Yousefian said creating the district is the top priority.

"It was obvious if we didn't do what we did, the [district]

wouldn't have happened," Yousefian said. "They're going to find out

that $20,000 doesn't go far. I have a feeling next year they'll

probably vote to increase the money by themselves."

The Montrose Shopping Park Assn. is the city's only other business

improvement district. Brand Boulevard merchants are considering

forming one.

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