City Council supports downtown Business Improvement District

City leaders gave their approval Tuesday to a plan by downtown property owners to raise and spend nearly $1 million a year to improve the Brand Boulevard corridor.

Council members voted unanimously to support a property-based Business Improvement District. Under the proposal, property owners would initially pay roughly 22-cents per square foot, per year to fund enhanced security, marketing and cleaning of the area.

The next major step is to take a vote among the 168 owners of property in the district bounded by the Ventura (134) Freeway, Orange Street, Colorado Boulevard and Maryland Avenue. The vote is weighted by the size of the properties.

The two largest property owners in the proposed district are the Americana at Brand and the Glendale Galleria. The city and its redevelopment agency control 28 small parcels, mostly parking lots, totaling 11% of the proposed district.

Together, the three entities control more than enough land to determine the outcome of the vote. But Philip Lanzafame, the city's director of community redevelopment and housing, said the city would seek the backing of a wide array of property owners — what he called a "popular vote" — before going forward.

The proposed budget for the first year is $955,000. One-third of the money is tentatively earmarked for enhanced security, with non-sworn "security ambassadors" patrolling in the area. About 21% of the money would be for marketing and promotion.

Helen McDonagh, president of the Downtown Glendale Merchants Assn., said the investment is needed for downtown to thrive.

"The next year or two are likely to be trying times for many downtown areas, including Glendale," she said. "Local government will have less and less control in this down economy."

Still, some City Council members raised questions about whether the city should be a member. The city and redevelopment agency would pay a combined $109,000 a year in dues under the plan.

Support ranged from Councilman Dave Weaver opposed to the idea, to Council members Laura Friedman and John Drayman in full support. Drayman noted this is the third time the downtown area has sought to create an improvement district, and pointed to the success of the district in Montrose.

Mayor Ara Najarian raised concerns about the city's ability to influence district spending decisions, as well as the potential liability for the actions of private security workers.

The city will vote on whether to join the district only after the next round of outreach to business owners.

Rick Lemmo, president of the business improvement district steering committee and vice president of community relations for Americana at Brand owner Caruso Affiliated, said the district will help the city achieve its economic goals.

"This is good for the city. It's absolutely good for the businesses in our area, and it is time to move forward on the business improvement district," he said.

FOR THE RECORD: This corrects an earlier version to give the price per square footage in cents, not dollars.

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