Council proposes community benefit districts

In the absence of a redevelopment agency, the city is looking to give businesses a tool to create districts where they can collectively pay for improvements and services.

The City Council introduced an ordinance Tuesday that would allow community benefit districts anywhere in Glendale if the property owners request it.

Unlike similar districts the city has handled in the past, these would allow mixed-used residential and commercial property owners to participate, said Community Development Director Hassan Haghani.

And they wouldn’t cost the city anything, he added.

Participating property owners would contribute money to the district and then decide which improvements they’d like made using those funds.

“We only have to create the legal framework for them in order to volunteer on their own to organize and create [the district],” Haghani said.

It would be similar to assessment districts already in place in a few parts of the city.

“It’s obviously worked very well in Montrose for many, many, many years,” said Councilman Frank Quintero. “So bringing it to the downtown — or any other section of the city that’s interested — I think it’s going to work to the benefit of the property owners.”

The funds could be used for any type of improvement or service, such as marketing materials, extra security and additional litter removal beyond what the city provides, said City Manager Scott Ochoa.

Representatives from the local business community said they supported the measure during the City Council meeting.

A benefits district would let the downtown area prepare for some big changes coming next year, said Helen McDonagh, owner of Massage Envy and president of the Downtown Glendale Merchants Assn.

Bloomingdale’s is gearing up to open in the former Mervyn’s store, improvements are slated at the Glendale Galleria and Nordstrom plans to move to the Americana at Brand, so the time is right to make sure the downtown area is ready for new opportunities, she said.

“We really need to take the downtown area to a new level,” she said. “Creating this community benefit district can allow us to do that.”

Rick Lemmo, vice president of community relations for Caruso Affiliated, which owns the Americana at Brand, also said he’s “wholeheartedly” behind the ordinance, “both as an involved business member of the community and as a representative of an entity that is going to pay a significant assessment.”

The ordinance must still come back for final City Council approval.

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