The Berkeley City Council last night approved the formation of the third property-based improvement district (PBID) in the city, increasing fourfold the funds available to the Downtown Berkeley Association (DBA) for environmental enhancement and economic development programs. A ballot count showed 71% of downtown property owners approved of the PBID.
“Now we get to work on implementation, not campaigning,” said John Caner, executive director of the DBA. “It’s all about making downtown a lively and vibrant place. It gives us the opportunity to accelerate and build on the successes we’ve already had downtown.” Caner pointed to the coming openings of the Magnes Museum, the Helios Center and the refurbishment of the BART Plaza as key building pieces for the downtown.
The PBID will begin operating in January 2012 with an annual budget of almost $1.2 million, managed by the DBA. The bulk of the PBID resources, around $850,000, will be for clean, safe and beautification services and improvements. The PBID will fund a maintenance team, providing services beyond those already provided by the city. The Host Ambassador program to patrol downtown, provide visitor assistance, neighborhood watch, merchant support, and homeless services outreach, will be expanded.
“Working on gum stains and graffiti isn’t glamorous, but it’s an essential part of what’s needed,” Caner said.
An additional $200,000 of the PBID budget is for marketing to help bring more visitors and residents downtown and effectively compete with other regional business districts; and a business attraction and retention program for businesses interested in starting, expanding or relocating within downtown Berkeley.
“We can attract more people and that in turn will attract new investment,” Caner said. “It’s happened in communities around the country, and Berkeley can learn from the successes of the 1,000 other PBIDs in the U.S. and Canada.”
Berkeley’s existing PBIDs are on Telegraph and North Shattuck. The Downtown PBID also involves enlarging the downtown district two blocks south to Dwight Way.