Explaining the PBID's Controversial Weighted Voting Process

cleanteam

A member of the DLBA's Clean Team, which is a service afforded by the recently renewed PBID.

One for one is not the way that voting worked when Downtown's Property and Business Improvement District was reauthorized for another ten years last week. Instead, each property owner's vote carried with it the weight of their portion of the total PBID assesment, a procedure that is implemented in accordance with California State law for establishing and renewing such districts. 

For most of the 200 or so California municipalties that have established PBIDs, the weighted-ballot vote has not stirred up much controversy as approval must still come from a wide range of property owners in order to reach the one penny over 50 percent of total assessment dollars needed to pass. In Downtown Long Beach, however, there are so many large properties owned by just a few entities that it only takes a small number of weighted-ballot votes to pass the PBID and many residents are left feeling like the process is unfair.

According to Sandy Rendell, spokesperson for the anti-PBID group Downtown Homeowners Unite, because of the weighted-ballot system, the votes of all of Downtown's residents combined is only seven to eight percent of the total assesssment amount even though they make up the majority of the votes cast (about 1900 out of the 3000 votes are classified as residential).

This is because for many loft, condo and residential property owners, the assessment is usually under $200 and for smaller property owners, often under $50. The assessment on larger properties such as office buildings, leased commercial space and city properties, comparitvely, runs into the tens of thousands of dollars (the Landmark Building on the corner of Pine Ave. and Ocean Blvd, for example, has an assessment of $41,000). So while 77 percent of the money voted to renew the PBID, nearly 60 percent of the raw ballots voted no. 

"All we ever wanted was to have the residents votes counted separately and to have the resulting tabulation be used as a basis for whether the residential properties were included," Rendell says. "As we have said, over and over this is not the democratic way. Simply put, it is taxation without representation."

The PBID's weighted vote system stems from the weighted assessment of PBID costs, which operates on the idea that pay is commisurate on benefits. Since supplemental services are meant to increase property values, those who receive more services from the PBID, therefore, pay more and those who receive less should pay less with assessments reflected on (but charegd separately from) annual property tax bills.

In Downtown Long Beach, each business and property owner's assessment is calculated based on square footage of the property, street frontage of the property and in which zone of the PBID (premium or standard) the property is located.

Because of its multiple properties in the area (including the three square blocks of the entire Civic Center and all properties previously owned by the Redevelopment Agency), the City of Long Beach is by far the largest entity to benefit from the PBID and it is understandable that their total weighted assessment—at $413, 565—is the highest in the district. But with $2.25 million being raised by the PBID in the first year, the City's weighted votes alone are only 18 percent and not enough for PBID renewal on its own. Besides, state law prevents a single owner's weighted vote to establish a district. 

But it doesn't take too many more "yes" weighted-ballot votes from other large property owners to push that percentage up to the needed amount to pass. Supporters who voted in favor of the PBID renewal include the Renaissance Hotel, Courtyard by Marriott, City Place Long Beach, Molina Center, Lyon Real Estate and the Press-Telegram Lofts. Because entities such as City Place and Lyon Real Estate own multiple properties within the area, they received multiple weighted votes, which gave the PBID the remaining percentage needed to pass.

So even though the raw votes as counted during the August 7 City Council meeting (and released in an official document by the City Clerk's office last Friday) was 429 yes votes and 675 no votes, the weighted-ballot votes were enough for the PBID's renewal. 

The Downtown Long Beach PBID has been in place since 1998 and provides resources and services that enhance the community through Clean Teams, Guides, sidewalk washing, grafitti removal, marketing and other programming that has become synonymous with Downtown's aesthetic. 

"DLBA's community outreach and consensus building to achieve this renewal is indicative of its leadership and ability to execute strategically," said Kristi Allen, DLBA Chair-elect. "I'm proud to be associated with an organization that manages a multitude of responsibilities and collaborates with others to help shape Downtown's future."



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