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To BID or Not to BID


Recently there have been comments and concerns voiced about the effort to create a business improvement District (BID) for the Eastside of Santa Barbara. Misconceptions about what a BID is and what it’s not are hampering reasonable discussion.

I am in a BID downtown, pay annual dues, and serve on the Board of Directors. Decades ago, downtown businesses formed a coalition and agreed to assess themselves membership dues in order to promote downtown Santa Barbara and to have a unified voice with a local government. This coalition (Downtown Santa Barbara) also performs sidewalk cleaning and landscape maintenance in the BID under contract with the city. Of the various business organizations in which I have participated during four decades of operating the Paradise Café, it is by far the most useful and provides tangible benefits to the district. In short the downtown BID functions well for its stakeholders, and fosters cohesion and cooperation.

I do not have a business on the Eastside, and so have no part in either advocacy or opposition to these efforts. I do, however, wholeheartedly support any neighborhood’s attempt at formalizing unity, agreeing on a common purpose, and exercising self-determination. The desire of the stakeholders to pay dues for such purposes will be measured by their votes on the initiative. Certainly the Milpas Community Association, the organizing force in the Eastside BID, is to be admired for its efforts in promoting the Eastside business area and organizing homeless outreach and other programs over the past few years. Whether or not the proposed idea successfully launches will be up to the participants. We should keep all politics and personalities out of this, and let the business owners decide.

Randy Rowse is a member of the Santa Barbara City Council.

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