The Milpas Community Association presented details of its proposed Eastside Business Improvement District at a Friday outreach event held for area residents and business owners.

Attendees walked through various stations that explained what the Eastside Business Improvement District (EBID) is and how it could benefit the Milpas-Eastside business area. The materials provided information on annual dues for specific industries, what service fees cover, and who decides the distribution of those funds.

The Milpas Community Association (MCA) has been working since last year on the EBID, which would charge businesses located within the area’s boundaries. The payments would be collected by the city and handed over to the improvement district to cover costs not funded by the city, such as marketing, festivities, security, and other services. The initial annual budget of the EBID is approximately $155,000 for five years.

The event addressed critics’ concerns that the proposed EBID will lead to gentrification by increasing commercial and residential rents, driving low-income locals and Latino-owned businesses away from the neighborhood.

Sharon Byrne, MCA Executive Director, said the city’s housing squeeze and not the business improvement district is what is contributing to rent increases.

“You’re paying supreme top dollar for rock bottom property,” Byrne said. “The supply is so tightly constricted and the demand is so big it’s only going to drive the price up. Nothing that we are doing or ever will do can cause that.”

According to Byrne, rezoning the Milpas corridor for higher-density development has attracted more investors and developers, and that the EBID’s annual budget is not large enough to consider doing any major remodeling of the neighborhood.

The opposition has also criticized the MCA for not consulting with businesses before presenting the EBID plan to the City Council in November; many said they were unaware of the EBID. Byrne said the City Administrator’s Office asked the MCA to do a courtesy presentation to City Council before reaching out to businesses.

“I really feel we should’ve been firm with the city and said, ‘No, we’re going to do outreach first and then we’ll get back to you. … I don’t think it was a good idea to make us go do that presentation.”

Santos Guzman, owner of El Bajio restaurant on Milpas Street and a member of the MCA’s Board of Directors, said forming the EBID gives Milpas business owners a unified voice. His restaurant was the site of a protest by PODER (People Organizing for the Defense of Equal Rights), who oppose the EBID.

The MCA has collected 150 signatures from businesses, said Byrne, but wants 300 to 350 before seeking City Council approval. She sees the district as a way to secure the future of small local businesses in the community.

“If you don’t do something to band the little mom-and-pop shops [together] and help them boost their businesses as much as possible, you make them ripe to be picked off by gentrification,” Byrne said.


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