How PBIDs help Sacramento neighborhoods

Jeff vonKaenel

In a time when so many business owners are attacking government, complaining about regulation and claiming that businesses are so much more efficient than government, a group of business property owners in the North Watt Avenue area recently voted overwhelmingly to assess themselves an annual tax to form the Watt Avenue Property and Business Improvement District.

With an annual budget of around $450,000, the nonprofit WAPBID will provide enhanced security, area maintenance, marketing and other services for the district. The WAPBID is one of nearly two dozen PBIDs in the Sacramento area. There are 1,500 PBIDs in the United States and Canada.

One of the Watt Avenue PBID’s main supporters, Recycling Industries General Manager David Kuhnen, told me, “This has been a blighted area. This area has a history of drug trafficking, prostitution, crime and homelessness. The property owners, the businesses and the county have formed a partnership to identify and fund solutions to the problem.”

Kuhnen was delighted that more than 75 percent of the property owners agreed to a five-year assessment to fund the PBID. After five years, it can be renewed by a vote of the property owners. Half of the money will go to security, 16 percent for maintenance, 11 percent for advocacy and image enhancement and the rest for capital improvements, administration and contingency. The area will clearly benefit.

Kuhnen should be delighted. A PBID can make a real difference. Our Chico paper is a longtime member of the Downtown Chico Business Association, where I once served as a board member. When SN&R’s office was in Midtown, our newspaper joined the Midtown Business Association PBID, and we are now members of the Del Paso Boulevard Partnership PBID.

Earlier this year, the Del Paso Boulevard Partnership property owners had to renew their PBID. This is the same process that the WAPBID will go through in five years. Before the vote, Del Paso Boulevard Partnership Executive Director David Plag asked me if I was supporting the renewal.

I asked, “Do you think I am crazy?” Of course I supported the renewal. And it passed overwhelmingly. We at SN&R really appreciated the additional security, the boulevard maintenance and the marketing.

And the price. Without the Del Paso Boulevard Partnership, I would have to pay on my own for these same services. Now the businesses in our neighborhood pay only a small fraction of the cost, because everyone is chipping in. Obviously, it is way more efficient to have a single company providing security, marketing or street cleanup and maintenance services for a group of neighboring businesses.

I am surprised that there are not more PBIDs in Sacramento. They are a very effective way for business and government to partner to improve a neighborhood, and these partnerships have proven to be so valuable that businesses are willing to raise their taxes to pay for it. That’s an incredible endorsement.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.