Property owners on the 2500 block of Mission Street between 21st and 22nd Streets want to pay more in taxes than their neighbors, for at least five more years.
The Board of Supervisors will likely grant their request sometime next month. The extra tax revenue and donations pay for services like frequent street cleaning, graffiti removal and maintenance of security cameras and floral arrangements.
The taxes and donations are managed by the district’s board and all additional services are paid for by the board. Their operating budget for the coming year is $85,000.
The higher taxes apply only to the block where Foreign Cinema, the Elements Hotel and Medjool reside, where property owners established a Business Improvement District in 2005. They are asking the supervisors to approve it for another five years.
Supervisor David Campos praised the program during the Budget and Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday, where the group’s request was heard.
“Let me say that in these tough financial times [when] city resources are limited, I think we have to think of ways of creating these partnerships,” he said.
Similar improvement districts exist in other San Francisco neighborhoods, most notably in Union Square.
The goals set out five years ago — to make the area more “safe, clean and green” — have been accomplished, according to Philip Lesser, president of the district’s board.
One of the key services is surveillance cameras, which are available to members and operate at all times. Lesser showed a reporter live video from his Palm phone.
Since the cameras have been installed, drug dealers and people who sell fake documents don’t hang around on the block, and taggers think twice about defacing property, he said. Service calls to the area have decreased, and the video has been used by police to identify criminals.
One unintended consequence is quality control: Lesser once sent footage to the supervisor of a DPW worker who was caught on film observing graffiti but not removing it.
Now property owners want to expand the program.
“Our goal is for concierges to tell their guests to take BART, get off at 16th and Mission, take a walk and see where the locals go,” Lesser said. He added that the group wants to beautify Mission Street so residents can take pride in it.
It’s unclear whether the program has been successful in raising real estate values, but it has created stability on the corridor, and in the current economy that is a positive, he said.
The program has created some controversy, because it increases taxes and allows the city to place liens on owners who don’t pay them. But the district was approved by a majority of the property owners on the block, whose voting power is based on the amount of property they own.
“They like the services but they don’t want to pay for them,” Lesser said.
Changing the reputation of Mission Street is an uphill battle, Lesser acknowledged, but he believes the improvement district is a start.
“When people ask, ‘Where is that block?’ I do not have to say the block on 2500 anymore,” he said. “I can just say the block with all the floral baskets — everyone knows it now.”