City Council considering whether to reauthorize U District’s Business Improvement Area (BIA) for cleaning, safety, marketing — and an added mission: preventing displacement of small businesses

June 8, 2020 Update:

Today the City Council unanimously approved the legislation co-sponsored by Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4, Northeast Seattle) to reauthorize the Business Improvement Area (BIA) in the University District, which is the heart of District 4. 

Business Improvement Areas are positive, community-driven economic development tools that help keep neighborhood business districts clean and safe throughout our city,” said Pedersen. “The legislation I crafted with the Mayor incorporates many key principles sought by smaller businesses, including better representation, good governance, and the preservation of existing shops and restaurantsDuring and after the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to give our small neighborhood businesses the support they need to thrive.”

For the entire press release, CLICK HERE.

April 26, 2020 (original post):

There are 10 Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) throughout Seattle, including one in the University District in our District 4. BIAs are authorized by State law (RCW 35.87A) and enable commercial and multifamily property owners to pay a fee to operate supplemental cleaning, safety, marketing, and other services to maintain and improve their neighborhood business districts.

As with many taxes or fees, concerns have been expressed. In the case of the U District BIA, concerns/questions since the current BIA was established in 2015 include: Are the fees fair? Are the services effective? I’ve consistently communicated my general support for BIAs — including for the U District BIA — while also articulating that certain principles should be incorporated:

  • Fair Representation: Small businesses on triple net leases (meaning the landlord can pass the BIA fees onto the small business owner) must have a meaningful voice in the decisions of the BIA.
  • Good Governance: I believe nearly all contracts (including the “Program Manager” of the U District BIA) should be bid competitively so that we have a public process and an opportunity for more than one organization to compete to provide the services.
  • Prevention of Displacement: BIAs must explicitly make sure their “economic development” activities do NOT contribute to the displacement of existing small neighborhood businesses. A study of the The Ave found that nearly 2/3 are owned by women and people of color.

For a link to the Council Bill 119779 and related docs, CLICK HERE.

For a link to the map of the proposed BIA, CLICK HERE.

For the website of the University District Partnership, the current “Program Manager” of the U District BIA, CLICK HERE.

Note: The legislation was crafted and introduced by the Durkan Administration (her Office of Economic Development and Department Financial and Administrative Services) by modifying the 2015 ordinance. Traditionally the Committee Chair is the “sponsor” of the legislation once introduced. In this case, I asked to be a co-sponsor with Chair Tammy Morales, which gives me additional ability to speak to the legislation during the process because it is in our District 4.

Consideration of the BIA by the City Council will be a six-week process:

  • Monday, April 27: Initiating the process with 2 Resolutions (Reso 31943 and 31944) and the introduction of the Council Bill 119779.
  • Wednesday, May 20: Briefing and Discussion at the Community & Economic Development (CED) Committee;
  • Wednesday, May 27: another discussion at CED Committee AND a public hearing;
  • Wednesday, June 3: possible approval by CED Committee;
  • Monday, June 8: possible adoption by full City Council;
  • Friday, June 19: deadline for Mayor signature;
  • Sunday, July 19: Effective Date (if signed by Mayor June 19).

Let us know your thoughts:

© 1995-2016 City of Seattle