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WeHo chamber dropped from Boystown BID
By Ryan Gierach, West Hollywood, California
The City of West Hollywood will finish recruiting the necessary businesses to make up the proposed – and stalled - Santa Monica Boulevard business improvement district (BID).
The move comes 2 ½ years after the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce held initial meetings to form a business district to address promotional, security and maintenance issues in the city’s gay nightclub center.
Businesses to the west of Robertson Boulevard wonder what they have in common with those on the east side along Santa Monica Boulevard to make a BID worthwhile.
The city has other BIDS already: the Sunset BID was formed in the 2000 out of safety concerns; the Avenues BID formed in the late 1990s to promote the area as a destination for fashion, art and design.
However, in the past 30 months, the Chamber has run into trouble getting the required signatures of 51 percent of the businesses in the target area. Some say it is because of confusion over the BID, its design, its cost and misunderstanding of what it might accomplish.
The Chamber has obtained only 41 percent of businesses’ signatures.
West Hollywood has paid the Chamber a total of $12,500 over the last two years to oversee the Santa Monica Boulevard BID’s formation. That funding was taken away in this year’s contract with the Chamber.
The goal is to create a BID spanning the length of Santa Monica Boulevard reaching from La Cienega to Doheny that would provide promotion – and after special events, security and maintenance in a beleaguered part of the city’s most active entertainment district. The BID would also cover the businesses on the side streets adjacent to the Boulevard.
Businesses to the east of Robertson Boulevard wonder what they have in common with those on the west side along Santa Monica Boulevard to make a BID worthwhile.
But merchants on both sides of Robertson Boulevard, the traditional end of Boystown, do not see how the clubs and shops between Doheny and Robertson fit in to the plan.
Said Larry Block, who operates Block Party on SMB at Larrabee, “This stretch is Boystown, not the other side of Robertson. And they want me to pay for security to do the job the Sherriff is already supposed to be doing? What is my tax money paying for, if not police protection?”
He asked why the businesses must now pay for what the city has been paying for – with his tax money - all along.
Apparently the businesses on that Doheny to Robertson stretch agree; at least one important business that cater to predominantly straight crowds has ignored appeals to consider the idea, the Troubadour.
Gay clubs, though, also have been difficult to get through to, says the city. The Revolver has not signed, nor has the Gym Bar.
The basic question for all businesses is cost. At the first set of meetings businesses decided the SMB BID would focus on promotion and branding. The group proposed a budget of $380,000 per year, of which 40 percent would go toward marketing and 30 percent toward advocacy and administration. The remainder would go toward maintenance and security.
The money they would be required to put into a BID ranges from $375 to $12,000 per year, and would be determined by a formula that includes the type of business, square footage, occupancy, gross receipts and alcohol sales.
One reason the Chamber may have had difficulty in obtaining the final 10 percent of businesses’ signatures is the cost to businesses not in support of the BID. Even if a business is opposed, they must join once the 51 percent threshold is reached. In a tight knit town such as this, few business people wish to be seen as the reason their neighbor’s business’s cost of doing business went up.
Another reason for trepidation is the duplication of promotional efforts. Several of the business owners on SMB note that the city already has a marketing and promotional arm – Visit West Hollywood (formerly the West Hollywood Marketing and Visitors Bureau) – that is supposed to be promoting the city’s many facets of interest to outsiders.
In fact, Visit West Hollywood is trying to form a Tourist Improvement District made up of the city’s 14 hotels.
The city’s political leadership is trying to improve the visitor experience for the hundreds of thousands of people who come into WeHo every year to dine, party, shop and play. John Duran and Jeffrey Prang have both spoken out about the need to keep the Boystown area thriving.
Mr. Prang has said, “We are not the only place in the Los Angeles area for gay people to come enjoy life. We have to maintain our competitive edge.”
The City West Hollywood hired Civitas, a Sacramento-based consulting firm specializing in setting up business improvement districts, to bring the project over the finish line. To do so, they will create an annual budget and oversee the legal paperwork behind forming the BID.