SF: BID ambassadors to harass the homeless

Manfred Theis (manfredtheis@hotmail.com)
Tue, 10 Nov 1998 14:32:52 PST

--------- Forwarded Message ---------

DATE: Mon, 9 Nov 1998 23:04:38 
From: Blazing Star <sananda@hotmail.com>

November 9, 1998

Union Square BID has cleaned up its act

Like many businesspeople, merchants, hoteliers and
other property owners around Union Square would
love to do something about their taxes. Not so
commonly, they want to raise them.

About 60 percent of property owners around the
square have signed a petition to create a business
improvement district (BID). It would levy
additional taxes to provide services like extra
street sweeping, quicker graffiti removal, better
sidewalk cleaning and the like.

Union Square remains a hub for both retailing and
tourism in San Francisco. Giving one of the city's
premier showcases a bit of extra polish is a good
idea -- particularly as the authors of the plan,
the Union Square Association, have scaled back
earlier, more grandiose proposals that would have
funded a complete detailing rather than a modest
spit shine.

Indeed, this isn't the first time that BID backers
have floated this trial balloon. Unlike earlier
plans, however, boundaries for the district have
been drawn more sensibly, to ensure that the
businesses most likely to benefit from the idea
are also the most likely to pay for it. They've
also trimmed the proposed assessment to raise less
than $1 million, versus the $3 million annual
kitty they were seeking last time around.

BIDs have a successful history around the country
of helping to regenerate down-at-heel downtowns,
some of which were in a far seedier state than
Union Square: Times Square in New York City, for

And there's a logical elegance to the idea that
those who want more public services will just have
to pay for them.

But the next stop for the BID bandwagon is the San
Francisco Board of Supervisors, a forum where
logical elegance could get steamrolled by crass
politics. Let's hope it doesn't, for the
objections that have been raised to the BID so far
don't hold water.

The biggest is that uniformed staff to be employed
by the BID -- "ambassadors" to backers, "security
guards" to detractors -- are intended to run
homeless people out of the area, using physical
persuasion if necessary.

It's not likely that the city or homeless
activists would take such a strong-arm move lying
down. And scuffles with the homeless would be
certain to lead to press and TV coverage that
would leave businesses who pay for the BID with a
big public-relations black eye.

With the businesses who benefit picking up the
tab, there's no good reason not to give BID a try.
=A9 1998, San Francisco Business Times

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