Coast Village Association Seeks to Form Improvement District

By Kelly Herrick   |   March 11, 2021

At a City Council hearing on Tuesday, March 2, the Council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance related to forming a Community Benefit District on Coast Village Road, an initiative set forth by the Coast Village Association Board of Directors. “This is just the beginning, the first starting block,” said CVA Board President Bob Ludwick, who is leading the charge with CVA Vice President Rob Miller and Board Members Trey Pinner, Rick Lemmo, and Francois DeJohn. “This decision will allow us to begin a long process of studying and determining the particular details, including what this will cost for property owners along Coast Village,” Ludwick said. 

In addition to the ordinance adoption, the City Council also agreed to authorize $40,000 in Measure C Business Corridor Funds to pay for consultant services and legal fees to prepare formation documents for the Community Benefit District. $30K of the funds will be a loan of sorts, which would be paid back if the business district is formed; its formation is dependent on 30% approval of the roughly 60 property owners on the street. Coast Village Association, which has already raised $30K from its own sources, has been talking to property owners the last year, and says they have at least 50% in favor of a Community Benefit District. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Pinner to the City Council. 

The cost to property owners – and potentially their tenants – is yet to be determined, as more engineering and budget studies need to be conducted, which will take place over the next several months. “The cost assessed to every property will be different,” Ludwick explained. “The next many months are for the hard work, and when it comes time for the ballot to happen, all the details will be on the table,” he said. 

If all goes as planned, and a Community Benefit District is approved for the street, which is technically in the City of Santa Barbara jurisdiction, the funds will be used for much needed beautification of the road, as well as promotional events to bring visitors and locals out to support the local businesses. The CVA is also talking about homeless outreach, holiday decorating and events, beautification of the medians, and potentially changes to parking, to better serve the local businesses. The area has been hit hard the last few years, with the Thomas Fire and Debris Flow closures, the pandemic closures, and the steep increase in vehicular traffic caused by the closure of the freeway entrance at Hot Springs. It’s not uncommon on summer afternoons for traffic to be backed up along the mile-long street, coming to a stop in the roundabout at Cabrillo/Hot Springs and Old Coast Highway. “This takes a toll on local businesses,” Ludwick lamented. “It’s time we are in control of how money is spent here to make it more appealing.” 

“Community benefit districts provide property owners the ability to assess themselves and, with their own money, control the focus of the expenditures to focus on cleanliness, aesthetic additions, and traffic building promotions,” said Lemmo, Senior Vice President for Caruso, who has been advocating for the formation of the Benefit District for years. “These measures not only attract guests, but they provide specific benefit to all tenants, which actually improve their businesses and lift up the entire community.” 

Lemmo, Pinner, DeJohn, and Ludwick spoke at Tuesday’s hearing, and Councilmembers voiced their appreciation in the groundwork laid by the CVA, in hopes that lessons learned may help business districts in other areas of the City. “I would like to see more outreach to the community, including the tenants of the buildings and the residents. I’m interested in seeing the range of assessments, the budget, and seeing exactly how the money will be spent,” said Mayor Cathy Murillo, who agreed with the Council’s Ordinance Committee that the enabling ordinance be amended to require agreement with 30% of property owners (down from the original State law which requires 50%) in order to establish the assessment process. The ordinance also allows for a lower disestablishment threshold of 30% of the property owners if the assessment falls flat, and the City Council could also initiate disestablishment in the future. The establishment of the Benefit District will be for a five-year initial term, with up to a 20-year renewal. 

“We want people to walk or drive on Coast Village and think: ‘Wow, someone really cares about this street,’” Ludwick told us. “With our own community benefit district, we’ll be able to make that happen.” 

For more about the CVA, visit www.coastvillageroad.com.

 

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