There was a new Spirit of the Hill announced Wednesday night — and we’re not just talking about attorney and developer Jerry Everard’s award from the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce.
In her first State of the Hill event as the director of the chamber, Sierra Hansen for the first time publicly announced a new Business Improvement Area as the pro-business group’s focus for the year ahead.
“This year the chamber is going to do probably the most important thing we’ve done in this neighborhood. And that is put in place a new Business Improvement Area that’s going to have a longterm, sustainable funding source and that is going to address the challenges and the opportunities that the growth in this neighborhood has seen over the last few decades,” Hansen said Wednesday. She cited BIAs formed in Pioneer Square, downtown, and West Seattle as examples for what the Capitol Hill group will try to achieve by the end of the year.
CHS reported on a planned formed by the chamber late last year that centered around expanding the group’s management of resources to maintain and improve streetscapes on behalf of the business community.
Currently, the chamber administrates the Broadway Business Improvement Area managing trash pick-up and graffiti removal around that business area. In spring 2014, that BIA slightly expanded its borders but the 2016 goal would extend across a much larger swath of the Hill. And Capitol Hill has company. Other neighborhoods in the city are also calculating how best to put a BIA to work in their area of the city.
In preparation, the Seattle City Council is ready to approve an overhaul of the city’s rules for BIAs that include better clarity for how the efforts can be shaped, how they can be funded, and who can participate. The Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods, and Finance Committee approved the plan at its meeting this week.
Here’s the application form for the program to give you a sense for the kinds of information the city will require to allow the entities to be formed.
Why so much oversight? A BIA’s presence extends way beyond trash and graffiti. The organizations have become conduits for solving neighborhood issues and are the recipients of a growing portion of city funding. SPD and other departments check in with the boards and program leaders for buy-in, sign-off and community representation. But most importantly, the organizations are allowed to raise funds in a way known only to City Hall. A BIA is funded through assessment revenue collected from businesses, organizations, and commercial landowners within its borders.
Under the current agreement, the Broadway BIA is limited to changes in its assessment rates and borders that come in under a 10% increase in assessment revenue. 60% of all potential members in the existing and newly proposed area must vote to approve any agreement to create new borders under the city’s Office of Economic Development program. Then each BIA agreement must be approved by the City Council.
The city, by the way, can’t yet allow private homeowners to join and help fund a BIA because of how state law is currently interpreted — but there are some areas of the city advocating for homeowners to be part of the assessment process. We’ll let you sort out the civic ramifications of that ever coming to happen.
You can learn more about chamber’s plan at capitolhill2020.org.