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While some small businesses still oppose levy, 15th Ave E Business Improvement Area set for approval by Seattle City Council

Seattle’s existing BIAs

By Ryan Packer

City councilmembers outnumbered voices calling in, in support or disapproval, as part of the required public hearing held Wednesday afternoon on a proposed 15th Ave E business district in the city council’s Community Economic Development Committee Wednesday afternoon. Most of the people the council heard from during the meeting were among the group of neighborhood advocates who have gotten the BIA to this point.

Jeffrey Pelletier of Board and Vellum and Danielle Hulton of Ada’s Technical Books and Cafe presented to the five council members present, including District 3’s Kshama Sawant.

They presented the BIA as a long time coming, a byproduct of the 15th Avenue East Merchant’s Association, first discussed three years ago, with three formal meetings and several informal ones that led business owners like Ross King of Rainbow Natural Remedies to move forward with the BIA.

Christopher Forcyzk, owner of Smith, was one of three commenters but the only one speaking against the proposed tax assessment that would be levied on property owners along 15th Avenue between E Denny Way and E Mercer Street.

Citing a 31% decrease in sales compared to 2019, Forcyzk said it wasn’t a good time to add additional costs on businesses. In addition to the cost issue, he also cited the process for approving the BIA as another reason to oppose its creation. “I personally have been on the street for two years and have never met anyone from the 15th Avenue business association,” he said, suggesting a two-year pilot could be run with just the large property owners on the street like Kaiser Permanente paying the tax.

Forcyzk said he had a petition with signatures from 30 businesses on the street opposed to creating the BIA. KUOW spoke with Taelor Sloane of Hopvine Pub, who portrayed the BIA as a product of the larger businesses on the street.

To the council committee, Hulton framed the contributions of the large ratepayers on the street as a benefit to the smaller businesses. “I think the large ratepayers are really invested in our neighborhood and would like to help the small business owners,” she said.

Out of 37 property owners, the BIA still has received signatures in support from just 15, but those property owners represent nearly 73% of the total that would be collected by the BIA.

Pelletier told the council that another group of property owners who represent just shy of 8% had expressed verbal support for the BIA. 60% is the required threshold to establish a BIA, though the city recommends getting to 65% if one property owner makes up a large share of the district like Kaiser Permanente does here.

Jill Cronauer of Hunters Capital also spoke up at the public hearing, in support of the BIA.

Hunters Capital is one of the organizations that has been moving the BIA proposal forward, and Cronauer framed the BIA as being beneficial to smaller businesses along the street, who she said would receive an oversized benefit relative to their contribution. “Our office is on Broadway…and we see the positive effects of the daily street cleaning, graffiti removal, tree lighting, ability to convene as a group to solve issues and obtain additional grants,” she said.

Don Blakeney, identifying himself as a nearby resident, was the third commenter who spoke in support. Blakeney is also the executive director of the U District Partnership, which is partially funded by the U District’s BIA, in place since 1996 and recently renewed for a 12-year term by the city council in 2020.

The U District BIA’s ordinance stipulates that at least three members of its advisory board must be commercial tenants, and at least two of those tenants should be subject to triple-net leases. Councilmember Alex Pedersen suggested inserting similar language around triple-net leases into the 15th Ave E BIA legislation. Committee chair Tammy Morales also expressed interest in an amendment ensuring tenant representation on the ratepayer board, as well as language around preventing small business displacement on the street.

Councilmember Sawant didn’t voice an opinion on the proposed BIA during the nearly hour-long committee meeting.

After its public hearing, the legislation will be considered again in the same committee on Tuesday September 21 at 2pm.  If passed, the 15th Ave BIA would be the second-smallest Business Improvement Area in Seattle in terms of assessment, just ahead of Columbia City.

 

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Scandinavian
Scandinavian
13 days ago

Great news! I also understand the frustration of small businesses that already pay taxes for basic services, yet have to pay for cleaning up after the drug addicts that trash the neighborhood because the City Council and Pete Holmes have given them a free pass to destroy the city.

Russ
Russ
13 days ago

Why can’t Seattle just allocate some of the 128 million dollars received from the federal government for covid recovery to business districts?

Seaside
Seaside
12 days ago
Reply to  Russ

That’s no fun!!

HTS3
HTS3
12 days ago

Just a thought here, but something doesn’t add up here. The article points out that the number of City Council members outnumbered commenters. And that only three people commented, two for and one against. Yet the one voice opposed to the BIA, said this: Forcyzk said he had a petition with signatures from 30 businesses on the street opposed to creating the BIA.

So there may be a document signed by 30 businesses that are opposed to this, yet 29 didn’t show up for this meeting. I wonder if they even knew about the meeting. Of course it is in the best interest in the City Council to have some businesses tax themselves rather than have funds from the City pay for basic things like keeping our community clean. And of course it’s also in the best interests of a development company to have businesses be taxed to keep the area pristine that they want to develop.

This all just smells of a process designed to push an agenda that hurts small businesses without their voices being heard.

yetanotherhiller
yetanotherhiller
12 days ago
Reply to  HTS3

I suspect the money will be used by the BIA to lobby for its eventual expansion, to collect even more money. It’s all about gentrification. Why should large businesses have the power to increase the taxes paid by small businesses? Why is a BIA needed? Why don’t Kaiser and the others who want them just donate the services? Clearly, many businesses don’t see their value.

dave
dave
11 days ago

Someone ought to make t-shirts with that set of BIA images on it. I’d totally buy one.