Votes ahead on downtown Tacoma BIA contract renewal, boundary expansion

Tacoma City Council heard the first reading of an ordinance Tuesday that will renew the City of Tacoma’s agreement with the Business Improvement Area (BIA) to provide a variety of services in Tacoma’s primary commercial area.

The BIA, which was established in 1988, provides services such as security patrols on bicycles; support for the Tacoma Police Department; coordination of downtown security officers; an e-mail alert system for downtown property owners and managers; pressure washing, sweeping, and cleaning of sidewalks and other common areas; installation of street bannersgraffiti removal; providing timely information for potential investors; and overseeing Web sites and regular print publications that promote downtown Tacoma.

BIA services are paid for through property assessments self-imposed by property owners within an 84-block area that runs from South 7th Street to South 21st Street and ‘A’ Street west to Court ‘D.’ “The on-call security is a pretty amazing thing to have in a downtown community,” City of Tacoma Economic Development Specialist Debbie Bingham told councilmembers Tuesday. “They operate Monday through Sunday, all week long, so that’s a really good part of this BIA.”

According to Bingham, the 2014 BIA budget is $935,520: 51 per cent ($487,000) will be spent on security; 32 per cent ($304,100) will be spent on maintenance; 10 per cent ($98,420) will be spent on administration; and seven per cent ($64,000) will be spent on community relations. BIA revenue for 2014 includes $829,365 (87 per cent) from property assessments, and $124,155 (13 per cent) in reserve funds.

“I would like to note that we haven’t had rate increases for over five years,” BIA Administrator and Tacoma-Pierce County Metropolitan Development Director David Schroedel told councilmembers. “So it’s one of the few things that hasn’t changed in price in over five years.”

If the ordinance is adopted, it would continue the BIA for the 27th year beginning on May 1, 2014 and through April 30, 2015.

Councilmembers are scheduled to hear the final reading of the ordinance and take a final vote during their meeting on Tues., April 1.

Also BIA-related, the City of Tacoma heard the first reading of an ordinance and held a public hearing Tuesday to consider changing the boundaries of the BIA to include the future McMenamin’s Elks Lodge brewery and hotel.

Washington State law allows the BIA footprint to be expanded, but only after more than 50 per cent of property owners within the proposed area of expansion show their support, and after a public hearing is scheduled.

According to City of Tacoma staff, McMenamin’s, which owns four parcels of land (most notably, the former Elks Lodge at 565 Broadway) within the proposed expansion area, has asked to participate in the downtown Tacoma BIA.

No one from the public commented on the issue during the public hearing. However, Councilmember Robert Thoms was in favor of the expansion.

“I’m supportive of the concept of this simply because I have had a very good working relationship with the BIA and many partners that constitute the BIA,” said Councilmember Thoms. “I find that the participants in the program are very happy with the service they are provided and it actually enhances peoples’ experiences downtown when you have people walking the streets, taking care of these parcels — both land owners and other partners.”

Councilmembers are scheduled to hear the final reading of the ordinance and take a final vote during their meeting on Tues., April 1.

Business Improvement Area bike patrol officers Sarah Kirkman and John Leitheiser inspect a homeless encampment beneath Interstate 705. The officers are a vital security resource downtown. "It's all about respect," says Leitheiser. "If I treat people with respect down here, I'll get that in return." (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

Business Improvement Area bike patrol officers Sarah Kirkman and John Leitheiser inspect a homeless encampment beneath Interstate 705. The officers are a vital security resource downtown. “It’s all about respect,” says Leitheiser. “If I treat people with respect down here, I’ll get that in return.” (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of downtown Tacoma’s Business Improvement Area, click on the following links:

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index and recipient of an award for Outstanding Achievement in Media from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation for his work covering historic preservation in Tacoma and Pierce County. He has earned four awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including first-place honors for his feature article about Seattle’s bike messengerssecond-place honors for his feature article about whistle-blowers in Washington State; third-place honors for his feature article about the University of Washington’s Innocence Project; and third-place honors for his feature interview with Prison Legal News founder Paul Wright. His work has appeared in All About Jazz, City Arts Tacoma, Earshot Jazz, Homeland Security Today, Jazz Steps, Journal of the San Juans, Lynnwood-Mountlake Terrace Enterprise, Prison Legal News, Rain Taxi, Real Change, Seattle Business Monthly, Seattle magazine, Tablet, Washington CEO, Washington Law & Politics, and Washington Free Press. He is a graduate of the University of Washington and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.