A property tax assessment plan designed to clean up downtown San Luis Obispo and reduce problems related to homelessness has been pulled from consideration.
Downtown SLO — the nonprofit that was coordinating the effort in advance of a vote of downtown property owners —announced Tuesday that it’s withdrawing the initiative.
The intended program first envisioned a property tax assessment that would have provided $800,000 to fund a team of eight ambassadors to greet tourists and direct homeless to services, as well as clean up trash, human waste and graffiti in the downtown.
Complaints from some business owners, tourists and locals helped inspire the proposed initiative.
After receiving initial feedback from some property owners, Downtown SLO later reduced the boundaries of the proposed district to a tighter downtown core, including the main streets within the boundaries of Nipomo, Marsh, Osos and Palm streets.
The latest proposal was to generate $400,000 in its first year to pay for cleaning, beautification, four to five downtown ambassadors, operations, communications and more.
“We will not be moving forward with this initiative at this time,” Bettina Swigger, Downtown SLO’s CEO, said in a statement. “While (property-based improvement districts or PBIDs) have been successfully implemented in more than 100 cities across the state, and more than 1,000 exist in North America, questions have surfaced in our community, and this issue has become divisive.
“Our goal as an organization has always been and must remain to present a unified voice for the businesses in the downtown.”
Kathy Godfrey, a SLO property owner who lobbied against the plan, said Wednesday that she was pleased Downtown SLO recognized the divisions the PBID was causing.
“I believe we were all universally aligned in our desire for a cleaner downtown with less unhoused but do believe these are more complex challenges that require different solutions than PBID was able to offer,” Godfrey said. “We appreciate all of the community support we garnered during the process — success always requires an entire village worth of intervention.”
Swigger told The Tribune that Downtown SLO collected 52.7 percent of the roughly 120 property owners’ signatures on a petition to move the vote forward. The organization needed more than 50 percent to proceed with a vote.
The organization, whose board convened Tuesday and discussed the issue, felt it needed to “ensure that our broader membership and the community at large have a greater understanding of the value of the PBID assessment and its positive impacts,” Swigger said in her statement.
“As downtown continues to evolve, with a healthy mix of longtime and new businesses, and more opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy local businesses, our primary directive must be to continue to foster an economically vibrant downtown,” she added. “Through thoughtful conversation with our membership, we will be refocusing our energy to engage with our business community on a shared vision for our downtown.”
Swigger said she doesn’t envision a plan to pursue another property-based improvement district in the near future.
The organization will continue to employ its sole ambassador in the downtown, Austin Bertucci, and partner with nonprofits to help connect homeless to services, clean up the downtown area and creek and maintain safety.
Downtown SLO also manages Concerts in the Plaza and Farmers Market, among numerous other events.