Viewpoints

Another tax on downtown SLO property owners? So not fair

Recently, an article was penned regarding how Downtown SLO, formerly known as the Downtown Association, is endeavoring to rid downtown of trash and homelessness through a tax on a very small group of property owners.

The proposed Property Based Improvement District (PBID) is to be funded by a new tax on approximately 100 downtown property owners, which will be added to their existing property taxes. Dozens of property owners within this proposed district are against this, yet the message articulated by Downtown SLO is that this is a “self-assessed” tax by these property owners, which it is not.

Here is a brief overview from the opposition viewpoint on this PBID: First, a PBID is a flawed and unequitable solution to the city’s homelessness and cleanliness concerns. Why should a minority group of 100 property owners be singled out and taxed $400,000 to fund these services when everyone across the city, county, state and country enjoys visiting downtown San Luis Obispo?

Downtown SLO’s proposed PBID will pay to hire “ambassadors” at $17 to $20 an hour with branded uniforms to patrol downtown in an attempt to resolve these issues. Ambassadors won’t solve the unhoused issue; instead, the city should hire additional downtown police patrol.

Regarding trash and cleanliness, this concern can be addressed through creation of community volunteer programs or in a potential partnership with Cal Poly through their many clubs or organizations. Second, this proposed tax will only lead to increased rents and even more vacancies. Isn’t the city of SLO supposed to be a supporter of local and small businesses?

If this PBID is enacted, property owners are facing $300 to $8,000 or more per year in new taxes. These annual tax assessments are not inconsequential as previously implied by Downtown SLO. Property owners will be forced to pass this new expense onto their tenants who are already buckling under the high rents in San Luis Obispo.

Look at the current vacancies and rapid turnover around downtown – do we really want more? Third, the latest proposed district was gerrymandered. After the original $800,000 district, which was nearly triple in size, failed to garner sufficient support, the new district was redrawn such that roughly four key stakeholders are able to give Downtown SLO Association the 51% of revenue they need to get the PBID on the ballot at the City Council meeting on July 16.

The voice of small, local property owners who are against this initiative will be silenced in deference to three major developers and the city’s vote. This is undemocratic.

Lastly, Downtown SLO’s continual reference to PBIDs that have worked in other cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego and Ventura is completely irrelevant to us here in San Luis Obispo. San Luis Obispo is a quaint and special community and does not have much in common with these other major cities.

One size does not fit all, and this approach is not the best solution for our unique town. Please join the “NO on PBID Committee” and reach out to Downtown SLO, the City Council, Mayor Heidi Harmon and county supervisors in support of our efforts to overturn this flawed and inequitable proposal. For more information, email the Alliance at NoOnPBID@gmail.com.

Kathy Freeman Godfrey and her husband, Keith, have lived in San Luis Obispo since 1996. For over two decades, Kathy has led an executive search firm focused on serving the investment industry across the country. Dave Hannings is a retired Cal Poly professor of environmental and horticultural science. He has lived in San Luis Obispo since 1976. Both Godfrey and Hannings own historical properties in the downtown.

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