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Political Notebook: Castro benefit district secures renewal

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Castro CBD Executive Director Andrea Aiello. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Castro CBD Executive Director Andrea Aiello. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

The Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, which provides cleaning services and other support to San Francisco's LGBTQ neighborhood, has secured its renewal through June 30, 2035.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted 11-0 Tuesday, July 14, to extend the CBD for another 15 years, allowing it to assess a fee on the properties within its boundary along the 400 and 500 blocks of Castro Street, Market Street between Castro and Octavia Boulevard, and additional blocks on several cross streets in the area. The board vote came after it was revealed that the CBD had secured the support of a weighted majority of property owners within its boundary, 71.52%, who pay the assessed fees.

Gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman had urged his colleagues to renew the CBD since it has "provided critical services to one of San Francisco's most iconic neighborhoods." Pointing to the impact the coronavirus outbreak has had on the Castro, leading to an increase of homeless people living in tents on the streets and local businesses closing their doors, Mandelman predicted the organization would play a critical role "in the renaissance of the neighborhood when we come out of the pandemic."

CBD Executive Director Andrea Aiello thanked the property owners who voted for the renewal considering the "uncertainty we are facing is very real for people and scary." Their support amid the health crisis, she added, "shows they trust us to spend their hard-earned dollars" in ways that will benefit the Castro district.

More than a dozen people called into the board meeting to express their support for the CBD. Among them was Canela Bistro and Wine Bar owner Mat Schuster, who told the supervisors the CBD provides "a valuable" service and their decision to renew it should be a "slam dunk."

Two people spoke against renewing the CBD, arguing the city should be paying for the services it provides via the tax revenue it collects and not be requiring property owners to pay more for them.

"The city agencies should be able to provide these services we pay for as taxpayers," said John Goldsmith, a Castro resident who is a longtime critic of the CBD and its management.

He added the Castro Merchants business association "should have greater influence on how the public realm is managed and operated."

The CBD was launched in 2005 in order to provide cleaning services that the city itself was unable to pay for, from daily sweeping to power steam cleaning of the sidewalks on a regular basis and graffiti removal. Over the years it expanded its scope to provide additional services, from entertainment in Jane Warner Plaza to daily security patrols.

As the Bay Area Reporter's monthly business column noted last October, the CBD will be dedicating the money it collects from property assessment fees, projected to total $819,403 this fiscal year that started July 1 and runs through June 30, 2021, for its cleaning services. It is instituting a three-tiered assessment plan with those property owners on and around Castro Street paying more, while those along or near Market Street paying less because they will receive reduced services.

Should the CBD increase its assessment fee on the 586 parcels within its boundary by 5% annually, its assessment revenue would total more than $1.6 million by July 1 of 2034.

The CBD plans to seek grant funding or donations to cover the other amenities it has been providing, such as entertainment and additional security. Over the past 15 years it has secured nearly $2.2 million in grants and $600,458 in contributions to pay for its various programs and services.

Several people expressed their desire to see the CBD allocate the funding required to maintain the security services, which are provided by the San Francisco Patrol Special Police and cost $98,974 during the fiscal year running from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019. The patrol specials are overseen by the city's police department but are not police officers.

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on the LGBTQ issues expected to be included in the Democratic Party's 2020 platform.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail m.bajko@ebar.com

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