Targeted for Palisades Improvement District
In the upcoming municipal election, the ballot has just one up-or-down vote. In order to end the teachers strike in January, Mayor Eric Garcetti, LAUSD officials and teacher union leaders all agreed that the Los Angeles Unified School District needed more money.
As a result, the June 4 ballot offers Measure EE, a 16-cent-per-square-foot parcel tax. But thanks to imprecise language used to describe the measure, there’s disagreement about exactly what structures would be subject to this tax, and more specifically, parking garages and residential garages.
Little known is the tax that is imposed on LAUSD properties located in Business Improvement Districts. That “tax” does not go to teachers, programs, books or computers, but rather is used to keep the sidewalks clean and trees trimmed. And up to five percent of it goes back to the City.
The Pacific Palisades Business Improvement District, which encompasses the businesses, schools and DWP from about Ralphs to Gelsons and from the 881 Alma Real building to Caruso’s Palisades Village, requires that LAUSD pay a yearly assessment for Palisades Elementary.
The most recent Palisades BID document sent to the City recapping 2018 states: “Our unsuccessful attempts to collect assessments from LAUSD have greatly impacted our budget. We hope in the future to have support in trying to collect additional funds from them. In 2017, LAUSD assessment was approximately $13,916, and we received only $5,516 as payment, representing only 40% of the assessment.”
Yes, Palisades Elementary was supposed to pay the BID almost $14,000 annually. Over a five-year period that meant about $70,000 would go back to the Palisades business district. LAUSD was contacted and asked why it voted yes on spending money on non-educational expenses.
In a May 17 email, LAUSD spokesperson Elvia Perez Cano wrote: “Los Angeles Unified strives to be a good neighbor by supporting activities that will benefit our students and school communities with a cleaner and safer environment. Business Improvement Districts have become a challenging issue in the community and coupled with the financial assessments, we hope to more stringently evaluate future requests.”
A BID is a geographically defined area in which services, such as sidewalk washing and beautification efforts, are paid through assessments. That assessment money is collected by the City, which can take up to five percent for billing, collection, revenue accounting, etc.
According to the City, the assessment is not a tax but “a vehicle, which conveys a special benefit upon those who pay.”
Residents pay taxes for public schools and L.A. City property, such as the DWP building, which is located in this BID. But the LAUSD and the City must turn around and pay assessments to the BID, with the City taking its small percentage.
The Palisades BID came into existence in June 2015. Letters were sent to the property owners in the district and according to the LA City website section titled FAQs on BIDs, “The City Council may establish the district if the protest level does not equal or exceed 50 percent of the assessment value.”
The results of that survey are not available on the Palisades BID website. Currently a new firm, New City America, is being hired at a cost of about $30,000 to write a 10-year renewal for the Palisades BID, with increased assessments proposed.
LAUSD (Pali Elementary) has the largest lot square footage at 183,300. Palisades Village has 105,324 sq. ft., the DWP property (corner of Sunset and Via de la Paz) is 12,018, the TOPA Business Block Building is 41,792 sq.ft. and the American Legion owns 44,156 sq.ft.
The school and DWP are billed at a slightly lower BID assessment rate:
Non LAUSD: Front footage is $4.0958 as opposed to LAUSD: $3.433
Non LAUSD: Building sq. ft. is $.066 as opposed to LAUSD/DWP $.0564
Non LAUSD: Lot sq. ft. is $0.041 as opposed to LAUSD/DWP $0.0343
The proposed budget for 2019 for the Palisades BID is $146,569 with a $60,000 carryover from last year. The total estimated revenue is $208,059.
About $108,800 was spent last year under the category “Clean and Beautiful.” The “Communication” category expenses were listed as $24,557 and “Management/Slow Pay/City Fees” were $47,190.