By Ashly McGlone
SAN LEANDRO -- Some San Leandro property owners could pay a new fee to deliver services once provided by redevelopment money and others aimed at boosting commerce downtown.
The City Council unanimously voted Monday to circulate a petition seeking support from property owners in a proposed community benefit district. The property owners would be assessed an annual fee for 15 years to pay for private security, sidewalk steam cleaning and a downtown marketing campaign, among other services.
An ordinance adopted by the council in December allows for the creation of the district, a fundraising tool increasingly used by charter cities, which have more flexibility to make their own rules, including San Francisco and Oakland, to offset cuts to extra services once provided by redevelopment agencies before they were disbanded last year.
San Leandro's ordinance requires 30 percent support, weighted by property size, from property owners before the matter would go to a ballot vote in the proposed district. Approval by the majority, weighted by property size, would be required before the fees would be assessed.
Government property in the district makes up more than a quarter of the $384,680 a year in fees the district would collect, so the proposal could make it to the ballot with few supporters other than government agencies. The city is aiming to get ballots to district property owners by May 21.
The downtown area has lost $130,000 in services that were provided by redevelopment funds, said Cynthia Battenberg, community development director.
If the special district is approved, property owners would see an extra fee on their county property tax bill, ranging from $82 to $20,000 a year per parcel as soon as the 2013-14 fiscal year.
District boundaries would run along most of East 14th Street, to the west down Davis Street and San Leandro Boulevard, and to the east down Callan Avenue and other adjacent roads.
Rates would be determined using a formula based on lot size, structure square-footage and frontage, or the length of the front of the property facing the road. The district would also be divided into two zones, with properties more central to downtown charged a higher rate for more services. Owners of units in the sole condo development included in the district would pay 20 cents per square foot.
As the largest property owner, the city would pay more than anyone -- $41,000 for its 19 parcels. Also in the district are properties still being sold off by the redevelopment successor agency, as well as the San Leandro BART station and parking lots.
The city would continue to provide street sweeping, tree trimming and public safety, but the district would take over extra services like gutter cleaning and graffiti removal. The district in the long term could also fund planned projects like a shuttle between downtown shops and the BART station, said consultant Marco Li Mandri, whose team at New City America was awarded a $65,000 city contract to plan the district.
The city would pass the funds raised by the district to an independent nonprofit board created to manage the money and decide on district expenses.
Before the vote Monday, council members limited the amount the fees could increase to 3 percent annually, rather than the 5 percent initially proposed.
"We want our downtown to be a jewel of San Leandro, and right now it's not currently," Mayor Stephen Cassidy said. "But this is one way to improve the look, the feel, the attractiveness of it."
Ashly McGlone covers San Leandro, San Lorenzo and the Washington Township Health Care District. Contact her at 510-293-2463. Follow her at Twitter.com/AshlyReports.