BIDs and MADs – Partnering with the Community

In stark contrast to government agencies using eminent domain to condemn private property, business improvement districts (BIDs) and maintenance assessment districts (MADs) allow business and property owners to advocate for the preservation and enhancement of their commercial districts. Through an external voting process, the owners and tenants choose to assess themselves an annual fee to reinvest money back into the commercial district. Both BIDs and MADs are based on the concept that improvements drive more business to the district, which pays for the assessments through higher profits (for the business owners) or increased rent roles and/or increased property values (for the property owners).

BIDs – Letting the Business Community Take the Lead

BIDs, also known as business improvement associations and special improvement districts, are public-private partnerships between government and small business owners.

Once a BID is established, a constituent-led, neighborhood chamber incorporated as a nonprofit management corporation is formed to administer programs and activities to promote and revitalize the district. In addition to a promotion campaign, BIDs may manage a number of other programs, including public parking, security, public right-of-way maintenance, public improvement and beautification projects, recruiting of new business starts, and sponsoring various neighborhood activities such as farmers' markets and restaurant walks.

Many BIDs also certify with the National Trust for Historic Preservation to become a designated Main Street program. Accredited Main Street programs adhere to the Main Street Four-Point Approach, a comprehensive strategy tailored to meet local needs and opportunities. It encompasses work in four distinct areas – design, economic restructuring, promotion, and organization. The Main Street organization forms committees who plan and implement activities in each of the four points. Depending on the circumstances of the commercial district, the program may also create issue-oriented task forces, such as a parking task force (see

In 1989, representatives from San Diego's BIDs formed the Business Improvement District Council (BID Council) to disseminate information, resources, and expertise to its member districts and to improve the overall physical, social, and economic environments of San Diego's small business communities. San Diego's BID Council is the only municipal-wide coalition of individual business or property-based special district programs in the nation. A unified council provides strength in numbers to influence city wide initiatives or policies that affect the business community.

MADs – Enhanced Services for Property Owners

A MAD, also known as a landscape maintenance district, is similar in structure to a BID, but specific to property owners. Property owners vote to self-assess a fee to pay for and receive enhanced maintenance services in the public right-of-way. Services may include landscape maintenance, hardscape maintenance, open-space maintenance (safety tree trimming and removal and litter removal), street light maintenance, sidewalk steam cleaning, sign maintenance, banner installation/re- moval, and seasonal decoration installation/removal.

Redevelopment and B IDs and MADs

Because of the inherent blight conditions in many older commercial districts, B IDs and MADs often overlap with redevelopment projects areas. These special districts can be great development partners for the agency, as they can operate free from most of the city bureaucracy that often impedes agency sponsored projects. The key to BIDs' accomplishments lies in their dissimilarity to big-city government. They operate without civil service rules and red tape; most important, they negotiate labor contracts from a clean slate.

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