• BID working on downtown image

    flags-at-city-hall-web1Tuesday morning, June 9, downtown Pacific Grove merchants and citizens woke up to the cheerful sight of American flags flapping gaily from lamp posts on Forest Avenue and up and down Lighthouse Avenue. The flags were installed thanks to the cooperation of the Business Improvement district, the Chamber of Commerce and individual businesses and will remain flying until Labor Day. Nearly 40 lamp posts were decorated in preparation for Flag Day (June 14) and the Fourth of July, while a few more remain to be repaired. The eventual total will be 44 lamp posts, each with three flags.

    Merchants and citizens can “adopt” a lamp post for $59, which includes the flags, installation and removal. Flags will be stored until next season provided they remain in good condition.

    Under the leadership of Bill Valuch of Miss Trawick’s Garden Shop, the BID is making a concerted effort to improve the appearance of the core downtown, based on the premise that the town needs to look good in order to attract business.

    “But our town isn’t going to look any better without volunteer time and money,” said Valuch. “We have a genuine interest in making things look better.”

    The BID has, since 2005, purchased and hung lanterns for the annual Feast of Lanterns celebration. $600 has been dedicated this year, and 150 to 200 lanterns will be hung.

    Soon, in addition to the flags, the public will notice an improvement in the planters on Lighthouse. Through a cooperative involving the BID, Pacific Grove Public Works, Jeanne Anton of the Beautification and Natural Resources Committee and volunteers including people from The Bridge, the planters will be mulched and replanted. Valuch said that the planters in the median are extremely compacted with the roots of the cedar trees, and that Public works will make a determination as to whether physically breaking up the dirt will damage the trees or not. They will, at a minimum, add mulch and soil amendments in preparation for planting, which is set to begin on Friday, June 12.

    Valuch and Anton did a walking survey last weekend and mapped out their plans for the plants.

    Valuch believes that improvements in the appearance of downtown will involve cooperation from everyone – merchants, City staff, City committees and the public.  It means picking up litter, pulling weeds, sweeping sidewalks and disposing of cigarette butts properly, he says.

    The BID and Public Works are working on a project to wrap the trunks of trees downtown with los-voltage LED lights and lighting up downtown each evening. If it becomes too expensive, Valuch says they will cut back to weekends only.

    But the appearance of downtown is not the only issue in attracting business to the core downtown, says Valuch, whose business on Lighthouse is weathering the economic storm. Vacancies, some for more than two years, are a blight on the city. Valuch and the BID are searching for ways to address the high rents which exclude new business, and the cost of improvements which stultify owners and landlords.

    “I hear it from my customers all the time,” he says. “They want to know what’s going on down here. They see the empty buildings and they wonder what’s wrong.” The fear is that tourists will come to Pacific Grove, find nothing to do and nowhere to shop, and won’t come back next year.

    He points out that while property tax is the number one income-generator for the City, transient occupancy tax and sales tax are numbers two and three. If sales tax revenue falls, City services will suffer.

    Valuch wants to work with the City, the Chamber of Commerce and property owners downtown to see what can be done to fill those empty storefronts. “If we need to help them walk through the business license process, we’ll try to do it,” he says, citing the perception that the red tape at City Hall and getting a business license through all the committees and commissions is impossible.

    And the merchants themselves might need to look at their own way of doing business. “I heard it just last weekend from a regular out-of-town customer who had once considered opening a business here. She said, ‘You’d have to be filthy rich to open a business in Pacific Grove. They’re closed all day Sunday and they go home at 5:00 p.m., exactly when most working people can go shopping.’ “

    With income reduced by falling membership, the Business Improvement District (BID) has put forth its budget for Fiscal Year 2009/10 and the City has renewed the BID’s agreement to use the Chamber of Commerce for administration and accounting.

    The Business Improvement District was established in 2000 and levies an assessment equal to 35 percent of each business’s license tax amount for those businesses located in the district, which is comprised of downtown Pacific Grove. The assessments may only be used for promotion, marketing and advertising of professional and retail businesses located in the district. While catalogue sales and service stations were exempted, recently the City has proposed including service stations in the assessment.

    BID resources expected for 2009/10 are $28,000, which includes a beginning balance of $1335 carried over from the previous year.

    The expenditure budget for 2009/10 is as follows:

    Local advertising: Newspaper, magazines, television, posters and flyers

    Base program: $7,800

    Carryover from 2008/09: $500T

    Total budgeted for 2009/10: $8,300

    Visitor advertising: Newspapers, magazines, maps, brochures, distribution services and direct mail.

    Base program: $9,000

    Carryover from 2008/09: $2,700

    Total budgeted for 2009/10: $11,700

    Promotions and Events: Support for local events that generate awareness of and

    business for downtown

    Base program: $3,500

    Carryover from 2008/09: 0

    Total budgeted for 2009/10: $3,500

    Administration /Chamber staff time, accounting for BID revenues, bookkeeping service, events. insurance and temporary labor, for projects such as hanging lanterns, delivery service, copy and postage.

    Base program: $2,500

    Carryover from 2008/09: $2,000

    Total budgeted for 2009/10: $4,500


    Base Program: $22,800

    Carryover from 2008/09: $5,200

    Total budgeted for 2009/10: $28,000

    posted to Cedar Street Times on June 11, 2009

    Topics: Current Edition, Front PG News, Marge Ann Jameson


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