City approves SoMa West as city's newest and largest community benefit district

Western SoMa is now home to the city’s largest community benefit district after the Board of Supervisors approved the organization’s development at its meeting this week.

The new CBD, bounded largely by Fifth, 13th, Division, Townsend, and Mission streets, comprises an area in high need of the types of services those types of organizations typically provide, District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney told us. 

The new CBD's boundaries | Image via SF BOS 

The initiative to form SoMA West CBD was launched by a set of community members at least two years ago, Haney said. After “dozens of community meetings” to engage residents — tenants, retailers, and property owners alike — the stakeholders held an election to gauge the property owners’ support for the CBD’s creation. 

As with all CBDs in California, each property owner within its boundaries will be assessed a fee that will comprise a large proportion of the organization’s budget. The votes, and the fees, are weighted based on the size of a property owners’ holding in the district. The budget is administered by a nonprofit organization established by the neighborhood, and is typically spent on programs aimed at addressing quality-of-life issues like cleanliness, greenery and development. 

On the property-weighted basis, about 57 percent of the votes that came in were in favor of creating the CBD, Haney said. 

Some property owners voted against the CBD's creation because they don't want to face the annual assessment, and others don't believe a CBD is the best way to address the neighborhood's issues, Haney said. 

During the March 5, 2019 Board of Supervisors meeting to consider the resolution creating the CBD, Haney offered two amendments. One requires the CBD board to include representatives from nonprofit, cultural, and arts organizations, small business owners, and local tenants. The second reduces the CBD fee assessment for nonprofit organizations by 40 percent. The CBD board will be required to make up the 40 percent lower assessments through its fundraising efforts, Haney said. 

SoMa West is adjacent to many existing CBDs | Image: SoMa West

SoMa West is the 17th CBD in the city, and is surrounded by five other existing ones in District 6 alone. The CBDs in the district typically focus on cleaning services and street outreach, Haney said.

The new SoMa West CBD will focus on the greatest needs of the neighborhood “in an inclusive way,” Haney said. During the course of his campaign and his outreach efforts for the CBD, “Western SoMa residents definitely voiced concerns about their quality of life” that the organization could help address, he added.

The CBD’s annual budget from property assessments and other fundraising revenue is projected to be about $3.95 million/year. More than 79 percent of that will go toward the CBD’s “Clean, Safe, and Beautiful” campaign, which would include supplemental security services for property owners in the district, sidewalk pressure-washing teams, graffiti removal and trash collection services, and staff hired to help activate public spaces in the district. 

As approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, the new CBD would be up for renewal after its first 15-year term.

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