Council OKs business district

Magnolia Park business district will pool a levy to improve commercial climate; some businesses call it an unwelcome tax.

August 09, 2006|By Chris Wiebe

CITY HALL - The City Council approved the formation of a Magnolia Park business improvement district on Tuesday, which will pool the resources of merchants and business owners to enhance the commercial climate of the area.

A ballot election showed that 54% of business were in favor of the district, exceeding the majority needed to put the matter before the council.

"I think it will bring a lot of great benefits to that particular area," Vice Mayor Marsha Ramos said. "Hopefully the 45% of those property owners that didn't support this will see the benefits as well."


The property-based business improvement districts will assess members according to a formula that multiplies square footage by an amount between 2 cents and 12 cents to generate a $250,000-per-year budget, said Gail Stewart, downtown manager for the city of Burbank.

The assessment will allow business owners to fund parking improvements, area maintenance, promotional efforts such as marketing campaigns and special events to bring patrons to Magnolia Park, she said.

"The plan ? calls for promotion, advertising, events and business recruitment to support and attract desirable businesses, advocacy to promote business interests and allow the business owners to speak with one voice," she said

Opponents of the district argue that a property-based assessment on merchants and business owners amounts to an ex post facto tax, said Carolyn Jackson, an attorney representing some business owners in Magnolia Park.

"By the documents that we have seen, the city is imposing and coercing landowners by an involuntary tax, a regulatory authority similar to a homeowners association," she said. "The difference is that this is a mandatory tax imposed retroactively to business owners. How would you like to have your property taxed and regulated after you purchase it?"

Instead the city should absorb costs for Magnolia Park improvements, she said.

"It's an unnecessary levy that's going to drive business away and it's not going to encourage them to stay," she said. "[Business owners] are going to have to pass it on to the tenants and they aren't going to be happy about this at all."

But recommendations for improvements were derived primarily from business owners, Stewart said.

"We've been working nonstop with property owners so we certainly have their input," she said.

The process to form a district was the result of survey in 2000 that showed that merchants and residents in the Magnolia Park district wanted to see improvements in the area, Stewart said.

The process included proactive steps from some business owners.

"I personally called my friends to encourage them to vote, said Ira Lipman, owner of the Jelly Bean Factory, which has operated out of the Magnolia Park District for 29 years. "I think it'll be a nice addition to the area and it will help us achieve some of the goals we set up."

  • CHRIS WIEBE covers City Hall and the courts. He may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at

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