The U District Business Improvement Area (UDBIA) Launches Its Renewal Campaign!

 
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The UDBIA has accomplished so much since it was established in 2015 for its initial five-year term. The U District is a cleaner, safer and more vibrant neighborhood because of the work funded by the UDBIA.

Let's keep the momentum going! Together, we are making a HUGE difference in our community for everyone who lives, works and plays here. Read on to learn more information about the UDBIA and our plans for renewal.

What Is a Business Improvement Area?

Business Improvement Areas (BIA’s) are self assessing mechanisms enabled by Washington State Law created to fund business district revitalization and management within specific geographic boundaries. The City of Seattle collects the assessments from the area’s ratepayers (defined by Washington State as the owners of commercial, multi-use and multi-family properties in the area) on behalf of the BIA and reimburses monthly expenses incurred by the program manager. Each BIA is governed by a ratepayer's advisory board that is responsible for creating bylaws and making key strategic decisions on programs and services, budgets, and goals.

The original UDBIA was established in 1996 and it was expanded and reestablished in April 2105 through a Seattle City Council approved official ordinance. The UDBIA has a tiered assessment structure. Every ratepayer inside the UDBIA boundaries pays a rate based on the Total Taxable Value of their property into the General BIA Fund. If a property is located within one of two cleaning areas, there is also an additional fee based on the total Lot Area of the property to cover the cost of regular cleaning. The UDBIA is governed by their own Ratepayer Advisory Board which meets regularly to discuss the work and budget of the UDBIA.

The Work We Accomplish

The U District Partnership is the contracted manager of the UDBIA’s programs and services. We work by providing direct services, convening our community, and advocating for the needs of neighborhood through our Clean and Safe, Economic Development, Urban Vitality, Marketing and Events programs.

Clean and Safe programs make up the majority of our budget and our work in the neighborhood.
In our cleaning areas, in the last year alone, we:

  • Picked up 4,114 bags of trash.

  • Removed 1,760 stickers and graffiti tags.

  • Cleaned up 673 bio-hazard messes.

With our safety program, we:

  • Fund a full time mental health social worker working with homeless individuals in our neighborhood – connecting them with services and helping them onto a path of supported living.

  • Fund Safety Ambassadors who patrol our BIA providing assistance to individuals and businesses.

  • Conduct Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design reviews for properties and businesses.

And that is just the start! We also:

The Need for Renewal

The ordinance creating and authorizing the current UDBIA will expire in May of 2020, and with it will go the funding for vital work in the U District. This expiration comes at a critical time for the U District, but with that comes an opportunity to affect long term positive change through renewing the UDBIA.

The District is Evolving and Growing - Let’s Make the Most of It!

The U District is undergoing major changes, right now and for the foreseeable future. Our residential, student and business populations (both employees and customers) are growing and that growth is accelerating quickly. With growth comes the need to adapt or increase programs that address our new realities.

We have accomplished an AMAZING amount over our last four years together. Let’s keep up that great work and let’s seize the opportunities that the future is offering us.

  • This is not a futuristic “look ahead” consideration – change and growth are happening NOW and will do so for the next decade.

  • The challenge for the U District is how to embrace change and maximize its positive potential while protecting and maintaining core elements that make the U District the unique, wonderful and vibrant neighborhood it is – Seattle’s best place to work, live and play!

Highlight of Changes Since 2015

  1. Growth in our commercial and residential sectors

    • The U District Rezone was adopted in February 2017

    • Residential growth – 17 proposed projects as of January 1, 2019 (2,170 potential units, 6,095 new residents)

    • New retail space associated with residential development – 86,035 square feet

    • New commercial space – 345,000 sq. feet and growing!

  2. New U District Light Rail Station

    • Opening 2021 in the urban core of the neighborhood.

    • New, quick connection to downtown, north and south neighborhoods, and the airport.

    • Expecting 10,000+ daily riders using the station.

  3. New University of Washington Seattle Campus Master Plan

    • 6 million new square feet over ~ 20 years.

    • Inclusive innovation district in West Campus

UDBIA Proposed Changes

The UDBIA Ratepayer Advisory Board has, at its June 27, 2019 meeting, resolved to renew the UDBIA and has instructed the U District Partnership to manage the renewal process.

The proposed new UDBIA is driven by two major considerations:

  1. A desire to maintain and build upon current programs

  2. The need to develop programs to meet the challenges and opportunities of the coming decade.

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Protecting Ratepayers from Rapidly Increasing Property Values impacting their assessment

We are protecting ratepayers against the rapidly increasing property values in the U District which would impact their assessment. When a BIA renews, it is customary to reset the base property value to the most current year. The recent rezone of the U District resulted in rapidly rising and extremely varied property values. The UDBIA is protecting our ratepayers from these increases: As long as the property does not trigger a “New Benefit Area” condition, we will continue to use 2013 tax values as the basis for future assessments that will be adjusted by the annual Consumer Price Index, as determined by the City of Seattle.

Cleaning works! Let’s Expand It

We know that the entire UDBIA benefits from cleaning services in the designated cleaning areas. So many of ratepayers do a GREAT job cleaning and maintaining their properties but the district includes large public areas like sidewalks and street curbs. However, not all property owners are as good about cleaning their sidewalks. Litter goes untended and graffiti pops up. Biohazards are left out in the open. It doesn’t take much to make a whole block look bad. We know we can make a difference by sending professional contractors through the entire district once a month to clean up and collect waste. The whole district will look better, be safer, and all properties will benefit. The cost is low when we do this together.

A longer term vision to support the U District

As we have addressed above, the U District is in a time period of great change. With these major changes impacting our neighborhood, which will have affects for decades to come, we need longer term strategies and plans to address them. A 12 year period for the next UDBIA gives us time to implement and refine programs that address issues strategically and serve our neighborhood into the future.

Adding Additional services to benefit our growing NEIGHBORHOOD

Thanks to the support of the UDBIA, the University District has become a cleaner, safer and more vibrant place to live, play and do business since 2015. Soon, the new light rail station and residences, being built right now, will bring tens of thousands of new people to our community every year. Whether these people choose to stay to shop, live, and learn in the U District or not will be heavily influenced by their experiences on our streets and whether the U District has a competitive message which resonates with multiple audiences. Through a modest increase to our services, we will be able to support this growing community and promote the amazing and unique character of the U District to keep people coming back for more.

Read the details of the petition for the renewed UDBIA in our example Renewal Packet.

A Special Note To Ratepayers

Ratepayers (defined by Washington State as the owners of commercial, multi-use and multi-family properties who receive a UDBIA assessment bill from the City of Seattle) will receive a renewal packet in the mail during the first week of September with information about the renewal and the petition.

Please sign your petition and return it according to the enclosed instructions right away! If you do not receive your packet or if you have questions, please contact Mark Crawford at 206-547-4417 or mark@udistrictpartnership.org.