Taxing yourself more for things that your city ought to be doing already might seem ludicrous at first glance, but when it comes to fixing streets and sidewalks, some major commercial and retail property owners in Los Angeles seem open to the idea.

“I absolutely would favor taxing myself more,” said Robert Buente, chief executive of 1010 Development Corp., an affordable housing developer and property owner in downtown L.A.’s South Park neighborhood.

Buente was commenting on a motion introduced this month by Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino that would allow property owners in residential and commercial districts to form special assessment districts, which would raise tax revenue to pay for fixing streets and sidewalks. It’s all part of a package of motions that Buscaino – with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s support – introduced to generate revenue for street and sidewalk repairs. (For more on another Buscaino proposal to generate revenue for street fixes, see Page 1.)

The proposal to allow the creation of these assessment districts could come back before the council early next year.

Also supportive of the idea is James Brooks, president of Topa Management Co., the largest retail property owner in Westwood Village.

“If something is not done soon, then the streets and sidewalks will degrade to a point where decay sets in, not only in the streets but in the communities around the streets,” Brooks said.

But both Brooks and Buente said they have concerns with how these districts would dovetail with already existing business improvement districts. BIDs can do sidewalk repairs and some – including the South Park and Westwood districts – have already done so on a limited basis.

There are other concerns, too. For example, Jessica Lall, executive director of the South Park Business Improvement District, said if the BIDs or the new assessment districts had to pay living wages and follow all the city work rules for contractors, making the street and sidewalk repairs could be prohibitively expensive.

“I think this is a good start,” Lall said. “It opens the door for folks who do want to pay to make some improvements in their neighborhood. But we’re concerned about too much responsibility being passed off by the city on to local communities.”

Workers’ Comp Blues

A decade after reforms that were supposed to cut the cost of the California’s workers’ compensation system, California once again has the dubious distinction of having the most expensive program for employers.


For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.