U District BIA Not Representative of Business/Property Owners

by Shirley Nixon:

u-district-bia-redAttached is a 2015 map showing property parcels in the U District, and whether the parcel owner voted for or against expanding the U District Business Improvement Area (BIA).  If the parcel is shown in red, the owner objected to the expansion and having to pay a BIA assessment.   Blue parcels voted for the BIA.  Light purple parcels are owned by the UW and not assessable in the traditional sense.  White parcels are single family, townhouses, or multifamily of three units or less, which are not taxable.  (Condominium buildings were deemed taxable as “businesses” even though composed of multiple single-family units; which is a whole other sore spot….)
You’ll note that there are vastly more red parcels (by a factor of about 4 to 1) than blue parcels.

So – why did the city enact an expanded BIA when the vast majority of property owners in the U District opposed it?  Answer:  Instead of a one-parcel/one vote election, the city weighed each parcel’s vote according to its appraised value.  So – owners of more valuable properties – like the Audi/VW dealership, Sundance Theaters,  and the Hotel Deca – were given a much higher voting percentage than small restaurants, dry-cleaning, or upholstery shops. The city also allocated 47% of the total voting power to the UW because it owns 35 or so parcels in the planning area.   Because of this weighted voting scheme, it only took 41 total property owners in addition to the UW to outvote, percentage-wise, the other 400 property owners who opposed the expanded BIA.

The property owners shown in red in the attached map probably can be counted upon today to be skeptical of how the proposed U District upzone will benefit them.
There is noticeable correlation between the “blue” properties shown on this map and the 2016 maps produced by OPCD that illustrate high-rise sites likely to be developed under the upzone.

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