North Park Business Improvement District (BID)

What is a Business Improvement District?

A Business Improvement District (BID) is a type of assessment district in which business owners choose to be assessed a fee for use in promoting and improving the business area. There are approximately 200 BIDS in California and 18 BIDs in the City of San Diego. BIDs are typically initiated by local business owners or business associations and must follow a legal process that includes a public hearing. Traditionally, BIDs are used to pay for:

  1. Public improvements and beautification programs (e.g. streetscaping, banners, entry monuments);
  2. Commercial marketing (e.g. image building campaigns, shop local campaigns, special events);
  3. Business recruitment and retention programs (e.g. surveys to identify desirable business types, business networking).

BIDs within the City of San Diego receive assistance from the City’s Office of Small Business in areas such as retail business recruitment, technical assistance, and the City’s Storefront Improvement Program. Many BIDs receive funding through City grants and assessment matches and sources such as City Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) and City parking meter revenues.

BID fees are set by the respective BID organization and are collected on an annual basis via the business tax certificate. Within San Diego, typical fees range from $40 to $500 annually. A few newer BIDs collect $90 to $1200 annually, with limited anchor businesses paying up to $5000.

Where is the North Park BID and how much are businesses assessed?

The North Park Business Improvement District (BID) was established as a non-profit 501(c)6 organization in 1985 by the City’s Office of Small Business.  The original BID boundaries were essentially Lincoln Avenue to the north, North Park Way to the south, Idaho Street to the west and I-805 to the east. (see BID Map) BID fees were originally set at $40-$70 per year, based upon the business’s number of employees and location. The district was divided into three geographic zones, with businesses located in the 30th Street and University Avenue zone paying the highest fees. The original BID included 300 business members, generating $15,000 annually.

In 1996, the North Park BID was selected by the City of San Diego as a Pilot Project for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Program. The North Park Main Street (NPMS) association was established and continues to administer the North Park BID. NPMS is a volunteer-based, non-profit business association that advocates for North Park’s downtown business community (30th Street/ University Avenue downtown core), champions development that preserves the community’s historic integrity, supports the North Park Arts, Culture & Entertainment District, and promotes an urban, pedestrian-friendly shopping and dining environment. NPMS works in partnership with the City of San Diego, the San Diego Business Improvement District Council, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

In 2008 North Park Main Street initiated an effort to expand original BID boundaries and to revise the assessment formula for businesses located within the existing and the extended BID areas. The goal was to benefit more North Park businesses and to increase revenues in order to further upgrade services. In 2008, the NPMS Board endorsed the proposed expansion and assessment increase, and submitted petitions to the City verifying that  20%+ of eligible businesses within the new area favored the expansion. City staff then mailed ballots to all eligible businesses in both the existing and expanded boundaries. Close to 70% of responding businesses in the existing BID favored the assessment increase, and 55% of responding businesses within the expanded area supported the initiative. A City Council public hearing was held City Council in June 2008 which concluded with approval of the expansion and assessment increase. Today, the BID includes the original core area plus businesses on University Avenue from I-805 west to Florida Street and on 30th Street from Howard Avenue south to Thorn. Businesses are assessed $125 – $500 per year based on number of full-time employees. (Home based businesses and limited others are not assessed). Ninety per cent of all NPMS businesses have six or less employees resulting in the vast majority paying $125 – $150 annually. The expanded BID generates an additional $50,000+, for a total annual budget of $200,000.  

How has the North Park BID benefited business?

Key areas of activity include:

  • Galvanizing local business leadership
  • Sponsoring special events and the North Park Farmers’ Market
  • Promoting physical improvements
  • Marketing the downtown commercial district
  • Ensuring quality design and development
  • Promoting downtown’s historic preservation
  • Assisting developers and businesses navigate regulatory requirements
  • Coordinating public safety and clean-up campaigns
  • Coordinating efforts to address transportation and parking issues
  • Promoting North Park Art, Culture and Entertainment District

A Sampling of NPMS accomplishments includes:

  • Sponsoring Annual North Park Festival of the Arts, drawing crowds of 30,000 people
  • Re-opening North Park Farmers’ Market  in the CVS parking lot
  • Launching first annual Taste of North Park event
  • Cosponsoring North Park Commercial District Historic Walking Tour
  • Installing seasonal promotional banners throughout the district
  • Planting 50 trees along 30th and Upas Streets
  • Planting trees along 30th Street and University Ave and installing decorative sidewalks
  • Installing custom designed street signs on University Avenue
  • Installing bike racks on University Avenue
  • Actively recruiting numerous businesses
  • Providing hands-on ombudsman services to developers and businesses  
  • Facilitating access to Storefront Improvement Loans
  • Facilitating Storefront Redesign projects as with Design Institute of San Diego
  • Leading effort to create Public Right of Way Program (PROW) allowing businesses to establish sidewalk cafes and display outdoor merchandise and A-Frame signs
  • Negotiating employer discount parking rates at the new public parking garage
  • Producing North Park Way newsletter and maintaining NPMS website
  • Hosting merchant seminars and networking events
  • Winning designation by the City of San Diego as a Pilot Urban Villlage
  • Helping launch Ray at Night – now the second largest artwalk event in San Diego
  • Spearheading downtown seasonal lighting and decoration contest
  • Developing policy recommendations related to big box retail, alcohol licensing, noise
  • Producing Main Street business locator maps
  • Producing “Starting a Business in North Park” brochure
  • Securing funding for and facilitating University Avenue Mobility Plan project
  • Preparing Commercial District Historic Building Inventory

Are there other BIDs serving Greater North Park?

Yes. The Greater North Park community is served by two additional BIDs. Contact information for all three BIDs is provided below:

  • North Park Main Street Business Improvement District (NPBID)

Angela Landsberg, Executive Director
Phone: (619) 294-2501

  • El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association (El Cajon BIA)

Gary Weber, Executive Director
Phone: (619) 283-3608

  • Adams Avenue Business Association (AABA)

Phone: (619) 282-7329