Do you feel your neighborhood could be a little cleaner or safer or more economically vibrant?

There may not be an app for that yet – but there is an application – which you can fill out to start organizing a Community Benefit District.

What is a Community Benefit District?

In February 2004, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the Community Benefit District Ordinance, and since then, numerous Community Benefit Districts (CBDs) have been formed in San Francisco, including the Noe Valley Community Benefit District, the Fillmore Jazz District and the Fisherman’s Wharf District.

Find a list of current Community Benefit Districts here.

These CBDs are a way for neighborhoods to aggregate revenue from neighborhood merchants, property owners and residents to help address neighborhood-specific problems, like graffiti, street cleaning, beautification, lighting, tree maintenance and litter. The funds collected from local vendors and residents go toward addressing neighborhood-specific problems, only, above and beyond what is already funded by the City. These funds are not used for the City as a whole, and a local non-profit corporation manages them. These efforts to clean up neighborhoods can help reduce crime rates in localities and improve property values.

Any neighborhood can create a CBD, and here’s how:

CBDs are typically initiated by a group of individuals invested in the community, and that group works with the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development to build the CBD.

So, initially, a CBD Steering Committee is formed of interested parties and weighted property owners to represent the neighborhood, and they meet to decide the boundaries of the CBD and the level of support needed for the area.

Once the Steering Committee has determined the area and the required resources, and it has the support of at least 20% of the local property owners, they can move into the formation stage.

Breaking it down:

  • First, the Steering Committee endorses a CBD plan.
  • Then the Steering Committee circulates a petition that should demonstrate local support. The petition needs to garner the support of a minimum of 30% of local property owners.
  • The Steering Committee membership is next opened up to all parties in the neighborhood, with continued emphasis on weighted property owners (which are determined by how much the property owner will contribute).
  • The Steering Committee submits a “Resolution of Intent” to the Board of Supervisors, and the Board considers the Resolution.
  • The Mayor’s Office of Economic Development then mails out ballots to all property owners so they can vote on the formation of the CBD.
  • If the returns are in favor, the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development can move forward on levying the assessments.
  • The funds are finally collected and given to a designated non-profit corporation, which contracts with the City to manage the delivery of services. The nonprofit management structure should be composed of at least 20% of non-property owners (tenants and community members).

At Reset we’ve been exploring the entire idea of User Generated Government. This is User Generated Government in action. If you think you could do a better job of solving local problems than City Hall – take a second to learn more about Community Benefit Districts.