business improvement districts

I've advocated for the use of BIDs (Business Improvement Districts) in Metro Manila. Someone just has to write the enabling law.

What's a BID? (Caveat -that links to a Manhattan Institute report on BIDs, and MI is decidedly on right of the political spectrum.)

A BID is an organization of property owners in a commercial district who tax themselves to raise money for neighborhood improvement. Core functions usually include keeping sidewalks and curbs clean, removing graffiti, and patrolling the streets. Once a BID is formed, the assessment is mandatory, collected by the city like any other tax. Unlike any other taxes, however, the city returns the assessment to the BID management for use in the district.

Do they work? Apparently so, according to the Rand Corporation as reported by the LA Times:
In areas as varied as Old Pasadena, Westwood, Hollywood Boulevard and downtown L.A., business and property owners banded together to assess themselves and form umbrella organizations aimed at keeping their areas safe and clean.

The groups, known as business improvement districts, or BIDS, hired private security guards to help patrol their blocks and crews to clean up their sidewalks, as well as lobbying government officials to make other improvements in their area.

There are now more than two dozen such districts in Los Angeles alone, employing that security guard in front of your favorite downtown eatery and the woman sweeping the sidewalk near your stylist's trendy digs.

In the first comprehensive study of L.A.'s business improvement districts, the Rand Corp. said Thursday that the districts are having a significant effect on crime in their neighborhoods and that areas with such districts have significantly less crime than those without them.

As violent crime has steadily declined by half in the last decade throughout Los Angeles, the report suggests that areas of the city with active business improvement districts have fared even better -- particularly when it comes to robbery and other street crimes.

The districts "are not just gentrification efforts to displace people or the panacea to crime and making people's lives better," said John MacDonald, the leading researcher on the study and a criminology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. "These districts make a place not such an attractive place for crimes of opportunity such as robbery."

There are social issues that would need to be addressed but BIDs could go a long way because:
BIDs have unleashed an enormous amount of private sector creativity towards the solution of public problems. Philadelphia, for example, dubbed “Filthadelphia” by local wags, had been brought to its knees in the 1980s by massive deficits and intractable municipal unions. Cyclones of trash commanded the sidewalks. Now, its historic downtown is clean and orderly, thanks to the Center City business improvement district, which steam cleans the sidewalks every night and sweeps them continuously during the day. Local business activity has increased markedly. Baltimore’s downtown business leaders have dispelled the area’s reputation for crime with roving patrols of uniformed “ambassadors,” who assist tourists and discourage panhandlers. And New York City’s 34 BIDs can claim considerable responsibility for turning around once squalid neighborhoods—from Times Square to East Williamsburg, Brooklyn—and making them safe and attractive for shoppers and pedestrians.

...BIDs have returned to an earlier set of values regarding public space. They understand that simple things—such as keeping sidewalks clean and safe—matter enormously to the urban quality of life. A city that has lost the will to control allegedly “minor” offenses such as trash and graffiti only invites further disorder.

And people are voting with their feet in favor of BID values. Downtown shoppers are rediscovering the pleasures of city strolling; property values in some of the most successful BIDs are rising. (MI)


bbc's bicycle diaries

Great podcast series on bicycles (and cities) from the BBC:

This three - part series illustrates how the bicycle is used today and what impact it has on people's lives.

With more than a billion models worldwide, the bicycle has found a place in every society.

Since its invention in 1817 people have redesigned and used the bike for hundreds of different purposes.

From sporting events and policing the streets to sharpening knives and selling ice cream.

Using a lot of leg power, the Bicycle Diaries journeys into three different places around the world to discover the communities and people for whom two wheels are better than four.

  • Part one
    A new bicycle system in Paris, France
  • Part two
    Why cycling matters in Kampala, Uganda
  • Part three
    How biking in New Delhi, India helps the economy

Image credit: Parked Bikes -2492
Binondo, Manila
by webzer

RF and Asian Cities


Foundation to help Asian cities endure global warming

The Rockefeller Foundation President recently came to Thailand on many occasions, one of which concerned the 70-billion US dollar “Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network” project.

According to its President, Dr. Judith Rodin, the Rockefeller Foundation is now planning an experiment to help Asian cities endure global warming instead of stopping it.

Climate change, which has already occurred, will lead to flooding, drought and the water systems in recent health risks like dengue fever.

“We will continue to fund grantees that advocate for the issues that we care deeply about in agricultural productivity and food security in climate change resilience and mitigation in assuring better health for all more heatlh equity,” said Rockefeller Foundation President  Dr. Judith Rodin.

Let alone the foundation’s project, Dr. Rodin added the issues focused on were also dependent on governments to play a key role through their policies and investment.

Meanwhile, main criteria have been set to decide which cities will come under the project, while a final decision on the cities will be made within 2009.

The criteria are governments’ willingness and eagerness to do risk assessment and vulnerability planning and capacity building, while cities predicted to have high growth in urbanisation and those shown to have the greatest vulnerability to occurring climate change also count.

"There’s an ASEAN initiative that is going to link capital cities and we’ll be working closely with that. So this is really an effort to maximise all of these various initiatives and dramatically increase both learning and the capacity," said Dr. Rodin.
Dr. Rodin said all of the learning from the experimental cities would be made available to other networks including other cities like a mega city of Bangkok.

Regarding the current world recession’s impact on climate change, Dr. Rodin also voiced her opinion.

"The financial crisis will present a tremendous opportunity because many nations around the world will be investing in economic stimulus packages," said Dr. Rodin.

While the Rockefeller Foundation was working on new innovations to present more opportunity during the economic crisis, Dr. Rodin said, many conversations on economic stimulus packages were now being held, including on jobs, investment, alternative energy and other climate-friendly issues.

With such cooperation from concerned parties, there’s hope for our environment to go hand in hand with our economy. (TNA)

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