The CBD program in San Francisco is administered through OEWD. CBDs aim to create a reliable organizational structure and revenue stream to support neighborhood improvements. San Francisco is currently home to 10 CBDs including:
- Castro/Upper Market
- Central Market
- Civic Center
- Fisherman's Wharf
- Noe Valley Association
- Ocean Avenue
- North of Market/Tenderloin
- Union Square
- Yerba Buena
- Lower Polk and Tourism Improvement District
This case study will explore the work of the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District (YBCBD), which was established in 2008. As is required by law, local leaders began the process of forming the district by creating a detailed management plan to govern its structure and actions. This document, called the YBCBD District Management Plan, was developed through a robust community outreach process, and was formally approved through a petition and vote. Today, the district is administered through the YBCBD management corporation, a nonprofit dedicated to implementing the goals and programs outlined in the Management Plan.
In 2011, the YBCBD completed The Yerba Buena Street Life Plan to create a more specific road map for improving public space in the district. YBCBD collected input from a wide variety of neighborhood stakeholders to create a vision for more than 36 streetscape projects that could be implemented and/or advocated for over the course of 5-10 years. The plan identifies activation of alleyways as a priority. The YBCBD recently reached an important milestone in implementing this goal with the creation of a pilot plaza project on Annie Street.
The goal of the Annie Street Plaza project is to transform a central alley in the district into an active social gathering space that encourages pedestrian circulation between Market and Mission Streets and brings visibility to the interior of the block. As a first step, YBCBD is collaborating with the SF Planning Department’s Pavement to Parks program to test the plaza concept with a temporary installation that closes the alley. The pilot plaza approach will allow YBCBD to quickly begin implementing programming ideas brainstormed with the community, and test greening and maintenance regimes.
While its alignment with the larger goals set out in the Yerba Buena Street Life Plan was important, the Annie Street Plaza project only became a reality because of strong community support. Even before YBCBD agreed to sponsor the project, 30-40 residents in apartment buildings near the alley formed a group called “Friends of Annie Alley”, and began advocating for improvements.
REVENUE AND FINANCING
YBCBD is one of the largest community benefit districts in San Francisco’s history. Nearly 95 percent of the district’s revenue comes from assessments from property owners. The district assessment fee is collected by the San Francisco County Tax Collector on an annual basis through the property tax payment framework. The San Francisco Tax Collector then distributes the assessment fees to the YBCBD management corporation.
Assessments in the district vary according to each property. YBCBD’s assessment rate methodology was reviewed and endorsed by the district’s Steering Committee as a fair and equitable framework for determining fees. The annual assessments are based on one or more of the following factors: Linear frontage of the lot abutting any public right of way; Gross building square footage; Location in a particular benefit zone; And property use. The details of YBCBD’s fee assessment methodology, as well as the level of each individual property assessment, are listed in the District Management Plan, which is publicly available on the YBCBD website. Beyond assessment fees, additional revenue for the district is comprised of a combination of grants, donations, and in-kind contributions.
The Annie Street Plaza project did not require a significant additional fundraising effort for YBCBD. The project benefited from in-kind support from a number of key partners, as well as a handful of waived or reduced permit fees. In one instance, YBCBD worked with the San Francisco Entertainment Commission to develop a 3-month pilot in which the Commission granted YBCBD a permit to host a series of performances in the Plaza, rather than sticking to the standard structure of issuing an individual permit (costing around $500-600) for each performance. This creative approach greatly reduced YBCBD’s programming costs.
ACTIVATION AND PROGRAMMING
The YBCBD’s goal is to engage partners in programming the Annie Street Plaza. During the design phase, YBCBD considered several options for providing programming infrastructure. In the end, YBCBD decided to purchase portable equipment, including a generator and PA system. These items, along with plants and movable chairs and tables cost approximately $15,000. YBCBD has led a number of pilot programming efforts to determine what works best in the plaza. To date, programming has included daytime and evening musical performances, fitness classes, food trucks, fashion events, and more.
With baseline infrastructure and a handful of precedents in place, YBCBD has begun to engage programming partners. This effort consists of an open call to engage artists and performers in using the space, as well as targeted outreach to community organizations within YBCBD’s boundaries. A number of partners are already stepping up to take advantage of the programming opportunities that the Annie Street Plaza offers. For example, the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival is currently planning to host a portion of their event programming in the plaza during 2015. While the exact makeup of the ongoing programming calendar is still being developed, YBCBD aims to host 2-3 programmed events per week to keep the space active and insure that no one user group dominates the plaza.
Maintenance and stewardship services are a cornerstone of the YBCBD’s role in the neighborhood. The district already has a number of programs in place, which will be leveraged for Annie Street Plaza. These programs include:
The Clean Team, a dedicated staff corps that works to improve the appearance and cleanliness of the district every day 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. The Clean Team steams sidewalks twice a month, works daily on sidewalk cleaning and gutter sweeping, and removes trash on a frequent basis. They also remove weeds, clean tree wells, eliminate graffiti, and refresh paint on poles, mail boxes and fire plugs. YBCBD is considering increasing the steam cleaning frequency to once per week in the Annie Street Plaza.
The Community Guides Program, which employs goodwill ambassadors throughout the neighborhood. The Guides provide information about neighborhood businesses, give directions, and connect those who need help to the social services. They report maintenance issues and can call on emergency dispatchers for urgent issues. The YBCBD employs up to six guides on from weekdays 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on weekends from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Additional police presence, through the SFPD 10B Officer program. Through City Administrative Code Section 10B, this program allows YBCBD to fund additional police services on top of what the city provides. YBCBD’s 10B officers primarily addresses quality of life issues within the district. Officers issue citations for drinking, trespassing, permit violations, littering, and pedestrian safety infractions. The additional police presence adds 70 hours per week of police time to the 5,000 hours a week already provided by the district’s local police station.
Greening initiatives, such as planting trees, hanging flower baskets, and other streetscape improvements.
Thus far, the Plaza has not added a significant load to YBCBD’s regular maintenance cycle. This is in part by design - YBCBD worked with landscape designers from CMG and the Flora Grubb Gardens to make sure plantings and other enhancements would not be costly to maintain. In addition, the increased pedestrian activity in the plaza has discouraged people from allowing their dogs to use the alley as a bathroom - in this way, YBCBD’s activation and stewardship of the plaza has actually eliminated a behavior that was previously a maintenance concern.
This case study presents a successful example of a self-governing assessment district assuming a leadership role in public space management. The YBCBD has been essential to the creation and management of the Annie Street Plaza. The CBD was able to successfully initiate a four-year planning process to determine priorities in the neighborhood, and then initiate Annie Street Plaza as a clear response to a larger community vision. YBCBD’s role in convening stakeholders throughout the planning and launch phases of the project was very valuable. This case study illustrates that the CBD structure creates a scenario in which established programs, services, and resources can be applied to the new public place as soon as it is open, and this scenario greatly increases its chances of thriving. Once the initial launch is complete, the CBD framework provides an organizational structure that fosters community ownership of the space; the CBD can leverage existing relationships to encourage partners and residents to visit and plan events of their own.
Primary Model Type
Special Assessment Districts
San Francisco, CA
Multiple: Plazas, Parks, Parklets, Alleys, and more.
Cost to set-up: $$$
Manager resource level: $$$$$
Leadership in planning and advocating for public space
Reliable revenue stream for maintenance/ stewardship
Leadership in community involvement and programming
Ongoing relationship and partnership management