The San Rafael Chamber of Commerce collaborates to support COVID-affected business zones.

The business improvement district in downtown San Rafael is facing financial challenges due to the pandemic-strained organization and its third year of lost revenue. The San Rafael City Council has approved a city employee to negotiate a two-year contract with the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce to help revitalize the Business Improvement District (BID). The funding for the contract will come from the city’s COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Assistance and will not exceed $100,000.

The BID organizes various events throughout the year, such as the May Madness Hot Rod Car Show, Hops and Vine Strolls, Dining Under the Light, San Rafael Porchfest, and Día de los Muertos Car Parade. Sarah Tipple is the district’s only staff member, serving as the non-executive executive director. She emphasized the importance of retaining the current board members to guide the BID’s future in partnership with the city and the Chamber of Commerce.

The City Council’s approval included the reappointment of existing BID board members. The BID is comprised of 125 businesses along 4th Avenue between Avenue and E Street and has approximately 700 members. Prior to the pandemic shutdown, the BID collected around $83,000 in revenue annually, and it is projected to drop to $61,648 in 2022 and $60,000 in 2023. The BID Corporation is currently using its reserves to meet its basic plan, but if the trend continues, it will take two years before the district becomes insolvent.

The council further approved $5,000 from the Department of Economic Development’s professional services budget to assist with financial statements. The remaining BID funding will be retained by the city until a transition agreement is approved. The Chamber of Commerce is continuing the BID program while encouraging business owners and property owners to explore ways to strengthen their districts. The staff highlighted delinquency in payments as the main cause of the district’s loss of revenue. The BID may need to modify its current model or consider a real estate-based district if it is no longer viable.

The council and Chamber of Commerce view the partnership as a means to revitalize downtown San Rafael, which they consider to be the heart of the city. They believe that a vibrant downtown corridor is crucial to the city’s overall success. Mayor Kate Colin referred to it as a “shared vision” that will be achieved through time, energy, and resources from the city, Chamber of Commerce, and BID.

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