Editor’s Note: myBurbank sent eight questions out to the eight different candidates running for Burbank City Council. myBurbank will run a different question each day for eight days (except for weekends). We have in no way edited any of the responses that we have received and have come directly from the candidates. We gave them no limits to the amount of space they wanted to use for their answers and have rotated the order of the candidates each day so no one has an advantage. After reading these questions and answers, myBurbank hopes that the voters of Burbank will have an informed opinion before casting their votes. Remember, you can vote for two candidates and every vote is valuable!
Question 5 of 8:
How would you support the small businesses located in Burbank? – Downtown Burbank benefits from a P-Bid while Magnolia Park businesses do not. Do you feel the City should do more for Magnolia Park and other small businesses?
Once again it is about getting small businesses the resources, they need to keep their doors open and generate revenue. Whether that be through outreach and education of City, County, State, and Federal business recovery programs, providing adaptive and creative and streamlined solutions to serving customers in a safe and healthy manner, or advocating to our County, State, and Federal representatives to provide greater assistance to our struggling businesses. With respect to the P-BID question please visit my website at votepaulherman.com to see that I have been advocating for P-BIDs in the Magnolia Park area and Media District as a way to promote economic growth and community safety.
There are significant barriers to starting a business, including the financial costs and paperwork required for proper licensing and registrations with the City of Burbank. I would like to explore ways to make it easier to do business in our city so that we have new home-grown employers ready to offer new good-paying jobs for our workforce.
In many ways, I believe that the steps taken in the City of Glendale offer a roadmap for how we can assist our small businesses in recovering from this difficult period. For example, we could offer further concierge-level customer service in which any business, including locally owned small businesses, could obtain one-on-one assistance from a seasoned project manager in the City of Burbank. This concierge service model could provide a significant competitive advantage in generating and attracting new businesses in Burbank.
As discussed above, the centerpiece of my economic recovery plan is the creation of the Burbank Economic Recovery Taskforce (BERT). One of the BERT’s primary roles will be to examine and develop recommendations for enhancing small business formation and retention in Burbank, especially in Magnolia Park, with a particular emphasis on further investments in minority and women-owned businesses. If elected, I would like to see a record number of minority and women-owned small businesses in the City of Burbank by the end of my term.
Our small businesses are the heart and soul of our community, and we must do more to facilitate small business growth. With regards to Magnolia Park, there is a huge concentration of locally owned restaurants and shops that need our support and attention. This begins with promoting these businesses through community events. Closing off parts of Magnolia every so often to hold small fairs, for example, would allow businesses to gain exposure and new customers. The number one problem for our small businesses is high rent. I would advocate for implementing some form of rent control on commercial properties to ensure diversification of our economy.
They deserve as much support as we can give them. Every business takes a risk and the city should help them and appreciate that risk in every way that we can. Magnolia Park has been offered a BPID and does not want one yet. I think they had one in the past. and disbanded it. We have talked about a trolley, a town hall meeting in Magnolia park, a PBID all of which has not resulted in anything thus far. I have had many conversations with individuals from Magnolia Park as I shop and used to live in Magnolia Park. We work together on many successful events there. We want to do more but have had trouble finding the true voice of the merchants and the property owners and who often have differing points of view. There has been turnover in who represents the voice of Magnolia Park. Our community development department has offered services to the merchants which were not accepted. I believe we are in the process of working on a survey of their concerns right now. I know from candidate forums that another candidate has some ties to Magnolia Park and she might be the key to helping us bridge the divide. I will reach out to her about that soon, see if together we can start a new and fruitful conversation. Vice Mayor Bob Frutos, who is a great colleague, would like to see the “Burbank On Parade” take place in Magnolia Park, which to me has a huge appeal and potential. It would be a win/win as an economic boon to Magnolia Park hopefully attracting more customers and by the same token, make the folks who love the parade very happy. Bob has also talked about a trolley to move customers around the area. which also sounds like a fun thing for shoppers and good advertising for the merchants. Hopefully it could be electric or run on a green fuel. So, these are the type of things we can do and should do to help. We are also working on two community gardens in the area which will attract people and hopefully they will do their shopping and eating near the community gardens.
There has been tremendous attention given to the re-development of Downtown. There has been little attention given to Magnolia Park and no attention paid to areas like Burbank Boulevard, Olive Avenue and other shopping districts that directly contribute to and affect Burbank’s economy. We need to look at the City as a whole, and then each business district individually to find out the City can help with the needs, goals, strengths and diversity of these businesses. If we develop Burbank Boulevard, that will cause less traffic as fewer people will need to leave their neighborhoods for dining, shopping and recreation. When every time a new coffee place opens in a new area, for instance, this allows those who live nearby to now enjoy the local business as opposed to driving elsewhere. We have to think about these areas as part of the City and part of their neighborhoods in order to help them prosper.
Burbank’s Magnolia Park clearly represents the failures of a city that ignores its small businesses. If we do nothing, Magnolia Boulevard will go the way of the Sunset Strip and Melrose Avenue, which have lost their local charm and are now full of national chains. We must utilize a new, comprehensive economic strategy to help our small businesses compete with national franchises. I hosted the Save Magnolia Park town hall in 2018, where we proposed several strategies and well over 50 volunteers signed up to pursue them via subcommittees.
First and foremost, our 2018 sales tax increase (Measure P) hurt small businesses the most, and we must rebalance the scales back toward our local shops. I propose that we refund 80% of this sales tax increase on all receipts up to a million dollars to locally incorporated businesses with fewer than 10 employees, excluding franchises and chains. This could mean up to $6,000 in yearly rebates for qualifying businesses.
In the upcoming election, Proposition 15, also known as Schools & Communities First, will appear on the ballot, which proposes to equalize large business’ property tax rates to 2020 levels. This will increase the city’s property tax revenue and give our general fund a
much-needed boost. Let’s put this money to good use and channel it back into the community with property tax credits for qualified small businesses. If this ballot measure passes, I would like to refund 33% of our local share of property tax revenue back to the small businesses who own their properties and qualify for the above-mentioned sales tax rebate.
One of the major reasons small businesses like those in Magnolia Park fail is due to the volatile market of commercial rents. The businesses we see thriving are the ones that own their own property, and we must do all we can to encourage local ownership. To that end, I propose a commercial parcel-splitting policy for large properties that rent space to multiple small businesses. We must break up the large corporate ownership of entire blocks of real estate in our commercial corridors. In addition, we must guarantee a small business’s right to the first opportunity to purchase their lot when it goes on the market.
To help make property ownership more accessible to small businesses, I propose making use of the recent California public banking law. This would allow the City of Burbank to offer
low-interest loans to qualified small businesses and help them realize their dreams of true ownership.
Small businesses are the backbone of our city, and they are what create our unique local character. As a member of Magnolia Park Merchant Association, I’ve been working with the board and members to support our local small business before and during COVID.
For Magnolia Park specifically, there are several ways we’ve made progress to improve the area, and some next steps that would help it even more.
First, we’ve expanded the scope of the Magnolia Park Merchant Association. Originally, its main responsibility was to put on events and bring more business to the area. We have changed the mission to also include improvements to the area as well as working together on collective negotiations with city departments. We also included the residents and general community into our mission. This new approach has brought the neighborhood together, and we were making strides before COVID to build an expanded and cohesive network.
During COVID, it’s been a challenge, so we’ve shifted focus on providing resources and information for the businesses as they adjust to the new rules of COVID, connecting them with city staff when necessary, increasing our social media presence, and providing a communication network for the business owners.
In this, we’ve created a light form of a business district already.
As we move forward, and continue to expand our membership, we will have to look at how we can better pool our resources to work with each other and with the city. Whichever form this takes, it’s essential that the unique feel of Magnolia Park is preserved, and that there will always be representation and a collective voice for the small businesses. This might be a formal property based business district or it might take the form of a larger and more robust non profit, closer to the model of a hyper-local chamber of commerce. The most important thing is that the end result is a strong partnership with each other and with the city, so that the area gets the attention it deserves. This is near and dear to my heart, and regardless of the outcome of this election, I will continue to dedicate my time to the Magnolia Park area.
For small businesses in general in Burbank, I’ve learned a lot during this process with our small businesses in Magnolia Park during COVID. Based on our experiences with helping our local business owners with finding resources and getting the assistance they need, it’s clear that a business district might help downtown and Magnolia Park, but there are small business all over the city, and they all have the same needs of support, and they can’t rely on a PBID to help them. There needs to be a city-wide small business support system that is reliable and consistent.
For that reason, I am advocating for a small business portal that would be available on our city website, with clear and easy to find resources for our small and micro businesses from end to end. Our city has a reputation for being “business friendly” when it comes to the larger companies. It’s not always the case for our small businesses. It’s important that the city makes it easier to start a business, easier to find resources and know who to contact for help, and easier for our businesses to be integrated into the community. On this portal, businesses can also make sure that the city has their contact information, so that important information is sent to them during emergencies. This was more than evident during the pandemic and during the protests for example, that many of our businesses were not notified of the curfews, because they were not Burbank residents. These kinds of things can be rectified fairly easily, but they do take attention to get done, and will go a long way to helping our small businesses thrive.
Michael Lee Gogin:
Reducing regulations helps all small businesses. I have no problem with Magnolia Park or any other part of our City having a P-Bid.