Oakland Chinatown Community Benefit District 2022
Frequently Asked Questions

The services of a CBD are responsive to the needs of the community. The Chinatown CBD Steering Committee recently circulated a Property Owners & District Needs Survey, to gather feedback from property owners, businesses, residents, and other local stakeholders about priorities in Oakland’s Chinatown and what services they would like to see. The services provided by the CBD will be determined by the Steering Committee in direct response to the survey.

CBD programs may include supplemental sanitation, maintenance, beautification, streetscaping (holiday lighting, trees, flower boxes), small business marketing, public safety, city and state advocacy, tourism services and much more. The priorities of a CBD are aligned with the District Management Plan, and annually are shared with the affected property owners and the City of Oakland. The priorities can change with time in response to community feedback and are approved by the CBD Board of Directors and the City Council.

In the City of Oakland, there are 10 business improvement districts and 1 Tourism District, annually serving over 3,000+ businesses and property owners. These special assessment district invest close to $7 million in special services, events and festivals and additional supplemental services.

Property owners within the CBD will receive a special assessment on their property tax bill each year. The assessment is based on a formula that considers the linear frontage, lot size and building square footage of a specific parcel. Depending on the terms of the individual lease, business owners might help pay the assessment tax. The County of Alameda collects the special assessment with the property tax and then the City of Oakland distributes the funds to the CBD Management Corporation consistent with the plan approved by the Chinatown property owners. Furthermore, there will be around 4 or 5 different “benefit zones” created in the Greater Chinatown CBD based upon the type and frequency of services.

  • The CBD offers a sustainable and reliable revenue source to provide advocacy, supplemental services, promotions, and more.
  • Local stakeholders manage priorities with structure to respond quickly to changing community.
  • A cleaner, safer and more attractive district for all residents, businesses and organizations.
  • Collective marketing to expand the reach of businesses further than any one Merchant could on their own.
  • The potential to increase property values for all land uses, improve sales and decrease commercial vacancy rates.
  • The district will be better able to compete with nearby retail and online retailers improving the business climate, offering jobs, and helping residents’ access nearby services.

The Oakland Chinatown neighborhood has been impacted by several factors, the historical Chinatown neighborhood footprint is shrinking due to development and policies. Crime, graffiti, vandalism, illegal dumping and more recently fires, and the COVID-19 Pandemic have weakened our economy. Cultural expression and our families that still reside in Chinatown are impacted.

The Oakland Chinatown community has for decades, relied on the leadership of a few dedicated volunteers and organizations to advocate for resources, produce events, and improved quality of life for the district.

But the current needs are growing, and it is essential to guide and fund a more sustainable and effective approach, at scale. The best answer to improve the district in every aspect mentioned is a formal streamlined effort to bring marketing, streetscape improvements, additional cultural events, government advocacy, facilitating business development, and sensitivity to language and cultural needs.

The idea of a Community Benefit District is perfect for the Chinatown community. It will equalize the commitment and resources of stakeholders and encourage participation via a formal structure with oversight and dedicated administration. A CBD will allow opportunities to support existing business residents and organizations and provide for new businesses, residents and investors a voice to help build and sustain a stronger Oakland Chinatown.

More importantly, 2020 was a lost year for many businesses and property owners due to the devasting impact of the COVID 19 pandemic. Chinatowns throughout the US have suffered more than any other ethnic business community and neighborhoods. The best way to move forward is by having a pool of funds to immediately help rebuild the commercial fabric, public spaces, walkability and safety of the public rights of way throughout Chinatown from Broadway all the way to the historic Kaiser Convention Center and the Oakland Museum.

The CBD does not provide services that the City already provides. CBDs provide customized supplemental services and improvements that are beyond the City’s baseline services it provides.

In some communities, services provided by city government are not robust enough to meet the needs of a successful commercial district. For a district that sees heavy foot traffic, daily trash pick-up might not be enough to ensure that customers have a high-quality shopping experience.

Additionally, CBDs offer the advantage of flexibility at a very local level, and can respond quickly to changes in district needs, avoiding the process of city bureaucracy. Resources are allocated by the community members who know local priorities best.

The Steering Committee determines the total assessment of the CBD in response to feedback collected from a District Needs Survey, which offers data about which services are a priority for the community. Once these services have been decided upon and evaluated, the Steering Committee can begin to focus on the total assessment cost.

The amount each property pays is dictated by a formula that is unique to each CBD. Different CBDs make use of different assessment formulas to determine the cost to an individual property. Assessment formulas can take in to account frontage, commercial square footage, assessed value, or a combination of factors. The specific assessment formula employed is determined by the Steering Committee.

Once all data from the District Needs Survey has been received and the Steering Committee has determined which services the BID will provide and evaluated the costs, a specific number can be provided.

Once formed, the Chinatown would be managed by a new non-profit organization with a local Board of Directors, who are appointed by members of the district. All decisions related to the CBD is made by this Board, which would include property owners, commercial tenants, residents, and publicly elected officials. The Board monitors the District Management Plan to ensure that funds are used as outlined for the 10 -year term.

The Chinatown CBD is formed through an inclusive process in which key areas of need are identified and support is gathered from property owners, business owners, residents and local community stakeholders. The community must initiate the creation of a CBD.

The City of Oakland – Economic & Workforce Development Department, along with the City Administrator and City Attorney’s Offices, oversee the formation process. The consultant we are working with in this process, coordinates the survey of property owners, determination of boundaries, services and costs through the work of the CBD Steering Committee led by the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

This process got underway in October and we have just completed the survey process. Once the survey is done, the results determine the priority services, benefit zones, boundaries and term. In March, we will be working on the CBD plan with the input of the CBD Steering Committee which will guide the consultant on all of the legal requirements needed in the CBD Management Plan. The Steering Committee will review various options and select one. Once the plan has been completed, it will be reviewed by the City Attorney’s office. Once the City Attorney’s office has completed their review, the CBD Steering Committee will launch a petition drive whereby 30% of those property owners paying into the district, by dollar amount, will need to sign a petition endorsing the plan.

Once we have reached the threshold of support, the petitions will be submitted to the City Council who will then begin a mail ballot procedure whereby every property owner within the district will have a minimum of 45 days to return their ballot. The ballot will allow each property owner to vote “yes” or “no” on the implementation of the CBD and therefore the assessments that fund the services. We anticipate this balloting process will occur in July 2021.

A Steering Committee is comprised of property owners, business operators, district residents,  within the proposed CBD that diversely represents the community. Steering Committee members are champions of the community and work collectively to determine key elements of the proposed District, including boundaries, services/improvements, the budget, and the assessment formula. The Steering Committee will be responsible for steering the CBD formation efforts through the planning and outreach phases. Committee members attend regular meetings and are advocates of the CBD formation. The Chinatown CBD Steering Committee welcomes all stakeholders in Chinatown to participate in the Steering Committee.

The Oakland Chinatown CBD will result in a more vibrant, clean, and safe district. For commercial tenants, this can result in more customers and increased commerce. For residential tenants, this means an improved community in which to live, walk and enjoy the neighborhood.

Property owners of all types in the District are responsible for the payment of the assessment fee. The District Management Plan will evaluate through the planning process and assessment development process, and what assessment costs will be for each type of property owner and possibly by area of the District.

Property owners will benefit from the enhanced services to the public right of ways surrounding their property, signage, hospitality, and safety ambassador services to their tenants, visitors, employees and customers. Property owners will benefit from the overall graffiti abatement, illegal trash collection, power washing of sidewalks and enhanced landscaping to improve the appearance of the District.

No property owner is exempt from the district once formed. Public properties, tax-exempt property and all of land uses will pay into the Greater Chinatown CBD once it has been established by a vote of the property owners.

Homeowners located in the District will benefit from the enhanced maintenance and beautification efforts of parks, sidewalks and other public spaces. Additionally, public safety will be enhanced by throughout the district. Graffiti abatement assistance, trash collection on public right of ways will be promptly addressed. By working to support neighborhood businesses, residents can enjoy nearby retail, food and commercial services.

Businesses that either own or lease at their location, will also benefit from the enhanced public right of way services (illegal dumping removal, assistance with graffiti abatement, sidewalk power washing) that can improve the appearance of the District as well as efforts to deter crime. Businesses benefit from marketing efforts made through a District Marketing program. Business development services can be coordinated with business service providers to offer additional assistance.

Non-profit organizations, like community or health services, cultural organizations and faith organizations will also benefit from the improvements of the District area. The additional services like hospitality and public safety needs for clients, employees and visitors will be beneficial as well as the increased marketing that the CBD will offer. In the future, improved way finding, signage, cultural promotion events, and even enhanced street improvements like pedestrian lighting and street seating and dining can be financed by the District assessment budget.

Government organizations also benefit from improved District environments for their employees, visitors and clients. Government organizations as property owners will also pay into the District for services.

Yes! CBDs receive the same services already supplied by the city -- by law, City services cannot be reduced because of the existence of a CBD. Services provided by the CBD are supplementary to the city’s services.

In fact, effective CBDs are often able to leverage additional funding for their districts for things like storefront and streetscape improvements, criminal activity deterrents and more through government grants. A dedicated professional staff that has the knowledge and expertise to identify and secure these funding sources is another major advantage of a BID.

The Oakland Chinatown CBD will receive almost 100% of the money collected from the assessment, after paying nominal administrative processing fees to the County and City. Unlike a city tax, a BID takes your assessment and brings it directly back to the community, so taxpayers can see exactly where their money goes. BIDs allow for local control of funding.

CBD and BID legislation states that all property owners must pay an assessment. Thus, a CBD offers a sustainable, equitable, and reliable source of funding to provide administration, supplemental services, marketing and advocacy.

In addition to the assessment, CBDs typically do a lot of fundraising efforts from events to sponsorship -- it is common to see Districts leverage funding that would not have otherwise gone to support the commercial district.

The biggest benefit of a BID is that it offers a consistent financial support that allows for the hiring of a professional staff and sustain commercial revitalization programs and services.

An important component of the work that BIDs can do is advocacy and education. CBDs serve as a voice for small businesses and residents who might not otherwise have the resources, or political access to advocate for themselves with city government. CBDs support the specific needs of the businesses within their districts and oppose policies that unnecessarily hurt small business.

A CBD is a local non-profit governed by local stakeholders and has the flexibility and local knowledge to respond directly to the community. A CBD can play an important role in determining what types of businesses come to the district, in direct response to the needs of the community. CBDs work with building relationships with commercial real estate companies to help fill vacancies that will serve the local population.

With all of the improvement initiatives, a District’s commercial corridors become more desirable places to dine, shop and stroll, and thus attracts businesses to the neighborhood.

For more information and to obtain your Petition to support the Chinatown CBD District, please email:
ChinatownCBD@gmail.com

or call

English/Chinese: Jessica Chen (510) 893-8979
English: Monica Montes (888)356-2726