Alameda Business Alliance: The tough road to consensus
In the initial announcement of the Alameda Business Alliance, I posed three questions. The first was, “Who are the stakeholders?” Since the ABA views the school system as a community asset akin to public safety services, parks, and great shopping districts, the many interest groups affected by the state of the district are all stakeholders and must be included in the community solution. For the immediate task at hand, the stakeholder group with the widest variation in interests are the several constituencies that make up the business community. A quick survey of these various interests is enough to make one’s head spin. How does a single parcel tax structure equitably assess a large piece of undeveloped land like the one along Tilden Way, a small business on Webster Street, a very large parcel that is home to a family-run business, and a 50-unit apartment building?
This is the challenge the ABA faces and is attempting to resolve. So, how do you bring these many and varied interests together? You identify the common beliefs among the interests and build a set of unifying principles to guide the discussion. The following draft principles represent a first attempt to define the common beliefs held by the participants of the ABA. They do not represent the views of the entire business community. They are presented for public comment. These principles only address the possible structure for the commercial component. They do not apply to residential parcels and they do not define a tax rate. The tax rate will be discussed later this month.
1. This initial draft is based on the premise that the tax should be based on square footage of land. Generally speaking, commercial parcels vary greatly in size ranging from small converted houses to very large parcels like the marinas. A flat tax that applied equally to all size parcels could result in higher assessments to smaller parcels. Additionally, there is roughly four times more square footage of land as there is in improvement square footage. So, the theory is that a smaller charge per square foot rate and a smaller total tax bill would be the result.
2. The current state law that authorizes parcel taxes does not allow a tax rate that is based on the value or worth of the land or the type of income producing activity that takes place on the parcel. Indeed, the notion that the larger the parcel, the more likely the business can afford to pay a larger tax, causes concern for the ABA. The Tilden Way lot produces no income and the large vacant office complexes may be currently losing money given the current high vacancy rate.
3. No one parcel should bear a disproportionate portion of the business community’s share of the tax and that parcel should not bear a disproportionate share of the entire community contribution. Here, the discussion is centered on shared contribution to a community asset with consideration that such a contribution would not cause a severe hardship on a business regardless of the size of the parcel.
The ABA welcomes comments from the community and any suggested alternatives. The deadline for receiving comments is Friday, October 15. Based on the community responses, the ABA will attempt to adopt a set of parcel tax structure principles that will be used to evaluate a number of possible specific tax rates.
Please comment below or you may send a private comment to Island editor Michele Ellson at firstname.lastname@example.org. All comments will be presented at the next ABA meeting.