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Downtown Assessment Fund Receives Initial City Council Green Light

A plan for owners of downtown San Diego office buildings to pay into an assessment fund, with the money going toward programs to retain and attract tenants, received an initial green light today from the City Council.

Firms that own at least 50,000 square feet in downtown San Diego would be charged 3.5 cents per square foot if the proposed two-year pilot program comes into existence. The entity, which would be part of an existing downtown property and business improvement district, would have a total budget of about $351,000 annually.

Among other things, the money would pay for programs to reduce homelessness and alleviate a shortage of parking. Those two complaints are the lead reasons why tenants leave downtown or don't lease there in the first place, according to a staff report.

"We know that because it's the urban core of the city, we have significant issues in downtown that we don't have in other parts of the city,'' said Councilman Kevin Faulconer, who represents the area.

Faulconer said a permanent homeless shelter set to open by the end of this year should ease the homeless problem. The money raised from the property owners could be used to fund a free or low-cost shuttle so commuters could park on the edge of downtown and catch a ride to work.

Recent figures show the downtown office space vacancy rate is just under 17 percent, around 3 percent higher than the city as a whole.

The property owners are set to vote on whether to assess themselves. A public hearing on whether to implement the district is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 25.

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