It wasn’t easy to get to WVRC on March 27th

But most of us managed. The problem was a tree that fell across Sunset Blvd, just west of Copa de Oro. Somehow, the city repair crew decided to cut off entering via Copa de Oro, so you had to use ingenuity or stealth to enter that way. As a result, we started a bit late, to accommodate those who struggled to arrive.

SANDY SANDERSON led us in the Pledge, with an Invocation by PETER MORE.  PETER provided a meaningful message, noting our indebtedness to those in the armed services serving in the Iraq War.  We were reminded of the families whose loved ones have died already, asking that their pride in duty and devotion may perhaps outweigh sorrow. He concluded with the hope that we will be able to bring peace to a needy world. This material was composed by PETER’S friend, Michael Lindley – a good choice, as usual, PETER.

JACK HARRIS had arranged for the Santa Monica Oceanaires to provide our song, that they really did the job. First up was The Star Spangled Banner, with wonderful harmony, yet retaining the basic melody. Next was an Oh Yeah, which became Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie - following an introductory series. They concluded with Coney Island Baby – and YOE, for one, was convinced that we should attend their upcoming program on Saturday, April 12th, at 2 pm and 7:30 at University High School.  Entitled, It’s A Wonderful World, they feature barbershop harmony of the songs that we all learned from our radios (yes, there was life before TV!). Price of tickets is mostly ten bucks, and it will be a most entertaining show – BE THERE!

MIKE YOUSEM was unable to announce any Visiting Rotarians, but we did have several guests. It was great to see Martha and Bob Brumbaugh, who were the guests of RUDY ALVAREZ. Martha and Bob were in town to finally close down the Condo of her dad, DOUG DESCH. Hope we’ll continue to see you both from time to time – we miss you already.

SHARON RHODES – WICKETT brought along her Special Guest, Waverly Johnson, who heads up the local PATH operation.  HENRY TSENG once again introduced his own Special Guest, Philip Starr. Both these men have now visited twice, so we will be circularizing them with this Windmill edition.

SUSAN ALLEN brought along Yuriko Suzuki, our Ambassadorial Scholar. Unfortunately, PP JIM SUMNER is back at St. Johns, hopefully for a brief stay. And two of our Rotary Auxiliaries, Eleanor MORE and Mary Fran COX, spent the day having some medical procedures taken care of today. Give them all a ring, OK? In case you missed it, former member Bruce Blickensderfer passed away this week.

KACY ROZELLE gave an excellent report, aided by photos on the screen, of our participation in the Corazon Project this past weekend. This is a program where they – literally – build a house in one day for some family in Mexico. The cement floor had already been laid, but the group put all the rest of the house together on Saturday, March 22nd.  There were fifty Rotarians and friends from the Manhattan Beach Rotary group, plus ten of our helpers from WVRC – PDG ANDY ANDERSON and Pat, KEVIN KOMATSU and Irine, PP DAVE WHITEHEAD, ELLIOTT TURNER and his son, Alexander, RUDY ALVAREZ, PP RON LYSTER, and KACY. Our congratulations to all those who participated – this is really carrying out the true purpose of Rotary. (and now, a confession…I have been without my own computer since we moved to Century City on the 18th of February, and thus have been ‘guesting’ on DON NELSON’S equipment. I mention this because ELLIOTT TURNER will be providing a special report on this Corazon project, and there is just no way I can include it in this week’s Windmill. Once I have my own computer back in operation – surely before next Thursday – I’ll write up his report, and I apologize for not being able to include it this time).

DON NELSON introduced our speaker, Kent Smith. Kent is the Executive Director of the LA Fashion District – a special services district which is paid for by property owners, and their annual budget is three million dollars. This Business Improvement District (BID) provides maintenance, security and marketing services to the members, and it has been recognized as a most successful model for BIDs across the state. Kent received a masters degree from the University of Calgary, and is classified as an ‘Alien of Exceptional Ability’

His District includes 550 property owners in an 82-block area, who have voted to tax themselves to provide the BID services. They have provided 100,000 jobs in south central LA, generating seven billion dollars in sales annually. The Fashion District has operated since 1995, were renewed for another five years, and they expect to operate for a third five year term.  Contemporary women’s fashion starts here – the designers have their studios, patterns and samples are created here. They may show in NY, but as an example, BeBe’s decision to move their headquarters to LA from San Francisco in 2002 demonstrates the way the growth is proceeding. A major center is the California Mart, with 3 million square feet, half of which is now composed of gift and home furnishing showrooms. Nine buildings in and around 7th and Los Angeles Streets will be converted to residential – the first floor being commercial, with housing above.

75% of the district is devoted to wholesale, while the remaining 25% is a vibrant retail scene in and around Santee Alley. Saturday is their busiest day – it’s worth a visit! Their pedestrian traffic is similar to Third Street Promenade, and their traffic has tripled since 1996. There are no chain stores – only individual retailers (and a number of wholesalers, who will also sell to passers-by). 72% of their budget is dedicated to clean and safe services. There are 29 members of the clean-up team, and they collected over 2,600 TONS of trash in 2002. They removed over 7,700 graffiti tags – none stays up more than one day. There are 22 officers on the Safe Team, usually on bikes in pairs. They responded to over 50,000 calls for assistance in 2002 – a big help to the LAPD. As an aside, they even reunited a number of lost children with their families – these people are busy! Crime rates in the district are comparable to Woodland Hills and Brentwood. Kent’s conclusion – “Our BID helped make all these things happen – it’s amazing what a bunch of property owners can do when they put their minds to it.”

Q&A – RAX ZICKFELD, What has happened to property values? They continue to increase, based on commercial and residential mix of usages. Boundaries? – north, 7th and 5th streets, Main Street, San Pedro and the Ten Freeway.

ELLIOTT TURNER – How are occupancy rates? When they started, there was a 30% vacancy factor – it is now less than 10%. SUSAN ALLEN – What are some examples of what you do? We do things to supplement city services – for instance, we trim the trees every two years, rather than the city average of seven years. PP

MIKE NEWMAN – Do you have a problem with false labels?
Yes, but we have had some success in shutting down copies. LILLIAN KLIEWER – How are you funded? The cost is added to tax bills – this after a vote, plus signatures of 50% or more of the property owners, and ALL must contribute. YOE – What is your breakdown of properties? There are 1000 parcels of land, owned by 550 different people. SHARON RHODES WICKETT – How do you interface with the many homeless in the area? All are treated with dignity, and we recognize that many of them are mentally ill. We try to get them matched up with agencies that can help. We are working at it.  RESTROOMS? This is a big problem, but some have been built on rooftops, with an attendant on duty. This is a real need, and a tough problem. Prexy TED – What are other nearby BIDs? The Jewelry mart, Hollywood Blvd, 3rd Street Promenade, and Old Town in Pasadena, to name a few.

Conclusion – this is a going concern, and it’s fun to go down on a Saturday, in particular. Kent, thanks for telling us your success story.

YOE, Ernie Wolfe