Strong Community Involvement Defeats Pilsen SSA Tax

Wednesday June 05 2013

SSA Supporters Withdraw Proposal, Acknowledge Flaws

Community Vows to Put Its Own Development Priorities Forward

The proposal for a new Special Service Area in Pilsen was withdrawn Thursday in the face of overwhelming community opposition. The SSA required the assessment of a new tax to residents and businesses in most of the neighborhood, a
t a time of high economic stress in a gentrifying community. The Resurrection Project and SSA organizers acknowledged the community had not been properly informed about the project.

“Stopping this terrible idea is a huge victory for Pilsen’s people,” said Pilsen Alliance board member Vicky Lugo. “There are many things our community needs to make it better, but a new tax is not one of them.”

An SSA is a city program by which a tax is assessed in a geographic area in order to pay for services not available in that area. SSA funds are generally used in commercial zones for cosmetic projects such as landscaping or additional garbage collection. SSA opponents argued that an extra tax to pay for such items was uncalled for in Pilsen, particularly after 10,000 residents have left the neighborhood in the last 10 years due to economic pressures and the disappearance of affordable housing units.

In a statement, the SSA Advisory Committee “decided more education was needed regarding the process”.

“Therefore, the proposed SSA Application is respectively being withdrawn,” the statement read. “No application is being submitted.”

The statement was received ahead of a strategy meeting planned for 6 PM by SSA opponents. More than 80 people at the meeting cheered when they heard the news. Several participants expressed astonishment at how quickly the SSA proposal had folded, only one week since its first mandatory public test.

The SSA proposal had the first of two mandatory public meetings May 23. After a detailed two hour presentation by organizers, the audience questioned how a process started months in advance was being introduced to the community only three weeks before submittal. The community would have then had to row against the current to try to stop the process. The funds collected in the SSA were to be administered by The Resurrection Project with a committee sanctioned by Ald. Danny Solis. Pilsen’s top property owner John Podmajersky had been given prior access to the SSA map and had opted not to pay.

“What we have accomplished today is very important,” Pilsen business owner Enrique Garza said at the meeting yesterday when the SSA withdrawal was announced. “This needs to help us be more on top of what goes on in our neighborhood.”

Pilsen Alliance and SSA opponents agreed to open a true grassroots dialogue regarding investment and development in the Pilsen. The process to set priorities and chart a way forward will be launched with a public meeting June 13 at 6 PM at the Rudy Lozano Library, 1805 S Loomis St.