PBID board vets share insights

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Richard Berg and Elizabeth Mattson wind up nine years on the Property-Based Improvement District Board of Directors this month.  Berg, a former professor at Santa Clara University who owns several properties in SoFA, and Mattson, a 20-year Paseo Plaza resident who finds funding for programs at Stanford, have contributed to the PBID since its start in 2007.

“When we first began, I was a PBID skeptic,” said Berg.  “I thought the government should be doing the work.  But we stepped up and have done a terrific job.”

The PBID formed when a majority of property owners agreed to pay a premium for clean, safe and beautification services.  Mattson recalled the basic premise:  “When I’m in other cities, I’m looking at its cleanliness first and then some sort of beautification: statues, flowers, architecture or something else,” she said. “That’s what makes a city special.  If they have those things, then I feel safe. If it isn’t so clean, I don’t feel so safe.”

Berg, who had served the previous eight years on the Business Improvement District board, and Mattson, a founding member of the San Jose Downtown Residents’ Association, agreed to join PBID President Chuck Hammers, a city and redevelopment representative and seven other private property owner representatives on the 11-member board.

“I tried to represent residents, but not any one group, rather the everyman,” Mattson said of her role on the board.

The board dug in, focusing at first on Groundwerx cleaning and ambassador services, and then expanding into tree-trimming, beautification and business development operations.

“We take it seriously, make sure every district gets its share and we debate everything, right down to the details of the budget,” Berg said.

“Whatever idea is brought up is discussed, massaged and made better,” Mattson added. “Everybody contributes and there’s very little negativity.”

Mattson believes the PBID upped its value with two new programs:

u  A business development program designed to recruit and retain businesses and simplify permitting processes with local government, and;

u  Partnerships with the Downtown Streets Team and PATH that engage homeless individuals.

Both Mattson and Berg attributed the overall success to the property owners as well as the PBID and Groundwerx staff behind the scenes.

“I’ve been on lots of boards, but this one made the most difference,” Berg said.  “Everyone is intent on making downtown a better place.  The work is efficient and high-quality.”

Both said they would miss serving on the board.

“But I won’t miss the early morning drive from Santa Cruz for the meetings,” Berg smiled.