Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is a Maintenance Assessment District?
A legal mechanism by which property owners can vote to assess themselves to pay and receive services above-and-beyond what the City normally provides. This above-and-beyond service level is called a “special benefit.” What the City normally provides is called the general benefit.
General benefit is the minimum standard of service the city already provides for our streets, medians, and open space. The city will not support maintenance or enhancements beyond the minimum maintenance standards established prior to 1970’s. Basically, what we see is what we get in regards to quality of service from the city. If we want enhanced services, we have to assess ourselves.
Why can’t the City improve our Median landscape?
The City provides the same level of service to all the communities. If the City increases the level of maintenance standard in one community then they will have to provide the same level to the rest of the communities. Although the City cannot afford the increase, they do allow communities to establish maintenance assessment districts to support the each community’s request for improvements.
What happens to the money the city already spends on our maintenance if we establish a maintenance assessment district?
Under the maintenance assessment district, our community receives the money the City is required to spend in our community. So our assessment is added to the existing maintenance funds.
How does a maintenance assessment district benefit our community?
- Enhanced maintenance and beautification of street medians, public right of ways (10ft in from the sidewalk), raw open space, canyons, parks, sidewalks, and any other projects we want to see in Del Cerro.
- The City establishes a line item in the city budget for Del Cerro, combining the current maintenance money designated for Del Cerro medians and open space from the city and the additional assessment amount.
- By law, the money in Del Cerro maintenance district line item in the city budget cannot be spent outside of Del Cerro (It is our money)
- The Del Cerro community has local control of the Del Cerro maintenance budget and projects.
- With the city and our assessment money, we are able to hire contractors (privatized city services). If they don’t perform to our standards, we can replace them.
- Get more Bang for the Buck through privatization – Example: Currently the city spends $4000 per acre to maintain parkland. With the same amount of money in a maintenance assessment district, we can double the quality of service for the same price. i.e. more mowing, more fertilizer, and care of the grass.
Who else has implemented this plan?
Sixty-three neighborhoods in the City of San Diego have established M.A.D. including Tierrasanta, Talmadge, Mira Mesa, and Scripps Ranch. Scripps Ranch, Tierrasanta, and Downtown are the oldest maintenance assessment districts in San Diego, established in 1971. Currently La Jolla is establishing a maintenance assessment district.
What are the Steps to establish a Maintenance Assessment District?
- Establish a Formation Committee (Friends of Del Cerro)
- Establish a preliminary boundaries and (Special Benefits) services
- Conduct a Community Survey
- Hold a Public Meeting
- Determine what added enhancements and beautification we want in Del Cerro
- Draft Feasibility Study
- City will conduct an Engineering Assessment Report to determine the cost of the special benefits per property owner
- Petition the community – Need 30 percent (850 signatures) of property owners (only one signature per property).
- Mail in Ballot. Property owners will have 54 days to mail in their ballots. Need 50% plus 1 of the voting property owners to vote in favor of the maintenance assessment district for approval.
What is the estimated cost?
Estimating $7.5 – $12 per month per property owner.
Who pays for the Engineer Assessment?
The City has money designated to pay for the Engineer Assessment report for three communities a year.
Shouldn’t the City be doing this?
No, the city is responsible for the minimum standard of service which they are currently providing. If we as a community want to raise the standard, we must assess ourselves to provide the better service.
Background: Prior to the early 1970’s, the City had a program of landscaping street medians on major thoroughfares with plants that required a low level of maintenance to minimize the need to trim trees, fertilize and weed.
The City spends only 13 cents per square foot of median space, $4000 per acre for parks, and $25 per acre for open space each year per community. The city will not spend any more then the allocated amount to improve our community.
The State, County, and City are all talking about raising taxes, is this a good time to assess the community?
The State, County, and City need to either cut services or/and raise taxes. In any case, the beautification of the Del Cerro community will not improve. The difference between the State, County, and City and our assessment is every dollar we assess ourselves goes directly back into our community. We are investing in our community and our property. By law, the money cannot be spent outside our district.
What will prevent the projects to grow in the maintenance assessment district, which will cause us to have to pay more later?
Only projects identified in the Master Plan can be worked on. The Master Plan is voted on by the community. If down the road the community wants to expand the maintenance assessment district to include other projects, then it needs to go before the community for a vote again.
Can the initial cost go up?
Yes, it can go up at the cost of inflation. However, the Del Cerro Maintenance Assessment District Committee has to vote on it. They can choose not to increase the assessment. Also, the committee cannot adjust the assessment to cost of living adjustment if there is a minimum of one year’s maintenance money in reserves.
How do people vote on the Maintenance Assessment District?
The City will mail out ballots to all the property owners. The property owners have 45 days to vote via mail.
Does the City vote?
The City has the right to vote by law; however, they have remained neutral in the past.
Why would the government vote?
The federal, state, and local governments realize they cannot provide the higher level of service certain communities expect so they vote yes. The reason why they cannot provide the higher level of service is because they will have to provide the same higher level of service to the rest of the communities and the City does not have the money to do it.
Why is it important to improve our community?
Improved landscaped medians and right of ways improves the quality of life in the community which in turn increases property values. Del Cerro is over 60 years old. Side note, police have agreed if we do not give the community a face lift, over time it will encourage criminals to visit our neighborhood because it looks like we don’t care.
Can the community be sued under a maintenance assessment district?
No – we are paying for higher level of service, but the City is still 100% liable. So if someone trips on a side walk in front of your house, the city is responsible, not the community. Tierrasanta, Downtown, and Scripps Ranch are the oldest maintenance assessment districts in City of San Diego. They were formed in 1971. There are over 96 years of maintenance assessment district and not a single law suite attempted against the community.
How can we guarantee that more projects/maintenance areas will be added to the Master Plan?
By law, a maintenance assessment district can perform ONLY the tasked spelled out in the Master Plan which is on the ballot.
How much can the cost go up each year?
The increase of cost of the maintenance assessment district is determined by the community each year. We have the option to keep the level the same or increase it by the rate of inflation of San Diego (average 2.1 percent during the past 15 years). At $12 per month, if we increased it each year at the average cost of inflation, the cost per month in 30 years would be $14.08 per month. This is assuming we would increase it each year. However, we can NOT increase it with the cost of inflation if the maintenance assessment district has 1 year’s maintenance cost in savings.
How can we guarantee that the city will continue to give the same amount of money to our maintenance after the maintenance assessment district is formed?
The City is contractually bounded to provide the cost to the maintenance assessment district for the minimum standard determined by the Engineer Assessment Report.
Can’t we just get grants from the City and other sources to pay for our improvements?
Absolutely! However, neither the city nor other organizations are willing to give money to a project unless there is a maintenance assessment district established. The reason is the maintenance assessment district will be able to maintain the investment given.
If the Maintenance Assessment District is passed, how do the property owners pay for the assessment?
The maintenance assessment is added to each property owners property tax bill.
Where can I get more information?
City of San Diego website: Maintenance Assessment Districts