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Parker: Great partnerships keep Gaslamp association thriving

Jimmy Parker has been the executive director of the Gaslamp Quarter Association since 2004.

Q: What is the Gaslamp Quarter Association and what does it do?

A: The Gaslamp Quarter Association is the nonprofit business association that represents the 400-plus businesses located in downtown San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. The list of what we do is too long to enumerate here and it changes based on the needs of the individual business owners and the goals of the board of directors. The short answer is we are the collective voice of the area, chief liaison to public safety officials, advocate for the preservation of the historic architecture, promoter of the brand, educator of the membership, facilitator of community governance and number one cheerleader for the neighborhood.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges the GQA faces for 2013? For BID's in general?

A: The challenges we face are the same every year; to keep the brand fresh and vibrant, the district safe and inviting and the membership informed and engaged. These challenges are really just opportunities to better the district and the Association. We enjoy the skills and passions of a dedicated volunteer board of directors that constantly look to raise the bar in every aspect of our mission. We are proud of the fact that our board turns over and we have a good mix of long term and newly elected leadership that grounds our values, but keeps our approach new and innovative.

Q: As a nonprofit, how and where do you get funding?

A: We are a 501(c)6 nonprofit organization that is not a charity like most people think of when they hear nonprofit. We do not receive donations, rather we receive funding in several ways; a business assessment is paid by every licensed business located within the district, grants, but the largest part of our income is fundraising through events. We also leverage our budget to achieve many of our marketing and promotional value through co-operative initiatives that the individual business members support directly.

Q: How does a BID get created? Are they all the same?

A: I'll answer that in reverse. Each BID is as unique as the neighbor they reside. The values, challenges and opportunities frame the structure and goals of each organization. We all have certain governance and fiduciary responsibilities required by our government oversight agreements that allow us to accept and expend the assessments, but it is the assessed businesses that determine the scope of work. The basic process in BID creation is to start with your neighbors to agree on a reason to work together for the mutual success of all. That evolves into a forum to recruit and educate other neighborhood business owners to develop a consensus on what the BID should be created to achieve. The rest is procedural based on the local municipality requirements. The most important factor in the process is setting achievable goals that have recognizable results to justify the additional fee the businesses are voting to pay every year. Those modest successes grow into great achievements as the organization develops into a true community catalyst.

Q: What about being in a national historic district makes GQA's job different from other BIDs?

A: I am not intimately familiar with other districts, but the GQA does have a greater responsibility to educate the businesses on the value of the historic architecture that exists within the district. We are the organizational support to facilitate community input on all improvements within the district while assisting the new business owner with navigating the government process. Through that same process we also work with developers and the City departments to have our more contemporary projects strive to compliment the historic fabric of the district through inspired design versus historic caricature.

Q: What is one thing the GQA is responsible for that most people would not know?

A: Like an NFL quarterback, we receive far too much credit and blame for what happens in the Gaslamp Quarter. To manage a district like the Gaslamp, it takes great partnerships with all of the players in the community. The short list involves the GQA board of directors, City of San Diego, SD Police, SD Fire, Downtown San Diego Partnership, Civic San Diego, San Diego Padres, Westfield Horton Plaza, The San Diego Convention Center, The San Diego Tourism Authority, the County of San Diego, Downtown Residents Group, SANDAG, MTS, NCTS, The Little Italy Association, Civic San Diego, East Village Association and most of all the business owners within and surrounding the Gaslamp Quarter. I know that I have left so many more off this list as well as many specific individuals because there isn't enough space to mention them all. Sufficed to say, it takes a cooperative effort to make a neighborhood that annually hosts over 8 million visitors and generate millions in sales and transient occupancy taxes for the City of San Diego.

For more interaction with Jimmy, reach him at jimmy@gaslamp.org.

The San Diego Museum Council will host its 24th annual Museum Month in February, bringing half-off admissions at 42 San Diego area museums.

There are some major exhibition launches coinciding with Museum Month, including "Ripley's Believe It Or Not" at the San Diego Air & Space Museum and "Dr. Entomo's Palace of Exotic Wonders" at The San Diego National History Museum.

For a full list of participating museums, visit www.sandiegomuseumcouncil.org



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