A survey of local businesses has found that most would like the city to streamline its review process for building permits and reduce parking requirements for businesses. Many also think the city’s regulation of signs on a storefront is too restrictive.
The online survey was conducted by the city’s Economic Development Department in February and March and was completed by 78 local business owners. Eighty percent of respondents said streamlining the permit application process is extremely important or important. Seventy-eight percent ranked reducing parking requirements for business as extremely important or important and 77% of respondents gave those rankings to reducing the requirement for city permits for certain low impact events such as a store’s sidewalk sale.
Other ideas that got support from a majority of respondents were:
–Streamlining the special event review and approval process.
–Improving the information that the city provides about how to comply with city rules and regulations in operating a business.
–Reducing permit fees required for expanding or remodeling a building or space.
–Reducing fees for special event permits.
–Providing technical assistance to business owners trying to access information about city programs and services.
— Streamlining the city process for reviewing and approving requests from business owners to extend their hours of operation and reducing the fee required to apply for such extensions.
What WeHo’s Economic Development Department Proposes
As a result of the survey, Economic Development is recommending changes in several areas:
— Eliminating or reducing parking requirements for several types of businesses, following policies in place in cities such as Portland, Oakland, Seattle and New York. A report from the Economic Development Department states that “current parking requirements can make it very difficult to open or operate a business in a built out environment like West Hollywood due to the lack of available parking options and associated costs of leasing off-site commercial parking.” The report also notes that “… reducing parking requirements encourage(s) economic development and encourage(s) the use of alternate forms of transportation that can help reduce traffic congestion and lower costs for business owners.”
— Streamlining the process for securing business permits, something the city has been working on as part of its “startup in a day pledge” to make it easier to launch a new business in WeHo. Economic Development is now working to issue simple permits through the online TRAKIT system. In the future, applicants will be able to submit plans online. The department also has implemented faster turnaround times for reviewing and approving business plans — 10 business days for a small project and 20 business days for a medium project. And it intends to reduce the wait time for business owners seeking permits or information at the counter at City Hall to no more than 15 minutes.
— Making it less expensive for a business to extend its operating hours past 2 a.m. by reducing the license fee from $7,404 to $300 and making it easier for the business to apply for the license.
— Reducing development permit fees and sign permit fees. The fee for a new project under 10,000 square feet would go down 15% too $6,855 and that for a major remodel with additional square footage would go down 60% to $1,390.
The fee for permits for “creative” signs such as billboards that would have to be reviewed by the Planning Commission would go down 72% to $997. Permit fees for standard signs that can be authorized by city staff, such as those on the front of a building, would decline 60% to $97.
The city also is recommending changes in its special event permit process, which are outlined in a story here.
The biggest category of respondents to the survey was retailers (23%), followed by restaurants (19$), personal services (6%) and health and fitness facilities (2%). Of the 78 respondents, 26 were in various other categories such as hardware store, digital services, hotel, real estate sales, etc.