Opinion: WeHo Small Business Policy – Where Do We Start?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an op-ed written by a candidate in the Nov. 3 election for one of two seats on the West Hollywood City Council. WEHOville has invited each of the nine candidates to submit up to two op-eds to explain to West Hollywood residents his or her stand on local issues .

As I canvass the nearly two square miles that make up West Hollywood, walking and driving around for my campaign, I begin to understand the depth of the empty commercial space crisis in our city. As I write this piece, nationally at least 20% of businesses have closed since the beginning of the pandemic, and economists expect to see that number increase in the coming months as the economy continues to teeter.

Entrepreneurship is the heart of America and we have seen a rise in home-based businesses during the past six months. People are working to create new forms of sustainable income for their families and West Hollywood needs to be prepared to support this shift in business.

Small and mid-size businesses are the backbone of a successful city’s economy, they employ upwards of 50% of Americans and they bring in the highest revenue percentage on the dollar into the community (approximately 58 cents on the dollar). This is why it is increasingly important, especially in a fragile economy, that we encourage and support our Small Business sector in West Hollywood and diversify the revenue stream for our city, as well as encourage a healthy and active storefront district.

Mark Yusupov

Interestingly, according to a recent poll, nearly 48% of small business owners do not plan to open brick and mortar stores and 20% of small businesses that had to close stores during the pandemic do not plan to reopen in the future. We also cannot rely upon retail chain stores to open new locations as they, too, have embraced the online marketplace during the lockdown. So, what does that mean for West Hollywood’s entrepreneurial spirited residents and the future of our “Main Street”?

Diversification of the economy is more critical now than ever to rebalance the city’s economy. WeHo is too heavily dependent on revenue generated by hospitality and nightlife businesses, making us especially exposed to economic downturns when people are not traveling. We must integrate a wider variety of industries and small businesses and provide supportive services to allow them to grow and thrive.

Our city needs creative solutions that will support small businesses, reinvigorate neighborhoods, and provide financial stability for our residents. These solutions could be in the form of:

  • Flex regulations and restrictions to allow creative conversions, restaurants to markets, live/work spaces, etc
  • Incentives for commercial property owners who do not let spaces sit empty
  • Encourage landlords to repurpose larger places into smaller more affordable spaces
  • Cultivate and expand opportunities for businesses owned by women, people of color, and the LGBTQIA+ community
  • Create marketing opportunities through the city to boost awareness of new businesses
  • Provide learning opportunities and support to entrepreneurs starting a small business
  • Reach out to commercial brokers and work together to create incentives for different businesses looking for properties to lease from our commercial inventory
  • Fight on behalf of our small businesses and provide assistance and support in securing state and federal grants
  • Offer free legal assistance to small businesses for negotiating/renegotiating leases, as well as any other outstanding issues/disputes
  • Provide additional support to the WHCC in their work to support West Hollywood businesses by holding insurance carriers accountable for covering the costs of the damages to businesses as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic
  • Push the California State legislature to contemplate a bill to override the virus/pandemic exemption and help negotiate better terms with B2B vendors
  • Prepare for the future by creating a community relief fund for small businesses with a blend of financing options that will preserve economic success for the community of West Hollywood

I can envision commercial spaces that traditionally have only served one large business into a space that several small business retailers can share, where shoppers can peruse a variety of booths with artisanal goods in one location. I also see a way we can repurpose buildings to house trendy new hostels with open spaces for locals and budget-minded tourists to mingle.

I have heard from many people that their home offices are not entirely adequate for their business, so there is an increased need for additional co-working spaces with a variety of options to rent small offices and meeting rooms, which also provide business technology that home offices cannot. I want to incentivize innovative tech start-ups to open their businesses here. I’d like to see our storefronts with boutique retailers and services that will entice residents and visitors to patronize art galleries, health & wellness stores, handmade goods, antique shops, specialty gifts, gourmet food boutiques and bakeries, just to name a few.

I want our residents to be able to make their businesses succeed in West Hollywood and also for residents to reinvest their money into their own

community. I want neighborhoods in West Hollywood to attract visitors by having businesses that reflect our character and support the community. We may not know exactly when the post-pandemic economic recovery will begin, but we can take this time to learn how business will be conducted in the new normal and be prepared to welcome new business opportunities of all sizes into West Hollywood.

Please, vote for Mark Farhad Yusupov for West Hollywood City Council. Together we can make a difference in our community! If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact me by phone at (323) 284-5979, or by e-mail at info@markyusupov.com or follow me on social media.

For more about me watch: https://youtu.be/frODTh9kc3Y

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branden
branden
1 month ago

He has a good idea to help boost the sagging economy. However, he should also recommend for the community to vote out the current city council and replace them with moderates who will take a balanced approach to economic success.

Adding more liquor stores, pot shops, sex shops, strip bars, hip hop clubs are not the answer to restart the economy in our neighborhood.

JD2
JD2
1 month ago
Reply to  branden

Yes! ENOUGH of the pot shops and night clubs. Someone is proposing a new night club for the old Café D’Etoile space. We do not need another night club! If this project gets approved the new use will go with the land -meaning that this property will always be able to be a nightclub if approved. You can sign the petition to voice your opposition for yet another night club opening in West Hollywood! We need to diversify our commercial spaces!
http://chng.it/ZSrgTCJJ

John Daniel Harrington-Tyrell
John Daniel Harrington-Tyrell
1 month ago

Our City is paralyzed by complacency with any type of innovation, when you scratch the surface you mostly get negative reactions. We need real open minded and honest discourse not status quo responses.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago

There has been an ongoing disconnect at City Hall regarding commercial real estate in general and retail in particular. The City cannot shake its’ embrace of economic policies that harken back to the 1980s and 1990s that don’t take into account e-commerce. Our mixed use requirements are dated and the City seems stumped when new developments cannot fill their retail spaces. I wish the incumbents could be as articulate as Mr. Yusupov in regard to a new vision for our commercial streets. This article should be required reading for the Planning Commission and Staff.

Jay
Jay
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Amen Steve!

Thank you as always for your knowledgeable, historical perspective on West Hollywood civic concerns.

JF1
JF1
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Yes!

WeHo Poster
WeHo Poster
1 month ago

The first two proposals, weakening regulations and tax incentives, betray a deep unseriousness of this candidate. Next!

Ecoman
Ecoman
1 month ago

Candidate Yusupov, It appears that you have not looked at the City of West Hollywood’s budget. When you state that: “Small and mid-size businesses are the backbone of a successful city’s economy, they employ upwards of 50% of Americans and they bring in the highest revenue percentage on the dollar into the community (approximately 58 cents on the dollar)” You mislead the public. In West Hollywood, Small Businesses (which I greatly admire) bring in 16% of the City’s revenue. However, Transient Occupancy Tax (Hotel Taxes) bring in 17% of West Hollywood’s revenue. Both are down right now because of the… Read more »

Matti
Matti
1 month ago
Reply to  Ecoman

But that was his point. The city relies too much on this source of revenue. His argument is that successful cities in general have small and mid-sized businesses as their backbone. This may not currently be the case for West Hollywood, but the statement is not misleading.

hifi5000
hifi5000
1 month ago

A concept that can be adopted by businesses is the antique shop where several tenants selling their wares such as glass lamps,old telephones and radios,small appliances and art could rent a a designated space. That space could range from 80 to 300 square feet depending on what the tenant is selling.Instead of having to open a dedicated store of their own,they could rent a space from the building owner.They won’t have to worry about building maintenance,property taxes,etc associated with owning a brick-and-mortar building. Large spaces that once held a market or restaurant can be subdivided into these small spaces.Tenants who… Read more »

Jay
Jay
1 month ago
Reply to  hifi5000

Agreed hifi5000- there used to be antique halls on and near Robertson, in the Valley, and in Santa Monica that I enjoyed patronizing.

With demand for larger spaces as well as rental rates clearly set to trend down, hopefully this format can be resurrected.

Jay
Jay
1 month ago

Candidate Yusupov- I applaud your taking advantage of this forum to share your concern for our decimated small businesses and empty buildings and to propose some creative responses. I have commented previously in support of your desire to expand live/work options, which bring commercial neighborhoods to life at all hours and reduce the carbon footprint. Having multiple vendors in the same large space as you suggest also makes sense- whether that’s artists, vintage stalls, food halls, or just co-working spaces. There are synergistic benefits and efficiencies from such a format. These are clearly some of the key paths forward for… Read more »

Mark Yusupov
Mark Yusupov
1 month ago
Reply to  Jay

Thank you, Jay, and all who commented on my article. As for vacancy tax, when I looked at other cities that have tried to implement such a measure, I couldn’t find a clear example where it had successfully achieved what it’s advocated for aiming for. What I am finding is that the results were mixed.

So maybe it possible in some form and depending on the type of commercial property, but needs further studying.
I’m happy to discuss this further. Thanks.

Jay
Jay
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Yusupov

Hi Mark-

Thank you for taking the time to respond. I appreciate your open mindedness and the research you have already done regarding a vacancy tax.

As with others here, I am impressed with your out of the box yet practical suggestions, as well as your engagement. You have earned my vote!

Mark Yusupov
Mark Yusupov
1 month ago
Reply to  Jay

Thank you, Jay!