WeHo’s plan to boost small businesses in the city

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Streamlining the permit process and introducing new spaces to reach customers are part of City Hall’s strategy to jumpstart the homegrown economy

West Hollywood will begin testing a range of novel ideas to stimulate the growth of small business in the city.

City Council on Monday approved the Small Business Initiatives Implementation Plan, which was prepared by City Hall in response to recommendations from the WeHo Chamber of Commerce and previous directives by Council.

The report notes the influx of larger businesses into WeHo has created challenges for the city’s smaller, legacy and start-up businesses. In 2016, City Council saw the need for local government intervention to support small businesses, particularly in areas such as zoning, permitting, and licensing. Some of the progress made in the years since include reduced parking requirements for small businesses, streamlined alcohol licensing processes, the re-establishment of the Economic Development Department, and the implementation of various urban design solutions and business assistance programs.

The Small Business Initiatives Implementation Plan, split into three phases over the next three years, begins with a set of proposals for “actions currently underway or achievable with existing resources.” Phases Two and Three comprise the longer-term projects and those requiring additional funds. 

These are the Phase One initiatives:

Activating new retail spaces

This directive seeks to turn areas like display showcase windows into self-contained leasable retail spaces. These are entirely on private property and are designed to accommodate customers off of the public right-of-way.

  • SOURCE: Chamber of Commerce (Initiative 1)
  • ACTION: Create guidelines for Shallow Depth Liner Retail and Display Showcase Windows
  • GOAL/MEASURES: Provide inexpensive and efficient spaces to activate frontages without the requirement of restrooms; aim to create 2 new spaces per year
  • ESTIMATED TIMEFRAME: June 2024

Allowing new types of signage

This will temporarily allow additional creative sign types on a case-by-case basis to test new potential sign regulations; Guide to use of Blade Signs – Staff will create a guide explaining how business owners can get more visibility using blade signs, and making it easier to process these applications.

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  • SOURCE: Chamber of Commerce (Initiative 2)
  • ACTION: Pilot Program for new sign types including blade signs
  • GOAL/MEASURES: Encourage interesting and creative ways to bring attention to business locations; Assist 10 businesses with new signs per year
  • ESTIMATED TIMEFRAME: June 2024

Multiple uses for single storefronts

It’s becoming more popular to mix uses and sometimes business owners in a single lease space. This is not prohibited in West Hollywood but can be made easier with some minor changes in practice.

  • SOURCE: Chamber of Commerce (Initiative 2)
  • ACTION: Amend Section 19.36.030 regarding accessory uses to make it easy to combine multiple land uses in one storefront
  • GOAL/MEASURES: Provide additional income opportunities; Increase the amount of “combination” options
  • ESTIMATED TIMEFRAME: June 2024

Filling gaps in the market

The City’s economic study will identify the businesses that are missing within the City so that outreach can be done to attract these businesses.

  • SOURCE: Chamber of Commerce (Initiative 2)
  • ACTION: Identify “gap” businesses that are missing in the city and ways to attract those businesses to targeted areas
  • GOAL/MEASURES: Fill vacancies with a complimentary assortment of desirable and necessary business services; Find space for 2 gap businesses per year
  • ESTIMATED TIMEFRAME: November 2023 to August 2024

Guidance for small businesses

Staff in the Business Development Division assist applicants navigating the permitting process. The staff does not advise an applicant in their decision-making but can provide general information about the process and make introductions planning building & safety and engineering.

  • SOURCE: Chamber of Commerce (Initiative 3)
  • ACTION: Assist applicants in navigating the permitting process
  • GOAL/MEASURES: Enhance services the City can provide to get businesses up and open
  • ESTIMATED TIMEFRAME: Ongoing

Support for ‘Shop Local’ events

This is a continuation of a long-time practice of supporting Chamber and BID events aimed at bringing shoppers to local stores.

  • SOURCE: Chamber of Commerce (Initiative 2)
  • ACTION: Work with the BIDs and Economic Development Department to market businesses by holding events
  • GOAL/MEASURES: Increase visibility and sales for local businesses; Support 2 events per year
  • ESTIMATED TIMEFRAME: Ongoing (Past examples: Small business Saturday, Eat Drink week, Dine LA, Sidewalk health and wellness fair)

Pop-up shop program

These are the following guidelines that will be addressed in this program.

  1. Define a pop-up as a use occupying an existing vacant space suitable for the use without any construction;
  2. Allow property owner or master entity to hold permits and consider a waived permit process if use does not change and space is permitted in compliance with Code;
  3. Determine allowable “types” of pop-ups (Special events / Product launches / Startups / Incubators);
  4. Encourage small “incubator” type businesses that are successful to relocate into permanent, long-term leases;
  5. Foster temporary / seasonal programs – (Umbrella and serial events ;
  6. Suggest activating soon to be renovated spaces prior to demo;
  7. Develop time limits (6 month maximum?) and temporary occupancy permit process for short-term pop-ups
  8. Include enforcement measures
  • SOURCE: Chamber of Commerce (Initiative 2)
  • GOAL/MEASURES: Activate vacant spaces; Permit 2 new formats per year
  • ESTIMATED TIMEFRAME: March 2024

‘Green’ business program

A vendor has been selected to establish this program, conduct outreach, and provide technical assistance.

  • SOURCE: Chamber of Commerce (Initiative 3)
  • ACTION: Establish a Green Business Program that promotes sustainable practices such as energy
    efficiency and recognizes green businesses in the City. 
  • GOAL/MEASURES: Award a contract to create a Green Business Program, establish Program and assist up to 10 businesses with the program
  • ESTIMATED TIMEFRAME: December 2024

‘Special Retail’ development

Expand use of “Specialty Retail” definition – The Director of Community Development has the authority to interpret land uses in the Zoning Code. This action puts a framework around that.

  • SOURCE: Chamber of Commerce (Initiative 3)
  • ACTION: Utilize the Director’s interpretation for “Specialty Retail” to expand opportunities
  • GOAL/MEASURES: Accommodate more businesses that are delivering goods and services in and “out of the box” way
  • ESTIMATED TIMEFRAME: January 2024

Review process for ongoing development projects

The City will undertake a reboot of the review process for all development projects after the first of the year. Small business permitting will be a subset of interest under the umbrella of this project.

  • SOURCE: Staff
  • ACTION: Reboot the review process for all development projects
  • GOAL/MEASURES: Create certainty in the process for an applicant; This is a multi-year effort; Metrics will be provided in Phase Two
  • ESTIMATED TIMEFRAME: January 2024 and ongoing

Cutting red tape in permitting process

Prepare additional code changes to reduce permitting and licensing process for business-related activities – This effort will be focused on current zoning permit requirements for business activities and operations. Where possible, ministerial permits will replace discretionary ones in the zoning ordinance. If necessary and when appropriate, operational considerations will be placed in the business license ordinance.

  • SOURCE: Staff
  • ACTION: Prepare additional code changes to reduce permitting and licensing process for businessrelated activities
  • GOAL/MEASURES: Create more ministerial options and fewer discretionary requirements for routine and desirable activities (such as on-site alcohol)
  • ESTIMATED TIMEFRAME: December 2024

Better online permit tracking

The City is nearing implementation of a new system that will provide a host of benefits to applicants that are not currently available.

  • SOURCE: Chamber of Commerce (Initiative 3)
  • ACTION: Improve online application and tracking process with enhanced communication materials
  • GOAL/MEASURES: Reduce time required to process permits, plan review, and inspections
  • ESTIMATED TIMEFRAME: March 2024

L.A. Fire Department involvement in permitting process

The County Fire staff does not currently participate in interdepartmental coordination efforts regarding permit processing. This initiative supports ongoing efforts to open up lines of cooperation and communication with the Fire Marshal and Fire Inspection services.

  • SOURCE: Chamber of Commerce (Initiative 3)
  • ACTION: Engage County Fire in interdepartmental coordination efforts for permit processing
  • GOAL/MEASURES: Align Fire Department reviews with City’s timelines and goals
  • ESTIMATED TIMEFRAME: Ongoing
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Missed the Boat
Missed the Boat
3 months ago

Many nearby communities from Pasadena to Manhattan Beach and Santa Monica promote and have maintained thriving shopping communities magnifying their local flavor. How did West Hollywood so badly miss the boat on this?

Missed the Boat
Missed the Boat
3 months ago

Comment in regard to SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY.

Joshua88
Joshua88
3 months ago

These seem like wonderful ideas to revitalize our small business community.
Can think of several gaps.
Not hard to do.

Last edited 3 months ago by Joshua88
Jim Nasium
Jim Nasium
3 months ago

“without the requirement of restrooms” So, will store employees working 8 hour shifts need to use Plummer Park’s 24 hour public restroom?

Cy Husain
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Nasium

And if the chamber of commerce horrors gets their way, slavery would be reinstated and we would all be working from sun up to sun down.😱

Joshua88
Joshua88
3 months ago
Reply to  Cy Husain

After reading this, my initial concern was mitigated by the fact that after thinking about it for a second,I realized the store where the window shops would be- already HAVE bathrooms.

Last edited 3 months ago by Joshua88
Cy Husain
3 months ago
Reply to  Joshua88

They have windows too and, the streets have rocks.

Cy Husain
3 months ago

Maybe we should work with City Hall on a strategy to jump start a truly homegrown and fair economy where the businesses are transformed into Public Co-ops where the employees own and control the means of production ❗ 👏🏽 West Hollywood workers should be like the German Middle Class working no more than 32 hrs/wk at full pay with healthcare & benefits. Like in Germany there should be a mandate that workers make up 50% of the corporate board and can FIRE the CEO.

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