Thanks for sticking around for Part 2 of how I want West Hollywood to be a business-friendly city again! I’ve talked about what I’d like to do as a city councilor to support existing businesses, but what about new businesses?
Due to the bureaucracy and many costs associated with it, West Hollywood is one of the most difficult cities to open a new business. I spoke with several different residents about the obstacles they faced trying to open a store in our town. I spoke with two of them at length about the challenges they or their clients face when starting a business. One resident and business owner, whom I’ll call Miguel, is an architect and helps his clients create their dream space for their future endeavors.
He has personally gone through the permit application process many times with the city on behalf of his clients. Miguel told me that when he submits the application, paperwork, fees, and anything else required by the city, it goes to a permit technician* and everything from there is coordinated via email. There is no organization. If an email is missed, overlooked, or lost, you’re out of luck. You never know if your email or information has been received until you hear back from the city that they are ready to move on to the next steps or that they are missing something from you. And that’s exactly what happened to Miguel.
For one of his clients, they presented their plans to City Hall and were told everything was handed over and ready to go. About three weeks had passed when the permit technician emailed Miguel and said the city never received his plans. Miguel checked the emails in his outbox to see if he had sent them. And actually he did. The city had received them and sent the confirmation, but it wasn’t properly tracked at City Hall, and the email with the plans sent by Miguel was either ignored or buried among probably hundreds of other emails.
Simply put, this is unacceptable. Unacceptable for any city, but especially a city like West Hollywood where commercial real estate prices are sky high. Currently, the wait time for permits to be approved by the city (forgetting any permit approvals that are required by the county if your facility requires a sign-off from a county-controlled department such as health or industrial waste) can be over 4 months. If you’re lucky enough to find a commercial rental for $10,000/month, you’re already spending $40,000 before you can even open and get started
i make money How can we expect any small business owner to shoulder this type of burden? There needs to be some organization that holds accountable whoever is responsible – the city or the business owner – for the delays in getting permits approved for our businesses to open.
After talking with Miguel and brainstorming with another business owner named Ted, we came up with the idea of creating a “dashboard” on the city’s website to organize all the necessary documents and paperwork for applying for permits and opening a business. We see these boards all the time, they are nothing new or groundbreaking. If you have three items to turn in for something, like your electrical permit, the dashboard will display a simple checklist listing each item, with a “tick” and time stamp when the item was turned in. After all items have been turned in, the dashboard will show that all items have been turned in, the date and time they were turned in, and that it is now the city’s responsibility to move on to the next steps.
Not only will this organize all the necessary elements needed to apply for a permit, but it will also show who is responsible for the next steps and how quickly they actually get there. If it turns out that after all the items are handed in and the city takes a month to get to them, something needs to be fixed at the city level. There may not be enough staff processing permit applications. Maybe city hall officials aren’t acting fast enough. Or maybe business owners really aren’t that good at submitting their required documents on time and the delays are largely their fault. I still can’t tell what the reason is, but with the dashboard we can find out. There will be more transparency and we will be able to hold our city AND our business owners accountable. After all, that’s what government is supposed to do for its citizens – be transparent and accountable.
This reporting will help us identify any bottlenecks in the permitting process, help reduce the wait times new business owners (or established businesses undergoing remodeling, tenant improvement, etc.) face .) and will help drastically reduce the costs associated with opening a new business. This happens in every city, but we want to attract small businesses to West Hollywood, and we can do that by helping to speed up the process.
A lot of these delays happened during covid, so let’s take this opportunity to take advantage of doing things from home if that’s what we’re going to do. Submit everything online and print only the final, job site-ready document. Save time, save money, save resources, save the environment.
That’s what I want to do to make it easier for new businesses to open in West Hollywood, and that’s what I’ll do as a member of your city council.
As always, your feedback, opinions, thoughts and ideas are welcome! If you’re a business owner, if you’ve ever tried to open a business, or just have an idea to make this even better, I want to hear from you! Please contact me by phone or text at (323) 250-0992 or by email at [email protected]
You can check out my website for more of my plans at JordanForWeHo.com. If you like what I’ve said so far, I’d love to be able to count on your vote in November, and I’d really appreciate it if you told others to do the same!
* The Permit Technician is the city official responsible for reviewing all plans for each individual, documenting them and passing them on to the various departments: Building, Planning, Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing.