Mitch O'Farrell is a candidate in the election for the Los Angeles City Council District 13 seat.
Despite our highly valued major industries such as Entertainment, Healthcare, and Manufacturing, small businesses are the backbone of the economy in Los Angeles and always have been. And yet, seldom have I heard anyone who has opened a small business or wanted to improve or expand their existing business, have a good experience doing so in the City of Los Angeles.
Some examples: A business owner in Glassell Park wanted to improve his existing car wash and was prepared to invest tens of thousands of dollars to make it look better from the street and be more environmentally friendly. After so many hurdles that were put before him by the city, paying an architect to do the design and city-requested modifications, and being given conflicting information from one plan checker to the next, he gave up.
In Hollywood, an auto repair shop wanted to improve his façade, place a roof over a staging area, and improve security and landscaping. But because his business was no longer “compatible” with an updated community plan, his only option was for his business to remain the way it was or shut down, which would have resulted in over ten full time workers being unemployed.
In Atwater Village, a business owner had been told an ordinance allowing shared parking had passed, enabling his new restaurant to proceed with construction, only to learn it hadn’t. Rather than accept the responsibility for their mistake and try to help the business owner, the city took a hands-off approach and stopped returning phone calls. These city-caused delays resulted in tens of thousands of dollars lost. There are several similar stories from men and women who own business that I have worked with over the years in every community in the 13th District.
Across the District, businesses that are operating with conditional use permits that come up for review every 5 years must pay well over $10,000 dollars in city fees, even if the business is widely supported in the community, has never had a complaint, and actually adds to the quality of life in the neighborhood.
Time after time, year after year, politicians commit to reducing the number of steps it takes to get a new business up and running, make it easier for businesses to navigate through the bureaucracy, and simplify the permitting process. And yet, by all accounts, there has been no fundamental improvement in the way the city supports small businesses, the “backbone of the economy in Los Angeles.”
If you are as dissatisfied with this as I am, and want something done about it, as I am committed to doing, I hope you will attend my round table discussion on City Government and Small Businesses. The discussion will take place Monday, July 23, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at Taix Restaurant, 1911 W. Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park, 90026.
There is no fundraising component; only a discussion and I encourage all points of view. I would love to hear your ideas on how we can put government back in the business of actually serving our small businesses. Once on the City Council, I will take a leadership role in reforming the way city government relates to businesses in every phase, from submitting an application, pulling a permit, the inspection and sign off phase, to being awarded a certificate of occupancy.
Great Cities don’t make it nearly impossible to bring neighborhood serving businesses to our communities and grow the local economy. Great Cities play a role in supporting hard working entrepreneurs who often pour their life savings into the dream of owning and operating a small business.
I hope you can join me!
Yours in service,