Bureau of Engineering works with Councilmember Huizar on creating affordable, sensible, and less time-consuming permitting process for sidewalk dining in Historic Core & throughout City
(LOS ANGELES) Nov. 6, 2013 – The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to support a pilot program introduced by Councilmember José Huizar to assist businesses in Downtown’s Historic Core by expediting the process for obtaining sidewalk dining permits. Some of the pilot project’s key provisions will also be utilized for sidewalk dining permit applications citywide.
Councilmember Huizar introduced a motion in March calling on the pilot for Downtown Los Angeles after a number of area businesses were cited for violations – some of whom thought their permits were already in compliance. Huizar’s motion called for a moratorium on citations while his office worked with the Bureau of Engineering (BOE), which handles the permits, to come up with a better system.
The pilot program will use an appointment model, allowing BOE to issue an R-permit over-the-counter on the same day without a site visit. This new program will greatly reduce the time and cost it takes to get a permit and offers a model that can be fully expanded throughout the entire City.
“Our Sidewalk Dining pilot program is about assisting local businesses in removing unnecessary roadblocks to their success,” said Councilmember Huizar. “I want to thank the BOE for working with my office in crafting this program, which will streamline our city processes, cost less time and money and help businesses to grow and prosper. This pilot represents a significant change in approach for the City and we need this common-sense, business-friendly permitting process to be expanded completely throughout the City.”
Currently, obtaining a sidewalk dining R permit can take up to a year and cost $1,926, or $6,000 if a report from the Board of Public Works is required. The pilot program will reduce the permit fee in the pilot area to about $578.
For city permits outside the pilot zone, the process will also be expedited through the over-the-counter approval model. Cost will remain the same for now outside the pilot ($1,926), but the overall goal is to hear back in six months on ways to fully expand the program citywide, including looking at lowering the associated fees.
Under the old system, BOE was required to conduct a field investigation of a property before a sidewalk dining permit could be issued. This led to delays with staff shortages at BOE, which created a backlog and frustrated business owners.
The pilot program will support one Civil Engineering Associate II position with the responsibility of processing Sidewalk Dining R-Permits Citywide.
Since the required field investigation will be eliminated from the process, all citywide applicants will be allowed to submit sketches and measurements for placements and encroachments using Google Earth and other place-finding technology in order to ensure accuracy. There will also be a revised checklist for applicants regarding a standard set of conditions.
The notification period is eliminated from the process as well by having all complaints from adjacent properties and Neighborhood Councils directed to the City Council for resolution. If a resolution cannot be reached within 30 days, the R-permit would be revoked or escalated to a Tier-3 permit, which have more followup requirements and processes.
The Public Works Commission will ratify the City Council's vote sometime soon. Once implemented, BOE is expected to report back in six months to discuss the implementation of the pilot project and the feasibility of expanding cost reductions Citywide.
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