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Valleywide : Extensions Proposed for Business Permits

The Los Angeles City Council today will consider a proposal to give business owners more time to begin using special permits granted by the city, an idea that is part of Mayor Richard Riordan’s push to streamline the city’s approvals process.

The Planning Department’s recommendation concerns so-called conditional-use permits, which allow businesses, individuals and groups special privileges under certain conditions, such as permission to sell alcoholic beverages or to operate a church in a residential zone.

Currently, people have one year to activate a conditional-use permit from the city. They may apply for two one-year extensions of the deadline. The new proposal would give permit holders two years to activate their permits, with the possibility of a single one-year extension.

The two-year deal would cover permits granted by a zoning administrator. Permits granted by he city Planning Commission would have the activation deadline set on a case-by-case basis. Permit holders could then apply for a one-year extension when that deadline runs out.

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The Planning Department believes that the proposed system would simplify the process for the department and for those seeking permits who sometimes must wait for other city approvals before activating the permits, said Bill Speedie, legislative analyst for the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

The idea to give people more time to use their permits has been criticized by at least one homeowner activist.

Tony Lucente, president of the Studio City Residents Assn., said that business owners should be required to reapply for conditional-use permits if they do not activate them within a year, because the surrounding area could change, necessitating different restrictions on the permit. He cited available parking, crime and the concentration of liquor stores in an area as examples of changing factors.

“The proposal doesn’t solve the problem of the slow bureaucratic process, it accommodates it,” Lucente said.

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