IRVINE — City Council members last week unanimously approved a set of business-friendly initiatives.
Some of the initiatives, which encourage local purchases, will be implemented in the coming weeks, while others were sent back to city staff for review.
The council was presented with 15 initiatives intended to stimulate local business growth and consumer spending, including lowering fees and a cell phone application, at a total cost of $373,000, according to the staff report.
The programs varied in lifetimes from three months to no specified end date.
"Many of our local businesses are doing better, but they are still hesitant to expand their operations or hire employees," said Tallia Hart, president and chief executive of the Irvine Chamber of Commerce. "These business-friendly initiatives will arm business owners with better confidence to move forward on those ideas."
However, two of the items were sent back to city staff for further review before coming back to the council for a vote in one month, while three other items were sent back with an unspecified return date.
"We should be looking not only at tools to attract businesses and tools to offset costs to businesses but ways to generate revenue in a way, in order to ensure that whatever we undertake is sustainable," Mayor Pro Tem Beth Krom said. "The truth is, three months is nice to do something, but my guess is that it's going to be a little while, for example, before the automobile industry is fully back."
One of the most controversial items discussed was the "You Auto Buy Irvine" program in which car buyers would be given a $100 or $300 Irvine Spectrum gift card for spending $10,000 or $30,000, respectively, when buying a car from a city auto retailer.
"I really appreciate that you're doing this for us," said Sam Klein, general manager of the Irvine Auto Center Nissan dealership. "The stores make out, the dealers make out and you make out. There's more tax dollars, so it's a great stimulus for all of us."
However, Councilman Larry Agran said that he didn't see how the incentive "pencils out" for the city and described the program as a "complicated coupon thing."
"I see what is in this for the auto dealers, I see what is in it by way of a subsidy for the Irvine Co., but what's in it for us?" Agran asked.
The program was sent back further development.
Agran also expressed concern that the city was taking the lead in several of the initiatives, while the initiatives should actually be implemented as a partnership with the Irvine Chamber of Commerce, which was carried over as a stipulation on several of the items in the vote.
Items passed for implementation on schedule as listed in the city staff report:
•Residential and Commercial Development Fee Deferral Program: From May 2011 to May 2012, the ordinance will defer some development impact fees, charges and in-lieu fees from the time the permit is issued to one year later or until final inspection of a Certificate of Occupancy. The cost of the program is the loss of 2.5% interest accrued over the one-year period.
Permit Fee Waiver for Solar Photovoltaic Systems: From May 2011 to May 2012, the program will waive plan check and building inspection fees for one year for commercial and residential projects. A public hearing will be scheduled in April. The estimated amount of total fees waived is $28,000.
Local Vendor Preference Policy for City Goods Procurement: Beginning in June, the program will create a 5% discount for local business vendors and cap at $2,000 per procurement. The program requires that an ordinance be created and adopted in May. Based on 2010 figures, the city could spend $15,000 on the program, although an exact estimate is not yet available.
Consultant Team Program: Until June 2012, the program will solicit Requests for Proposals for professional service categories annually in addition to the already existing triennial Requests for Proposals.
The cost is $3,000 to publish announcements.
Online Business License Applications: Beginning in the fall, new businesses can submit and complete applications though the city's website.
More information can be found on the city's website or http://www.irvinequickrecords.com/sirepub/cache/2/52jjvuzsndhpyy452lxbataa/1207834203112011124206561.PDF.