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How Updated Rules Make Santa Monica An Easier Place To Do Business

Zach Armstrong

Sep 16, 2023

WalletHub Ranked Santa Monica 834th Out Of 1,261 Small-Sized Cities To Start A Business. Now, The City Has Simplified Zoning And Permitting Rules.

Some have taken Santa Monica as a difficult place to do business due to regulations and rules pertaining to space, size, placing signs and other matters.

Years ago, WalletHub ranked Santa Monica 834th out of 1,261 small-sized cities in its Best & Worst Small Cities to Start a Business study. The site used metrics such as business environment, access to resources, business costs, average length of a work week, growth of small businesses in the city, working-age population and corporate taxes.

Now, the city has simplified zoning and permitting rules for businesses so they can open faster and become successful.

“Businesses had asked the City of Santa Monica to reduce time, efficiency, and space barriers to doing business in Santa Monica, and the City responded, making impactful changes to the ease of starting or doing business,” Judy Kruger, president and CEO of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, said in an email. “Each and every permitting or zoning category is now faster and simpler allowing for businesses to open in fewer days and expand their market share.”

Here are some of the ways the city has made it easier for businesses to operate.

There are reduced restrictions on the size and width of tenant spaces. There are now Parklet, Sidewalk Dining and Private Outdoor Permit programs for outdoor business operations such as restaurants, fitness, salons and retail stores. A non-conforming retail or food space vacant for over a year can be reoccupied without new zoning approvals. Signs and sign programs are now approved at staff level.

Restaurants up to 5,000 square feet are allowed to provide off-site alcohol per ABC allowances. No public hearings or appeal processes are required for restaurants providing on-site alcohol within operational conditions. Restrictions on the number of restaurants per block on Main Street have been eliminated.

The following rules are for downtown and third street promenade, which is bounded by 2nd Street, Wilshire Boulevard, 4th Street, and Broadway. More signs are allowed such as upper-level signage, business-adjacent portable “A” frame signs and limited signage on outdoor dining barriers. No minimum parking is required. Entrances and doorways to upper floors are allowed directly onto sidewalks and Promenade.

To do business with the city, there is a new 311 customer service online portal to help answer questions and a new online Virtual Counter Review service for minor projects.

By Zach Armstrong |

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