Looking at planning processes and fees; touring the East Bay
SANTA ROSA -- A list of viable business enhancing proposals, that could help jump start the local Santa Rosa economy and be implemented quickly, is being actively considered by the Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Competitiveness.
Next meeting of the Task Force on Economic Competitiveness
Tuesday, June 14, 7:30 a.m.
Finley Community Center, 2060 West College Ave., Santa Rosa
task force website
While this 12-member advisory group does not have the authority to change city policies, its updates and reports are included in the Economic Development Quarterly Report to the City Council and can appear on the emerging issues list prepared for council members.
Task force recommendations can also be submitted to the council for consideration through the agenda process.
Several ideas have been discussed, including ways to attract new firms and make it easier for businesses to navigate the application, planning and permitting process. Others addressed the need to improve relations between the business community and the city.
“The city can’t wait for long term solutions, we need to move forward as soon as possible with three or four recommendations to make Santa Rosa more competitive,” said Jake Ours, vice mayor of Santa Rosa and chair of the task force at the April meeting.
A suggestion was made that commercial real estate professionals be briefed in detail about Ordinance 3944 adopted last year by the council which addresses easing the permit process for small businesses, extending timeframes for conditional use permits and entitlements, adjusting parking requirements for existing buildings, and creating more flexibility in the commercial zoning code.
Another possibility involves evaluating a proposal to do away with the conditional use requirement, such as at the 90-acre Santa Rosa Business Park, to get businesses up and running faster and by finding ways to get through the punch list of prerequisites more rapidly.
Task force consensus is building around a “concierge” concept that has been circulating around City Hall for some time. It would establish an ombudsman -- perhaps by redefining an existing position in the city manager's office -- that would serve as a single point of contact for businesses.
Task force members believe there is a need to educate commercial real estate professionals and their business clients, as well as property owners, architects and contractors, regarding the ordinance and other updates in city processes.
Part of the problem involves is a lack of public understanding of the changes and improvements that have been made in recent months.
Another short-list idea is a task force recommendation to have North Bay commercial real estate brokers, Sonoma County Alliance members, the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, North Coast Builders Exchange and the Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy give overview presentations to their respective members and associates of the newly adopted city rules, ordinances and regulations.
Today there are three key ways to access information about starting a business in Santa Rosa -- via the city’s website, at planning and permitting counters and by working through people in the know.