At the Business Journal's Impact Sonoma conference last October, Santa Rosa Vice Mayor and supervisorial candidate John Sawyer said the city's is gauging progress on reforming permitting processes by the declining number of applicants at the counter who exclaim in frustration"You have got to be kidding?"
Mr. Sawyer ran through a litany of overly picky rules that had expanded like ivy in an attempt -- probably well intentioned -- to regulate business behavior. It's a wonder how it ever reached such a point. But then, when times were good, the city could ask for just about anything -- a sidewalk here, a street light there -- and the applicant had no choice. The Great Recession has changed that, perhaps permanently.
And so, it was welcome news last month when, as part of a wide-ranging review of zoning and permitting policies, the city said it would experiment with same-day permitting for simple tenant improvements, a process that previously could take weeks and raise costs.
"It reduces demand on our staff, and it's about getting businesses open quicker," said Chuck Regalia, city Community Development director.
The pilot New Business Startup Partnership program will be for interior improvements in existing buildings. Business Journal Staff Writer Jeff Quackenbush noted that it the program could work for a number of types of businesses, including a restaurant.
"The faster you get a permit, the faster a project can be built," said Rob Cantu, president of commercial general contractor Western Buildings and a member of the Mayor's Economic Competitiveness Task Force where the proposal for the same-day permit program was developed.
The same-day TI permit program is a timely effort given the large mounts of vacant commercial space that is slowly but inexorably being absorbed by expansions and new companies. The program also is part of a wider effort to review, amend or replace existing commercial zoning that discourages business and reduces the sometimes months-long use permit process.
This is all commendable and could, if it sticks, help Santa Rosa develop its reputation as a place that is welcoming to business and jobs.