City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

July 26, 2011
City Hall aims to improve business climate in Sacramento

City Hall wants to fix what some officials think is a hostile business environment in Sacramento.

The city is launching an effort aimed at speeding up development and doing away with regulations criticized for scaring businesses away from the city, officials announced today.

The process will begin over the next few weeks, when the city's Community Development Department will move toward placing permitting processes online, reducing fees associated with solar projects and creating "express lanes" for some projects.

"These are things that will help Sacramento because time is money," said Josh Wood, the vice president of Region Builders, a development and business advocacy group.

Mayor Kevin Johnson said the changes would help the city create "a more robust business climate." He said a recent study showed Sacramento was the sixth-worst market in the country for small businesses.

In addition to the changes about to take place, officials will also review the dozens of ordinances that affect businesses in the city to see whether any should be changed or reversed.

Councilman Jay Schenirer, chair of the city's Law and Legislation Committee, said he would propose to that committee that it look at the ordinances over the next several months.

"We have heard for a long time that we have a hostile environment toward business," Schenirer said.

Many in the business community have complained in recent months about what they characterize as a stagnant permitting and development process in the city.

That environment was made worse, critics say, after it was revealed that home permits had been improperly issued in 2009 in the Natomas flood zone. An audit and investigation into the development department later found several cases in which city ordinances were not followed in permitting and fees went uncollected. The City Council demanded changes in the development department.

The mayor said officials would look to include "an extra step or two of caution" and said that past efforts to streamline the development department "went too far."

"We can find the happy medium," he said.

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at rlillis@sacbee.com

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