West Hollywood’s Social Justice Task Force will review a work plan at their meeting Tuesday night to provide support and incentives to BIPOC-, women-, and LGBTQ+-owned small businesses.
In January, City Council assigned staff the task of coming up with ways to help this underrepresented and underserved business community, which has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic-linked economic downturn. Entrepreneurs from this community face economic, market, sociocultural, and instructional barriers in gaining access to capital and support.
City staff came up with ideas divided into three time phases.
The plan’s most immediate action items include the creation of a certification process for BIPOC-, women-, city resident-, LGBTQ-owned small businesses. This would occur within the first six months of the initiative.
In the second phase, the city would provide discounted business license tax fees, payment plans for city permits and various workshops to cultivate growth and development.
Long-term plans include setting aside physical space in new private developments, prioritizing space in empty city storefronts and helping to secure loans.
The Social Justice Task Force will review staff’s recommendations at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Those interested in watching may do so on Zoom at the following link: https://zoom.us/j/91826379761
Short Term (1-6 months)
- Creation of a dedicated City webpage: this webpage would provide entrepreneurs a one-stop-shop to access various private, local, state, county, and federal resources including access to grants, accelerators, and assistance.
- Creating a certification process for BIPOC-, Women-, City Resident-, LGBTQ-Owned Small Businesses: the certification program is the foundation to verify qualified businesses. Businesses may be required to provide further documentation to become a certified business and receive support as outlined in the workplan. The city may engage in additional services from other non-profit organizations to verify a business’s ownership.
- Conduct needs assessment: outreach to local businesses is recommended to provide staff a baseline assessment of current conditions including barriers to expanding in West Hollywood and potential increases in business services to assist current businesses.
- Amending City’s Business Tax Certificate: to provide information such as ownership demographics to provide data on the business community’s composition.
Medium Term (18-24 months)
- Partner with West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce on 501(c)3 Foundation: the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce is creating a separate foundation to provide services to BIPOC entrepreneurs. The City’s partnership could include collaboration on services and events to support this community.
- Exempt from Business License Tax Fees for Year 2: the City currently provides a reduced tax rate for businesses in their first two years of business operations of the City including exemption from Business Tax in Year 1 and 50% Business Tax in Year 2. This proposal would provide businesses a Year 2 exemption with a full 100% payment in Year 3.
- Payment installment plans for Planning Department permits: these could include a minor conditional use permit, major conditional use permit, or other substantial permit fees as required by the City.
- Conduct mentoring, webinars, workshops to assist in opening businesses: the City would explore partnerships with other agencies that provide services to businesses such as the Small Business Majority, LA LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, and Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation.
- Working with the City’s financial institution to explore funding and/or lowcost loans: this could include exploring options with the City’s current financial institution, Bank of the West, to provide streamline and specific financial capital options to businesses in the City.
- Rewards program to support businesses: this could provide incentives, such as discounts, for consumers to shop at locally owned businesses.
Long Term (36-48 months)
- Set aside space for businesses in new private developments: this can be done during development agreements and public benefit process.
- Prioritizing businesses in City-owned vacant storefronts: the City could provide businesses with reduced commercial rent cost associated with opening a brick-and-mortar business at a currently vacant City-owned property.
- Conduct a Disparity Study: to determine if inequities exist in public procurement and contracting by assessing, quantifying, and evaluating the prevalence, significance and scope of discrimination, if any, against specific businesses.