From Wal-Mart to the corner cafe, business owners of all sizes know first-hand how difficult and costly it can be to open or expand a business in the City of Los Angeles. Business owners must cut through red tape, obtain building permits and alcohol licenses, hire expeditors, deal with inspectors and win over politicians, neighborhood activists and zoning administrators. Now, in a preemptive strike against possible opposition, the owner of a grocery and delivery chain planning to open a Silver Lake outlet is asking residents to show their support by signing an online petition well in advance of a store opening. Yummy.com, which has leased the Natural Mind salon building at Griffith Park Boulevard and Sunset boulevards, launched the online petition partly in preparation for seeking city and state permission to sell beer and wine.
“It’s very difficult to open a grocery store in the City of L.A. because you must apply for a ‘change of use’ and a conditional use permit for the sale of alcohol,” said Yummy.com owner Barnaby Montgomery. “Community input is important to the City’s process. For example, I believe the Neighborhood Council would like to know that the community wants another grocery store.”
But will a petition filled with signature sway a zoning administrator or a planning commissioner? Well, it can’t hurt, said one City Hall official involved economic development.
“You don’t have to do it but it can be helpful,” said the official, who requested not to be identified. Projects that will most likely need a beer and wine permit or generate traffic are also likely to generate opposition, and a petition could help. “It’s a preemptive strike against” potential opposition, the official said.
Montgomery said he has not faced any problems yet as he begins the process of preparing to open the store but is taking no chances.
“It’s not clear to me how a zoning administrator or hearing officer considers community support for our application,” Montgomery said. “On the other hand, it is very clear that opponents have an effect on the process. For example, it’s very difficult to get supporters to take a day off of work to attend a zoning administrator hearing. It’s more common to find opponents who will invest their time to attend the hearing. Accordingly, 1 opponent will be heard over 100 supporters if the supporters remain silent.”