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City looks to issue business licenses

Officials have discussed changes to regulations and fees

Posted: March 20, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 20, 2012 1:55 a.m.
 


Some businesses, such as tattoo parlors, massage parlors and solicitors, may see an increase in regulation — and possibly fees — as the city of Santa Clarita prepares to take over the issuing of business permits.

About 125 types of businesses throughout the city, from bookstores to bowling alleys, now have to apply for business licenses from the Los Angeles County treasurer and tax collector.

Under a new plan recently approved by the Santa Clarita City Council, the city would take over issuing county business licenses and replace them with city-issued community preservation permits.

City officials have talked about reducing regulations and fees for most businesses that now require county licenses, including restaurants.

But the city is also looking to increase regulations — and potentially fees — for a dozen other license-requiring businesses, including massage parlors, secondhand dealers and apartment houses.

The overall cost of the city program is supposed to be revenue-neutral, with the costs for increased staff time paid for by businesses facing tighter regulation.

Fees would then be lower for businesses that require less regulation.

Jason Crawford, economic development manager for the city of Santa Clarita, said the city can defer to agencies such as the
Los Angeles County Department of Health Services for approving businesses, such as restaurants.

But Sheriff’s Department stings conducted at some licensed businesses, such as massage parlors, have shown that laws were being broken there.

The city wants to be proactive in addressing these businesses to avoid problems, Crawford said.

“The main reason (for the city-issued business permits) is to be able to lower the fees and reduce the difficulties for over 100 different types of businesses,” Crawford said. “I know of restaurant owners who have had to leave their business in the middle of the day to drive down to Los Angeles.”

The city of Santa Clarita is one of five cities in Los Angeles County that contract with the county treasurer and tax collector, said Donna Doss, assistant treasurer and tax collector for the county.

“It’s strictly a regulatory ordinance that only recovers fees for health, safety or welfare,” Doss said.

Cities have full authority to form their own programs for business licenses, Doss said.

“We have other cities before who decided to go out on their own,” Doss said.

The city’s proposed preservation permit is designed to work with other city services so that business owners can have a one-stop shop to get everything done, Crawford said. 

“We’re continuously looking at all the regulations for business and trying to cut through them,” Crawford said. “This is just another way of doing that.”

Crawford said existing city staff would take on the workload of the new permits.

With the City Council’s approval, city staff intend to work with county staff to transition to community preservation permits over the coming months, Crawford said.

He did not have an estimate for when the transition would be put into place, but said it would be before the end of the year.

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