The idea is to make it much easier for businesses to receive all the necessary permits for opening their shops, restaurants and factories - up to now an excruciating exercise that could easily drag out a year or more. First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner and other city officials presented a PowerPoint synopsis of the plan to the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce the other day, and the reactions were very positive. Beutner has made customer service a top priority in trying to improve the city's lousy reputation with the business community. From the Downtown News:
"This is the most significant step forward I've seen in all the years I've been at this," said Chris Martin, a principal at architecture firm AC Martin, who has been working Downtown since 1968. Gary Toebben, CEO of the Chamber, called it the "most exciting change" he has seen at City Hall in the four and a half years since he arrived in Los Angeles. He said the plan recognizes the role of the development community in moving the economy forward and putting people to work.
The plan is still being formulated, but coordination among departments is a central goal. That would be helped by stepping up the technology that the city uses.
Beutner told the Chamber audience that once the process is improved, a model for the new system is the customer service operation employed by Internet shoe seller Zappos.com. He noted that any time someone makes a Zappos purchase, they can go online and find exactly where the package is in the shipping process. He hopes to create a similar online system that allows developers to know where their projects stand as they deal with the up to 17 city departments that can now impact a project. Currently, he noted, developers can get bogged down trying to navigate those departments, all of which have different websites. The goal, he said, is to create efficiency and transparency.