Anaheim City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved a framework for making the city more business friendly.
A regulatory relief task force created by Mayor Tom Tait made 17 recommendations to make the city more welcoming to businesses. The recommendations, which the task force first presented in a City Council study session Monday, range from instilling a pro-business culture among city staffers to eliminating dozens of types of conditional use permits.
The task force also set a goal of reducing the average permitting process time from 70 days to 60 days.
Anaheim, despite having a relatively large tax base thanks mainly to entertainment behemoth Walt Disney Co., was not spared by the recession. Officially, the city has an 11.5 percent unemployment rate, Tait said. But when you count people who have given up looking for jobs, it’s closer to 18 percent.
“It’s time to act, and its time no to act just a little bit. It’s time to do something bold,” Tait said Monday when the task force presented its recommendations.
Some residents and community leaders see Anaheim as already too business-friendly at the expense of residents. Many, for example, have criticized the city for laying off library employees.
Among the adopted recommendations is a reevaluation of park and library impact fees levied on developers. In the case of the Platinum Triangle, the city’s showcase residential and commercial development, the task force recommended eliminating park fees altogether.
Currently the city uses revenue from park fees paid by Platinum Triangle developers to improve parks in other parts of the city or to acquire land adjacent to the development, according to the task force’s report.
The task force’s rationale for eliminating these fees is that it is not fair to make developers pay fees that pay for things outside the development.
The fees haven’t been reduced yet, Tait said, because many of the recommendations still must be fleshed out and reapproved by the council.
Dr. Thomas Turk, associate professor of management at Chapman University and chairman of the task force, acknowledged that Anaheim is already more business-friendly than many other cities in Orange County.
But, Turk said, even Anaheim has room for improvement.
He cited statistics showing that states ranking high in “economic freedom” have economies that grow 30 percent faster than states ranking low.
Turk said at least some of the recommendations are already being implemented. Previously the city communicated only with property owners’ consultants or architects, causing delays not attributable to the property owner, the task force’s report states. The city now communicates directly with property owners, Turk said.
He said that continuing to reduce regulations on businesses was “morally significant.”
“For us to get in the way of you being the most you can be, that’s unethical,” Turk said.
For the full list of the task force’s recommendations, click here.
Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that the regulatory relief task force had 16 recommendations. We regret the error.
— ADAM ELMAHREK