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Commercial Rent Assessment on County Action Agenda in a Move to Help Small Businesses

Published on Tuesday, July 9, 2024 | 7:10 pm

Calling it an attempt to foster a more equitable and sustainable local economy, the Board of Supervisors directed its staff Tuesday to conduct an economic analysis of commercial rents in the county and provide recommendations for a commercial tenant relocation assistance program.

Introduced by Supervisor Holly Mitchell and Hilda Solis, the motion approved by the board calls small businesses “cultural brokers, sources of local identity, and engines of economic opportunity,” while highlighting the negative impacts of rising rent, gentrification and displacement.

“It is crucial for the county to implement stronger small business tenant protections and anti-displacement measures to preserve the vitality and character of our neighborhoods,” the motion states.

Mitchell said the board has always prioritized anti-displacement efforts and small business support, noting programs such as the Employee Ownership program, Commercial Acquisition Fund, Economic Mobility Initiative, Entrepreneurship initiative and Legal Assistance Program.

“Exploring additional policy interventions would protect these cultural anchors and will complement these existing programs,” she said.

The motion noted that a bill introduced in the state Senate this year would increase protections for “qualified commercial tenants,” adding that small businesses and nonprofit commercial tenants have fewer protections than residential tenants in the state.

Solis called small businesses the lifeblood of the county and said implementing protections is imperative given the impacts of rent increases and displacement.

“The issue was especially prevalent during the pandemic and it’s aftermath,” she said.

The motion cited a report which found that more than 15,000 businesses closed and 5,300 businesses fell behind on rent during the pandemic in the city of Los Angeles.

“Small business owners report facing an uphill battle in securing affordable and stable commercial spaces due to soaring rents and predatory leasing practices,” the motion states. “By enacting measures to support small commercial tenants being issued rent increases, incentivizing parties to enter into fair and long-term leases, and offering eviction protections, the county can create a more level playing field for small businesses and small nonprofits, allowing them to thrive and contribute to the economic prosperity of the region.”

Under the motion, the DEO will work also with county attorneys, small businesses and nonprofit organizations to develop a “model lease” for small commercial tenants, as well as possible incentives the county might be able to offer commercial landlords who choose to use the model lease, including grants, loans, technical assistance and streamlined permitting.

The director of department was also asked to assess and recommend any expansion of the county’s Small Business Legal Assistance program, under which qualifying tenants have access to attorneys to help negotiate leases, protect small commercial tenants, and provide legal representation as needed.

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