Effort to Stimulate Local Business Activity Gathers Momentum

The City Council expects to consider a handful of code revisions at the start of 2020 in an attempt to streamline the development of businesses in San Marino.
Meanwhile, as city officials dive into next year’s budget, they also are expected to weigh whether to include financial incentives for property owners and prospective businesses. All considerations will be a product of the city’s Economic Development Team, which has been tasked with devising ways for the city to improve the climate in its two business districts while preserving their mom-and-pop nature.
“I think it’s important for us to get ready to financially support this so we can attract more businesses and [protect] the businesses we have,” said Councilman Ken Ude, a career businessman and one of the council’s liaisons to the Economic Development Team.
Planning and Building Director Aldo Cervantes, who is coordinating the team, explained at the council’s meeting last week that a three-year economic development action plan will be developed, after which he plans on meetings with local organizations such as the Rotary Club of San Marino and the school PTAs to promote the plan and discuss potential changes.
The team, in its meetings, has discussed the relatively high vacancy rates of storefronts along Huntington Drive and Mission Street and the need to change things to cater to younger homeowners in town. Changes being considered include implementing a facade improvement program for business owners, easing the requirement for conditional-use permits on commercial building renovations, loosening restrictions on subdividing building spaces and allowing continuation of a prior building use that would otherwise not be permitted.
As part of this process, Cervantes has developed a large map of the commercial districts indicating where vacancies and business opportunities are in finer detail. It can be viewed in City Hall.
“I’m hoping that I can condense that to put that on the city’s website, but for now, if anyone is interested, it is on the counter,” Cervantes said.
The Economic Development Team include Shelley Boyle, who serves on the Planning Commission; Kelley Carpiac, owner of San Marino Toy & Book Shoppe; Isaac Hung, who owns and manages several properties in town; Corina Madilian, who owns the Mission Street businesses Single Stone and Serafina; Nancy White, owner of New Creation Framing; and Linda Zadoian, owner of San Marino Cafe.
City Council members seemed to look forward to recommendations from Cervantes and the team, which was assembled as a priority initiative identified for this fiscal year.
“Stores as we know them are becoming multipurpose,” said Councilwoman Susan Jakubowski, who also has acted as a liaison to the team. “Much is moving out and different concepts are coming in. I am very impressed at this early stage with the thoughts that are coming out [of the meetings].”
Councilman Steve Talt emphasized that his understanding that the city intends to “remain the same environment, but [also] improve the environment” in keeping with the city’s attitude of excluding most big-name retailers. Vice Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey acknowledged that dilapidating store facades are an issue but cautioned against doling out grants to property owners who will simply continue to sit on the buildings.
“I do want something in there that says, ‘You are going to put a business in there,’” she said.
The agenda report can be viewed in full at CityofSanMarino.org.

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