Commercial Permits, Change Of Use, Conditional Use Permits, Code Violations, Tenant Improvements
- I WANT TO MAKE CHANGES TO MY COMMERCIAL SPACE. WHAT PERMITS DO I NEED?
- If you’re not going to change the nature of the business or “USE”, then you’ll be getting a TENANT IMPROVEMENT PERMIT.
- This requires plans, a review process, approval and finally inspections
- What’s included in the plans depends on the extent of the changes and this, in turn, effects the cost of the city fees and the length of plans review.
- I’M GOING TO OPEN A NEW BUSINESS. WHAT’S A “CHANGE OF USE”?
- Let’s say you’re opening a clothing store Retail Clothing is the “USE”. Now, if the previous store was also clothing store, then you don’t need a CHANGE IN USE. If you plan on renovations, then you’re going to need a TENANT IMPROVEMENT PERMIT. In that case, see question 1.
- If you decide that you’re not making any changes and you’re not changing the use, the you MIGHT be able to just reopen. Contact us, to make sure
- Now, let’s say you’re changing that store to an office. This requires a CHANGE OF USE PERMIT. “Aren’t they both commercial, why would I need this?” The simplest way to answer this, is that an office has different requirements. The parking requirements may change or you may need another exit. And there a multitude of other requirements for different “USES”
- THE BUILDING DEPARTMENT SAYS IN NEED A CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT? WHY AND WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? The easiest way to describe a CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT or “CUP” is you’re asking the permission of the community if you can do that business at your home. Certain businesses require this:
- Any business that involves the sale of alcohol
- Adult entertainment or retail
- In some cities and counties, Gyms require a CUP
- Marijuana Dispensaries (this is a really tricky one as the laws and ordinances are still evolving)
- Hookah Bars
- Any CARE FACILITY for seniors, the disabled, and in some cases, rehab centers
- Wholesale or Retail Car Dealerships
- Automotive repair
- Spray Booths
- Any business that may be producing or emitting hazardous materials
- Any business that will be going into a RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY. See the RESIDENTIAL PERMITS, CODE VIOLATIONS
- And then there are certain businesses that aren’t in the above but require CUP’s because the local municipal code requires it. A CUP is probably the most complicated permit to obtain. It involves extensive plans, mailers and finally, public hearings where your immediate neighbors (usually within 500” of your house) are invited to attend. Paperwork is extensive and complex, very time consuming, and certainly not recommended to try to handle on your own. This doesn’t mean APPROVAL of your CUP is impossible, but there a so many variables and moving parts that you risk prolonging the process, or worse, getting your application rejected. Oh, and CUP’s are expensive and take a long time. For example, in the City of Los Angeles, it is not unusual for a CUP to cost $8,000 in the low end, and over $20,000 if you add expediting fees. How long does it take? In many cases, it could take up to a year. If you choose to pay the expediting fee, you can cut this time considerably. But remember one important thing: just because you pay, does not mean you’ll get approval. So do not try to do this yourself. The fees are non-refundable and required upfront, so losing a CUP because you thought you could wade through it yourself would be very disappointing (and that’s probably the nice way of saying it)
- WHAT DO I DO IF MY BUSINESS GETS A CODE VIOLATION? Here is a short list of some reasons why you got that scary letter:
- You didn’t get a CHANGE OF USE PERMIT
- You didn’t get a CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT
- You’re CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT EXPIRED
- You did unpermitted work in your space
- You’re doing something at your business that requires special approval. Here’s an example: You have a salon and you’re selling food or beverages. This requires a HEALTH PERMIT So now you’ve got this letter with words like “fines”, “criminal charges”, and seemingly impossible timelines. They’re meant to be scary. Call the inspector who wrote it immediately. Don’t go in the offensive. That’s only going to make things worse. You’re going to ask for more time. Most of the time, they’ll tell you to hire someone who knows how to handle this. When they hear, “What do I need to do to fix this myself”, they see that as code for “I have no idea what I’m doing, I’m going to take forever, and I should expect more fines.. If you have a day or two to waste, go ahead and take a trip to the building department. You’ll see the DMV as a walk in the park compared to the building dept. If you don’t have kind of time, contact us. Our first immediate action will be a call to the inspector and make him feel good that you’ve decided to hire someone. To lessen your stress, we will ask for a lot more time. You’ll need this time to make decisions about what you want to do with that illegal work.Now let’s look at the scenario where the previous owner did the work. There’s no such thing as “grand-fathered in” so it’s ok. As the business owner, you’ve inherited the unpermitted issues. The city does not differentiate between if the old owner did it or you did. And they’re not going to accept that you hired a licensed GC and “I thought he pulled a permit”. So that brings us back to contacting us.
- YOU GOT THE PLANS APPROVED. IS IT OVER? Unfortunately, NO. Now its inspection time. Whatever was built will be inspected just like it was built with regular permits. But wait, it’s already there. Does that mean I have to tear it down and start over? There is no way to answer this question. It depends on the city and most importantly, it depends on the inspector who comes to your house. There’s no sugar-coating this part of the process. You need to be ready to possibly make some holes so he can see the framing, or pull out outlets or plumbing so he can see the work that’s behind walls or under the house. If you decide to keep the illegal work, you must accept this.
- HOW LONG IS THIS ALL GOING TO TAKE? HOW MUCH WILL THIS ALL COST? There is no easy answer to this. Again way too many variables, the City, the Inspector, how much work was done and what kind of work.
You’ll have a lot more questions than the 6 above, but these are the most common.
But the simplest and most stress free answer is to contact us.
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