EL SEGUNDO — An ordinance aimed at promoting small business in a community dominated by industrial giants received final City Council approval this week.
In a unanimous vote, the council adopted an ordinance revising zoning regulations for the 200 or so small commercial and manufacturing companies in the business district known variously as Smokey Hollow, Stinky Hollow and Brickyard West.
The ordinance divides the area into a small-business zone on the west and medium and light manufacturing zone on the east. Zoning regulations in the service-oriented business zone are slightly more lenient than in the manufacturing area.
In the past, stringent zoning regulations have discouraged businesses in both zones from upgrading buildings or constructing new ones. By easing those regulations, the city is providing incentives for businesses to expand and improve facilities, said Al Bell, a consultant hired by the city to develop recommendations for the area.
Parking Regulation Eased
For instance, a business that grows can contract with other property owners for additional off-street parking instead of providing more spaces on the site, as is required under normal zoning regulations.
"In a district where space is at a premium, it was almost impossible for property owners to expand their businesses and find space for additional customer and employee parking besides," Bell said.
Among the new regulations in the Smokey Hollow plan are provisions that reduce the minimum space between building additions and the street from 28 feet to between 3 and 10 feet, permit smaller parking stall lengths, limit the height on commercial and manufacturing buildings and allow the Planning Commission to approve uses not addressed in the ordinance.
Officials hope that with the more lenient zoning requirements, property owners will rejuvenate the area with building and landscaping improvements.
Cost Restricted Expansion
Construction projects, even building repairs or remodeling, have been rare in the area because most property owners could not afford to expand buildings and purchase the necessary land or facilities to meet the city's zoning requirements, said Steve Graham, a city planner.
As a result, businesses have continued to grow but their buildings have not, causing conditions where employees work in cramped quarters with outdated equipment. City planners began to hear complaints from business owners who felt trapped.
"After several meetings, we realized that the zoning requirements that apply to new buildings in other parts of the city do not apply to this particular district," said Mayor Pro-Tem Le Synadinos, noting that most area buildings were built between 20 and 40 years ago. "These businesses are a vital and important part of our community. The city wants to make sure that they are able to continue. Without our help, some may be forced to leave."
Small-business owners have expressed enthusiasm about the plan, Graham said, and the Planning Department has received several calls concerning when building permits can be sought under the new regulations, which take effect Feb. 6.
Since the Smokey Hollow district is cornered by massive aerospace and oil companies, officials feared large developers might buy up parcels and build high-rise office buildings, eventually squeezing out the small businesses.
Though the Smokey Hollow plan is geared toward small companies, large developments will be allowed, Graham said. New buildings, however, must reflect the architectural character of the area, which has many red brick structures.
"We are not opposed to bringing in new developers. We just don't want then to come in and build a big glass building next to a residential area," Synadinos said. The area is bounded on the north and west by residential neighborhoods.
With only 6 of the 200 lots in the area vacant, Bell said, he expects to see local businesses expand rather than new businesses enter the area. As improvements proceed, city officials plan to upgrade Smokey Hollow's streets and walkways to accommodate increased employee and customer traffic.