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Monday, Jan 30, 2023
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Reopening and Returning to Work

We need to help people get back to work and we need to help jumpstart our economy. I know many Angelenos and Californians have faced incredible hardships over the last few months. COVID-19 has impacted businesses and workers, and now they are trying to figure out how to recover from the loss of income. Fortunately, we have been allowed to slowly begin to reopen, which means folks will be able to return to work.As we begin to reopen our doors, it is important that we consider the industries that will have the greatest impact and the industries that will immediately bolster the economy in the San Fernando Valley and the city of Los Angeles.

Throughout the Stay-at-Home Orders, construction has been deemed essential work with projects being allowed to continue and remain on schedule with little disruption. And with good reason. Construction projects are critical for our infrastructure. And they generate good-paying jobs, which are needed now more than ever as many Angelenos have found themselves unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.I wrote a column a few months ago about ways I thought we could get folks back to work, and I would like to elaborate on those thoughts. My opinion is that accelerating construction, especially the construction of commercial and residential projects will put Angelenos back to work right away.How exactly can we achieve this? Here are a few suggestions:Direct the City Planning Department to identify all projects in the entitlement pipeline and temporarily reassign staff from the Community Plan Updates team to case processing in order to expedite the entitlement of projects. Applicants may even be willing to engage in the plan check process simultaneously to get projects shovel ready upon an expedited entitlement process.Increase Site Plan Review thresholds, which will allow more by-right housing construction and help accelerate construction, especially because of the currently limited capacities of the city’s discretionary review bodies like the City Planning Commission and City Council Committees.Property Tax, which accounts for 34 percent of all General Fund revenues, is the largest single revenue source and it is linked to construction activity and investment in the city. This makes it the primary source of revenue that can be meaningfully boosted by construction, especially because most business activity has been severely limited as a result of COVID-19.

Let’s build more and let’s make it fast!We can’t forget about Hollywood. The entertainment industry is a huge economic driver for Los Angeles. More than just film and TV production, the entertainment industry supports countless jobs – sound recording, pre- and post-production work, performing arts, and independent artists and performers and has a variety of workforce needs in its direct supply chain as well.While guidelines have been released for the entertainment industry, it is important that the mayor and the city do all they can to ensure we resume and maintain production, getting L.A.’s dream machine up and running again.Our city attracts many from around the world with all we have to offer, thus placing hospitality and tourism at the heart of the Los Angeles economy. The industry includes hotels, amusement parks, passenger car rental, travel arrangement services, you name it. In the Valley alone, many restaurants and shopping venues are popping up along with other major development projects, including a proposed sports stadium.It is paramount we begin to work in a phased approach to reopening this industry, beginning with reduced capacity and gradually work towards a plan for full capacity in the most expedient and safest way possible.While it may be difficult to conceive right now, it is critical that along with thinking about crisis response, that we also think hard and seriously about crisis recovery. Let’s reopen safely and let’s get people back to work.Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a business advocacy organization based in Van Nuys that represents employers in the San Fernando Valley at the local, state and federal levels of government.

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