City Appoints ‘Business Liaison’ to Trim Lengthy Permit Process

A “business liaison” has been appointed to help move along projects like this 7-Eleven convenience store, which has been pending for about two years on the corner of State and Ortega streets.

Two weeks after, the Santa Barbara City Council leaned toward hiring a first-time economic development director, Community Development Director George Buell announced the appointment of project planner Marck Aguilar, 52, as “acting business liaison.”  

Prior to working for the city for about 20 years, Aguilar was an operations engineer at an electronics manufacturer at Ferro in Goleta.  His current annual base pay is $97,546.  He holds a bachelor’s of science degree in business administration from San Diego State University.

Based on a city-hired consultant’s suggestion, Assistant to the City Administrator Nina Johnson recommended on July 25 that the city hire an economic development czar in light of the commercial ups and downs on State Street. 

The consultant also told the council the city’s Community Development Department is “not business friendly.” To that, Buell responded by saying his department is revamping its “work force flow” and trying to get back sooner to business permit applicants. 

Buell said Aguilar’s appointment “will provide quick relief for businesses on State Street and qualifying projects elsewhere in the city that require assistance.” 

It is well known that it often takes months if not years for a new business to finally open in a once-vacant storefront because of the city’s discouraging, snail-like permitting process. Johnson said city staff won’t send all its recommendations to the council on what to do to revitalize State Street until next year. 

The release said the appointment is part of an effort by City Administrator Paul Casey to develop an Economic Development Program for the city. 

The business liaison is supposed to be the “central point of contact for development projects,” the release said. 

Aguilar is supposed to aid communication between project applicants and city staff and “allow for a coordinated and efficient movement of applications between departments.” He also is supposed to help permit seekers submit complete applications and avoid possible delays. 

Aguilar will continue report to his current boss, City Planner Renee Brooke, “until decisions regarding the formation of an economic development division or department are made.” 

The business liaison will look into private, nonresidential or mixed-use development projects that require a building permit and are on State Street, between Gutierrez and Sola streets. 

He also will deal with any improvement that requires a building permit and involves a hotel, large grocery store, or auto dealership.

Posted Aug. 9, 2019.

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