Rules, Regulations and the City of Los Angeles
I'm a problem solver, so much so that my husband has to preface some conversations with "I'm not looking for a solution." My ability to problem solve along with never taking no for an answer makes for a heady combination when you mix in the City of Los Angeles Planning Department.
Most cringe at the mention of the City of Los Angeles Planning Department and all that it entails. I was fortunate to be introduced to Mark Bevelaqua of the Restaurant Hospitality Program. Mark is a case manager that walks your plans through every department/division/section for approval. No waiting hours in lines or for your number to be called. Everything is by appointment. It is an awesome program.
My first meeting (called a predevelopment meeting) was with Mark and the city engineer. The city engineer looks at the location and determines if the site can be used as desired. Based on your preliminary plans (mine were hand drawings of the building with my proposed floor plan), the city engineer calculates the parking requirements based on the occupancy use and load which are determined by your preliminary plans. The city engineer also determines if the structure is fit to house your proposed use (is your building made out of combustible material, will it need fire sprinklers?) He/she will also want to see that the structure can support the weight of our grain storage on the second floor and the weight of the tanks on the ground level.
I did all my research before the predevelopment meeting. I knew the zoning requirements for a microbrewery within the city of Los Angeles (M1-2, light manufacturing). I knew that I could not stray outside of that zoning, so I only looked at buildings that were zoned M1-2. This is very important. Can you imagine signing a lease for a building and you didn't do your due diligence, then going to planning to be told you can't have a brewery in your newly leased building? Stick to your zone and be aware of pitfalls. A zone approved for a brewery in one city may not be approved another (Culver City does not allow a brewery in light manufacturing).
I researched the Environmental Health department requirements for our tasting room. Environmental Health has a great Retail Construction Guideline document that lists all the requirements for restaurants and bars. I also checked out the building code for requirements on parking, explosive dust, waste management, and city code for our conditional use permit (on and off site sale of alcohol).
My preliminary hand drawn plans addressed everything that I could think of. I came prepared. I didn't want to waste any one's time. Last Tuesday, I met with Mark the case manager, the city engineer, three waste management engineers, and a city planning. I got there at 9:30 AM and left after 6PM. Wednesday, I met with the fire engineer about the explosive dust and required fire separations. Friday, I met with an Environmental Health Specialist to review our plans for the tasting room.
I took tons of notes and quickly learned that my research only uncovered the first layer of City of Los Angeles building code onion. Each meeting revealed more layers to maneuver and navigate in order to accomplish our goal. The help of all the engineers has been instrumental in developing an overall plan that will breeze through plan check.
The best part of the Restaurant Hospitality Program is that the engineers I met with will be the same to sign off on our plan during plan check. There will be no reinventing the wheel with different plan check engineers.