The City Council has approved the motion to explore a post pandemic recovery fund of at least $100,000 for Santa Monica’s small businesses at the request of Councilmember Caroline Torosis and Mayor Pro Tem Lana Negrete.

The notion was first put forward at the Council meeting on January 24 and discussion continued – and concluded –  in the meeting held on Tuesday, February 14.

“The pandemic has been hard on our small business community in Santa Monica,” said Councilwoman Torosis. “We also know that it’s been increasingly hard for small businesses to stay grow and thrive in the city.”

She said businesses owned by women or people of color have been hit even harder as they often face systemic barriers to resources and that city should look for ways to support the small business community’s recovery.

“The pandemic also exacerbated a rising commercial vacancies, especially in and along retail corridors,” she said. “And so we are actually trying to get Santa Monica back to 100 percent pre-pandemic levels.”

The staff report for the item said that as businesses move into new spaces, re-open, or renovate their facades to attract new clientele, these improvements will lead to more foot traffic and increased consumer spending will facilitate economic recovery for the city.

“The City of Santa Monica should support these businesses who have historically had high barriers to accessing capital. The establishment of a Small Business Assistance and Tenant Improvement Fund will immediately serve to fill empty storefronts within our city by providing gap financing for commercial space improvements, the Fund will support wealth generation for business owners, and potentially give lower capacity businesses access to construction management services to assist with project needs such as space planning, selecting a general contractor, and managing the buildout process,” said the report.

Negrete said her family business was able to use this kind of funding to expand to a second location in Culver City and it was important for Santa Monica to establish a program as other kinds of aid are drying up.

“But I will say as somebody who opened a second location in Culver City, we were the recipient of a Community Capital grant in order to update the facade of our business and it was literally the only reason we were able to open there and it led to us being able to have a second location and I hope that this Council supports this because it has been a huge struggle for many small businesses,” she said.

Mayor Gleam Davis asked for the analysis of a potential program to include the potential to fund relocation fees if a business were displaced and to look at existing grants that may be available, but unknown to local businesses.

“There is a lot of money at the federal level specifically for economic development, so [we need] to direct staff to look at those resources as a source,” she said.

The motion was passed unanimously and staff will return on an as-yet unspecified date with a more comprehensive report on where these funds will come from, civil, regional or federal sources for example and how they will be dispersed.

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Scott Snowden

Scott fell in love with Santa Monica when he was much younger and now, after living and working in five different countries, he has returned. He's written for the likes of the FT, NBC, the BBC and CNN.