Mayor Durkan Announces Small Business Relief Package to Streamline Permitting Process and Reduce Fees

Small Business Relief Package Will Reduce Average Permitting Time by One-Third, Eliminate Seattle Department of Transportation Sign Fees

Office of Economic Development to Expand Small Business Stabilization Program to $300,000 in 2020

Seattle (Feb. 18, 2020) – As part of her 2020 State of the City address, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced the City’s new Small Business Relief Package. The City’s Small Business Advisory Council (SBAC) advised Mayor Durkan that expediting permitting times, eliminating duplicative fees and helping business owners navigate the permitting process would provide immense relief to small business owners, especially those who are historically underserved. In addition, the Office of Economic Development (OED) will increase investments in the Small Business Stabilization Program to $300,000 in 2020, up from $200,000 in 2019.   

“The Small Business Relief Package will help break down bureaucratic barriers like complex permitting processes and burdensome fees that have traditionally hindered business owners and will ensure they can spend more of their time serving their communities and advancing their business,” said Mayor Durkan. “Our small businesses are part of the fabric of our city, and they make Seattle a better, more vibrant place. With this new initiative, and with the expansion of our Stabilization Fund, we’re telling our small businesses that they can count on the City of Seattle as a reliable partner and ally.”

As part of the Small Business Relief Package, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) will hire its first-ever Small Business Permit Facilitator. This role will focus exclusively on streamlining the permitting process for small businesses, which can currently take up to several months to years and require significant time and engagement from the business owner.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our neighborhoods and rely on our department to provide a streamlined path for obtaining a building permit,” said Nathan Torgelson, Director of the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections. “Our new Small Business Permit Facilitator will provide free coaching on code requirements that can save businesses from unexpected and costly improvements and reduce the time for obtaining a permit. Our team at SDCI are committed to helping small businesses open their doors. This new single point of contact fosters an opportunity for businesses to engage us early; before signing a lease.” 

In addition, the Mayor will transmit legislation to the City Council to eliminate the Seattle Department of Transportation’s (SDOT) sign fees, which charge small business owners an initial and annual renewal fee to obtain a storefront sign, which can cost each business hundreds of dollars for the permit for every sign. The legislation will be transmitted later this year. 

“I have dedicated my life to helping aspiring entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground and achieve their goals,” said Beto Yarce, Executive Director of Ventures. “Many small business owners in Seattle face challenges with permits – especially business owners from underserved communities and whose first language is not English. I deeply appreciate the Mayor’s commitment to streamlining City processes and making life easier for the small business owners who are the backbone of Seattle.”

“The Office of Economic Development works every day to help our small businesses grow and thrive in Seattle,” said Bobby Lee, Director of the Office of Economic Development. “We’ve heard time and again that needless bureaucracy poses a huge barrier to our small business owners, and it has significant equity implications as well. With the Small Business Relief Package, we’re putting forward a policy that’s developed by small business owners, for small business owners.” 

In addition to streamlining permitting processes, the Small Business Relief Package prioritizes outreach and education on permitting. As part of the Relief Package, the Office of Economic Development (OED) will launch the Small Business Permit Education Pilot, which will provide workshops and technical assistance to help small business owners meet permit application requirements. OED is also developing a digital Small Business Permitting Roadmap, which will give business owners a step-by-step guide to navigating the permitting process. 

“After my small business was robbed and vandalized, I had no idea if I would be able to recover from those losses. I was scared that I may have to close my business, and lose my livelihood,” said Judith Herrera, owner of the Muy Macho Taco Truck. “But the City’s stabilization grant allowed me to recoup my losses and ensure I could keep my doors open. I’m proud to continue serving my South Park community as a small business owner.” 

Mayor Durkan has consistently worked to advance policies that help our small business community grow and thrive. Most recently, she launched the City’s first-ever Small Business Stabilization Pilot to help vulnerable micro-businesses who have experienced a destabilizing event, like displacement, construction impacts, or property destruction. Earlier this year, the City announced its pilot and provided $25,000 to eight businesses. The 2020 Budget invests $300,000 to continue the program through this year.