Retail in L.A., picture by Camilo Vergara
I love this picture, Mexican folk art is always exposed on retails walls in Los Angeles.
The reason of this post is to warn people about what is needed when they rent a retail and want to open a new business. The typical case, the retail is rented, the tenant begins the remodel works, the inspector comes and everything is on hold until new plans are approved. Sometimes, the surprise is that the new business can´t be approved, for different reasons. The procedures could vary in every City, same for the consideration of parkings, storages, etc.
First thing to find out in the City Hall
1) Is the new use allowed per Zoning Code?
2) Is extra parking needed?
These are the most important questions. If the new business is food/medical related, more assigned parking is required. Usually, owners and managers do not specify, -in small malls for example-, how many parkings each tenant has the right to use. There must be a plot plan showing all the parkings and the uses of each retail. A planner will decide if they are OK.
3) Does the mall have handicap parkings/facilities?
If not, or if there are facilities but they are not upgraded to the current Code, the City has the right to ask for the 20% of the tenant´s budget to apply to handicap improvements. Who pays for the improvements, it´s an issue between the tenant and the owner.
4) Does the mall/retail have gas-electricity connection and what are the sizes of meters-panels?
Suppose you want to convert a clothes retail into a frozen yogurt/restaurant; machines are needed and if the panel is 100Amp, maybe is not enough. The main panel in the mall has to be able to allow the upgrade of the subpanel. If not, call Edison and find out the possibilities.
5) If it is food facility, the equipment could vary if the food is prepared on site or if it is gotten in packages.
Usually it is needed: three compartments sink, preparation sink, hand sink/s, mop sink, water heater (usually 52 gallons min), air curtain, the specific machines/equipment and utensils for the business. And a dry storage, mín 96 linear feet, approx. 100 sq. ft.
6) Is it needed a grease interceptor? Usually, yes. Depending on the food and cleaning, maybe a waiver from Water Company could be obtained. If the gravity interceptor is required (always in the City of Downey), be prepared for a huge one outside, even if you want to prepare coffee with sweet bread.....
7) What about the bathrooms? Of course, handicap bathrooms. Two bathrooms min. for men and women are required if there is expenditure of alcohol. Public cannot access to the bathrooms through the preparation area. If the bathrooms are outside the retail, there must be a walkable distance of 200´, it varies.
8) Equipment: do not import cheaper if it has not the stamps required per Health Department. Minimum requirement, NSF approved. Cut sheets with complete specifications must be attached to plans.
9) Flooring, coves, finishes: must be approved by the City and Health dep.
10) Fire safety: it depends on the business, the area of the retail, etc.
11) Air conditioning. The existing could be kept if it complies with the mechanical calculations. Sometimes, depending on the weight of the equipment on the roof, a brief structural calculation is required.
12) For retail remodels, demolitions: details (architectural and structural) must be provided for Building and Safety.
13) Depending on the remodel, Mechanical, Plumbing and Electrical plans and calculations must be submitted, all of them with wet signature and stamp of a licensed engineer.
14) In all cases, even with the plans approved, the inspector has the right to ask for something else, specially if the field condition is different from what has been shown on plans. Remember, some issues can´t be seen until the contractor opens the drywall.
15) No construction works are allowed until permits are paid. For commercial, a licensed contractor must be hired, (with insurance) he is the one to take out the plans from the City, after the owner has paid the permits. Take into account, minimum term for Health Dep. plans´ revisions is 21 business days. Then, corrections are released and must be complied. Plans can be submitted at the same time in all the departments, but Health Department approval is mandatory to approve Building and Safety. Considering this, the tenants should have an arrangement of a certain period without paying rent. Two months would be pretty good, not perfect. Rent is paid while the contractor is working, I mean desperately working to open on time.
Of course there are more items, like ADA Code drawings (handicap). The problem I see, is that tenants who go to the City to ask for information, are told ¨a small plan like this is needed¨. And they show them a small standard print of a floor plan. It´s a lie. A small print with minimum information is only possible when the retail is keeping the same layout, and same type of business. And a change of business license is required plus the business´ fictituous name registration.
Some designers do not tell the owners about this, mostly in Los Angeles. They offer a minimum fee for a floor plan, when corrections come, they do not pick up the telephone any more.
I hope this post will be helpful.