Escondido, CA
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Playing the Game of Zones

To open a store front business, you must obtain a permit, which is administered by the City of Escondido. Many of the businesses that can open in Escondido do not have listed standards or guidelines which must be met in order to secure a permit. They are permitted by-right in certain zones, primarily Commercial General (CG).

Permitted by-right means that a permit can be obtained over the counter as there are simple or no listed standards or guidelines related to the industry. The ease of getting a permit may explain why Escondido has more carwashes, drive through restaurants, nail salons and check cashing stores than other cities in North County.

But that may change soon as the city is conducting a Zoning Code Land Use Study. There are thirteen business categories undergoing this initial review.

The FIRST 13

Used Car Sales
Auto Repair Shops
Fleet Storage and Car Storage or Tow Yards
Smoke, E-Cig and Vape Shops
Tattoo Parlor and/or Body Art
Nail Salons
Laundromats and Dry- Cleaning
Lodging, Motels and Hotels
Thrift Stores, Consignment Stores, Pawn Shops, and Second-Hand Dealers
Discount Stores / Bargain Stores
Check-Cash and Payday Establishments
Drive-Through Businesses and Fast Food Restaurants.

Of the thirteen, only Check-Cash and Payday Zoning would change from by-right in all zones to not permit at all. Thus, if approved, only existing businesses will be allowed to operate and no new stores will be allowed to open in Escondido.

Banks are also under review, primarily for allowed locations. Consider downtown Escondido. There are fourteen banks on corner lots, which is prime retail real estate. Of course existing banks will not be required to move. However a bank that has been vacant for six months may not be permitted to open as a bank again.

The majority of the preliminary recommendations include expanding definitions, adding new standards or guidelines, and changing from permitted by-right (P) to requiring a conditional use permit (CUP).

The City of Escondido is including the Chamber of Commerce in the review process and has presented the preliminary recommendations to the Economic Development Committee meeting for comment. By updating the zoning code land use, business requirements and regulations will be better managed by the city. It may also elevate land use to its highest potential.

Rorie Johnston is CEO of the Escondido Chamber of Commerce.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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