Small Business Forum & Cultural Arts District Designation

Monday, May 8, 2017

This post covers recent and upcoming small business initiatives, steps the city is taking to win a special Cultural Arts District designation from the state, and topics for some upcoming posts. Please keep your suggestions and questions coming!



May is Small Business month. Small businesses do more than just provide unique shopping or dining experiences for our community: they improve community livability and sustainability, values that are consistent with other key city goals and objectives.

On February 21st the Council approved a Small Business License Tax Rebate Program. Small businesses that paid licensing taxes with the city last year are encouraged to apply for a rebate on those fees. On May 2nd the Council amended the Development Fee system, reducing fees for changes of use, making it less costly for small businesses looking to occupy unused or under-utilized spaces for new, innovative purposes. These changes don't take effect until June. Please contact the Planning Department with questions.

I am pleased to announce that the joint Small Business Study Session of the City Council and Planning Commission has been set for Tuesday, May 16, 2017 from 12:00 - 3:00pm at the ECCL Multi-Purpose Room (Social Networking Hour is 12:00 - 1:00, Formal Agenda begins at 1:00pm)The format and agenda for the meeting can be viewed in the city staff report by clicking here. This is a forum I first asked for as a Planning Commission back in 2015. I believe we need this forum for several reasons: to help network small businesses with one another; to connect people to tools and resources that can assist in business development; and to give small business owners a chance to communicate directly with city leaders.

The meeting will include a couple brief presentations from local small business development leaders on existing resources and network opportunities for small business owners, followed by a listening session for the Council and Commission to receive public input. All are welcome to attend. The favor of your advance registration is requested so we can plan for food and beverage accordingly. Please contact Emi Theriault, the city's Community and Economic Development Coordinator at to RSVP and attend.

On the evening of May 16th, at the regular City Council meeting, the Council will consider a Façade Grant Program that has been proposed by the city's Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC). This program would open up $200,000 in one-time funding from the city's economic development fund to small businesses looking to make façade improvements to buildings they rent or occupy. Façade improvements can breathe life into an old building and increase small business viability. Interested small businesses are encouraged to attend the evening Council meeting to learn more as we consider the criteria and selection methods for this new program.

I want to take this opportunity to give special thanks to members of the EDAC and city staff for their work on the Façade Grant proposal and to the various small business owners who have sat down with me over the past year to discuss this and other opportunities to help facilitate small business development in Emeryville. I have learned so much for all of you and I look forward to helping us all do more!



Emeryville is now a semi-finalist!!!

In 2015, the state adopted Assembly Bill 189 (Bloom), a bill which required the California Arts Council to establish state-designated cultural districts.  The initial program is a 2-year pilot aimed at identifying concentrations of cultural resources and to help market and develop them for the purpose of spotlighting the diverse and enriching cultural assets of the state.

Arts District Map of the proposed "Rotten City" Cultural Arts District in Emeryville

The California Cultural Districts Program is a competitive grant program intended to designate roughly 10-12 cultural arts districts around the state to serve as the pilot locations for this program. The pilot locations will also help create the guidelines for a permanent grant program. Benefits of being awarded a Cultural Arts District Designation by the California Arts Council will include the following:

  • State Recognition in online and marketing media
  • Enhanced Placemaking in Communities
  • Enabling Cultural and Historic Preservation
  • Capacity Building to Expand and Preserve Cultural Arts
  • Improving Artist Support and Retention
  • Encouraging Economic Development

The City Council strongly supported pursuing this designation and gave instruction to staff at our March 21st Council meeting to guide our application for a Cultural District Designation. The city estimated that more than 100 applications were filed seeking a special district designation from the state. Emeryville's application was fortunate to have support from a variety of stakeholders, including the Emeryville Celebration of the Arts, the city, SAE Expressions College, Pixar, Wareham Development, as well as numerous individuals and other stakeholders.

Special thank you to resident-artist Sharon Wilchar, our incredible local artist community, the Emeryville Public Art Committee, and city staff for getting our application this far already. Together we are preparing to host the selection committee from the California Arts Council next week. We anticipate that an announcement regarding their final selections will be made in early July.



These are topics for posts that are in the works for the coming weeks:

  • NEXT: Lead Safety Ordinance
  • Homelessness
  • The FY 2017-18 Emeryville City Budget
  • Bicycle/Pedestrian/Transportation Planning


Wishing everyone in Emeryville a wonderful (and warm!) week.