Tips Before You Sign a Lease
Leasing or purchasing a new space is an important first step in securing a location to operate your business. Business owners should carefully research the property, building requirements, and the cost of needed improvements before committing to a lease.
Understand the space thoroughly. Don’t assume you’re leasing or purchasing a property where everything is permitted and up to current code requirements. Regulations change frequently. Changes may have also occurred without City review.
Check the property records online, and consider making an appointment to view the archive plans (link here)
Zoning: Know where your business can legally operate. Different business types (also called land uses) are allowed to operate in certain areas (zones) of the City and need to provide sufficient parking for their employees and customers. Currently, two Zoning Codes address development in the Coastal Zone and outside the Coastal Zone. Knowing the site zoning
- Building Code Occupancy: Anticipate basic building improvements. The proposed use of a building may result in a change to the Occupancy rating under the Building Code. Upgrades to the building, its mechanical systems, and the site may be needed to comply with current building and safety requirements. Some improvements are expensive, for example:
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility improvements for individuals with a disability
- Electrical system/transformer capacity, HVAC system (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning)
- Fire sprinklers
- Flood Prevention: Adapting a building to withstand potential flooding in a flood zone or coastal area.
- Irrigation system, waterwise fixtures
- Mitigating mold, lead, asbestos, or termite infestations
- Roof, doors (for exiting requirements), and windows
- Storm Water management (SWMP)
- Trash/Recycling/Food Scraps, screening/enclosure (if outdoors)
- Utility connections to water and sewer, plumbing and backflow prevention devices
Create a plan and budget for building improvements. You’re committed to a property once you sign a lease. Pay close attention to when regular lease payments begin. Having a detailed plan, budget, and timeline that allows for contingencies is critical to limiting unforeseen costs and opening your doors on time and within budget. Anticipate possible delays and additional costs.
Hire local professionals and monitor their work. Local architects, engineering and planning professionals will often have the best understanding of City regulations and timelines. They can help you manage tenant improvements and the project planning process. Stay engaged in your project at various stages.
Be flexible and anticipate extensive review of your project. Some improvements can be approved over the counter. Other improvements need to be reviewed more carefully by building professionals or engineers. Exterior changes are reviewed by design advisory boards comprised of professionals volunteering their time to maintain Santa Barbara’s aesthetics.