Starting a Business in Santa Monica

Welcome to Santa Monica!  We are here to help if you are considering starting, relocating or expanding your business in Santa Monica. Here are the steps to opening your business:

Continue the Process:

Please follow these steps to open your business in Santa Monica.

  1. Confirm the Zoning and permitted land use requirements.

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    Before you sign a lease, please visit our Zoning Portal or contact the City Planning Division to confirm: a) The proposed business is permitted in the zoning district, and b) It meets the parking requirements.

  2. Confirm what permits you will need.

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    Will the business require physical alterations to the building, or interior, including signage?  If yes, check the City's Building Permit + Plan Review portal for an overview of the permits you may need to start or expand your business.  For additional information on how to get an building permit and to make an appointment, click here.

  3. Apply for your Business License.

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    Apply for a City of Santa Monica Business License and applicable local regulatory permits. Call (310) 458-8745 for an application, or apply online: www.smgov.net/BusinessLicense

  4. Congratulations, you're ready to open!

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    Congratulations! Once your business license certificate is issued and you are compliant with all applicable local, state and federal regulations, you may open for business.  

If you have questions about opening a business, City staff are here to help support you.   We recommend you first review the Online process for quick tips and reference on confirming zoning and permits.  However, if you prefer to speak to City staff in person, our Public Counter Team is here to assist.  For additional information and assistance in booking an appointment with City staff, contact (310) 458-2275 or email 311@santamonica.gov.  

If you have general questions about business opportunities in Santa Monica, the City's Economic Development Team is here to help and assist - contact us at econdev@santamonica.gov or (310) 458-8906.

    1. Before you sign a lease - confirm zoning and parking requirements

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      Before you sign a lease, please contact the City Planning Division to confirm: a) The proposed business is permitted in the zoning district, and b) It meets the parking requirements.  To check the zoning designation for a specific address, click here.  To view the City of Santa Monica's Zoning Ordinance and recent updates, click here.  To schedule an appointment at the City of Santa Monica Planning Counter or to seek staff support for any questions, call (310) 458-2275 or email 311@santamonica.gov.

    2. Confirm what permits will you need.

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      Will the business require physical alterations to the building, or interior, including signage?

      If yes, Planning Approval may be as simple as an Over-the-Counter (OTC) permit, or may require approval(s) from the City’s Architectural Review Board (ARB), Landmarks Commission (LC) and/or Planning Commission (PC). Note: if the property is located in the Coastal Zone, then Coastal Commission approvals may also be required. To confirm, contact the Planning Department.

      If a Building Permit is required, the plans must be prepared by a licensed architect or engineer (or designer, depending on the proposed improvements) and approved by various divisions/departments before a building permit can be issued. Prior to applying for a building permit, ensure that all land use approvals from Planning (CUP, ARB, etc.) have been obtained. Contactor will be required to have a City of SM Business License. For more information, including submittal requirements and plan check processing times, contact the Building Safety Department.  This weblink is also helpful:  https://www.santamonica.gov/process-explainers/how-to-get-a-building-permit

      If you would like to speak to City staff in person, you may make an appointment at the City Counter or contact the City's 311 customer service.

    3. Apply for your Business License.

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      If approved, apply for a City of Santa Monica Business License and applicable local regulatory permits. Call (310) 458-8745 for an application.

    4. Congratulations, you're ready to open!

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      Congratulations! Once your business license certificate is issued and you are compliant with all applicable local, state and federal regulations, you may open for business.  


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