Sojka to propose Cochran Street Recommendations from Businesses
Councilman interviewed businesses most impacted from Farmers move
Simi Valley City Councilman and Mayoral candidate Steve Sojka today announced his intention to introduce for City Council consideration the Cochran Street Recommendations from Businesses – a package of suggestions by local business leaders in response to the relocation of employees by Farmers Insurance.
In response to the recent announcement by Farmers to relocate their Cochran Street Regional Facility, Councilman Sojka interviewed a majority of owners and managers of businesses within the immediate vicinity of the Farmers building at Cochran Street and Galena Avenue. Sojka sought their input and ideas as to how they felt that the City of Simi Valley could be of assistance until a new tenant is found for the 250,000-square-foot commercial building.
“I have walked the entire area and talked with the majority of business owners and managers within eyesight of the Farmers building, listened to their ideas and suggestions, and now plan to propose those recommendations to the City Council for implementation,” Councilman Sojka said. “I was pleased with their openness, and with their ideas to move forward.”
What the owners along Cochran Street, Galena Avenue and Sycamore Drive adjacent to the Ronald Reagan Freeway (118) suggested, and what Sojka will recommend, include:
- Temporarily removing certain restrictions of the City Sign Ordinance, including limits on temporary signs, banners, and monument signs. Such restrictions would be removed only until the Farmers building again is occupied.
- Waiving the Business License Tax for small businesses physically located within one half mile of the Farmers building until the building is occupied.
- Allowing for sidewalk sales and other similar special promotions, which may otherwise be currently restricted.
- Expediting the process to declare a new Redevelopment Zone that would encompass Sycamore Plaza, the Target Center, the Mervyn’s Center, and the Do-It Center. This would allow small businesses in those areas to apply for low-interest loans from the City’s Community Development Agency loan program, and would also allow them to participate in expedited renovation projects.
Sojka will ask for City Council concurrence of these recommendations at the next City Council meeting on Aug. 30, and request that the Council direct the City Attorney and City Manager to bring back the recommendations for formal City Council action at the Council’s Sept. 20 meeting.
The recommendations would be on top of actions already undertaken by the City since Farmers’ sudden announcement in mid-August which included:
- The formation of a Red Team to expedite finding a new tenant for the building. The Red Team will include representatives from Farmers (which continues to hold a lease on the building and has a vested interest in finding a new tenant), the City Council, City administration, and the economic development community.
- Sending letters to more than 1,200 commercial real estate brokers in Southern California seeking their assistance in the tenant search.
“While Farmers’ announcement caught this community by surprise, we need to recognize that this soon-to-be-available building presents an opportunity to go after industry in growing fields such as health care, energy conservation, or ‘green’ industries,” Sojka said. “It is a highly visible and accessible building that can attract clean industry with high-paying jobs which can create new income for our residents and in turn create profits for our local businesses.”
While there has been some speculation that the City had knowledge of Farmers’ intentions to relocate and could have prevented such a decision, the City has received a letter (attached) from Lonnie Sproat, Farmers’ Vice President – Commercial Operations, confirming that there was nothing the City could have done to prevent the consolidation action. “We want you to know that the decision to relocate our employees and consolidate our offices to Woodland Hills was solely a business decision. We have been very happy with the Simi Valley community and the support from the City Council and the Mayor,” the letter states.
“The Farmers announcement was disappointing, and Simi Valley residents who work at the Farmers facility will now need to commute to Woodland Hills, but we are fortunate that no Simi Valley residents will actually lose their jobs,” Sojka commented. “The bad news is 1,200 employees who used to shop nearby before and after work and during breaks will not be around until that building is filled again. Our community needs to join together at this time for these area businesses and assist them. I believe strongly that our businesses can survive this if we all work together.”