As fears of a recession grip the local economy, business leaders issued a report last week outlining steps the city could take to strengthen the local economy.

And among the more than 100 steps outlined in the 76-page report from the Los Angeles Economy and Jobs Committee one really managed to capture the attention of council members: cutting the red tape at City Hall for permit processing.

"I promise that businesses will see more movement on this very soon," pledged Council President Eric Garcetti late last week. "We've already started to do this: Just this week we voted to increase developer fees to fund additional staff at the Planning Department to expedite the approval process."

He added most of the development community was on board with the fee increase.

Other recommendations in the report, sought by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, was speeding up the modernization of Los Angeles International Airport, fast-tracking pollution-reducing expansion projects at the Port of Los Angeles, making it easier to film in the city and revitalizing South Los Angeles.

City National Bank Chairman and Chief Executive Russell Goldsmith, who chaired the privately funded 26-member panel of business, labor and academic leaders, said the city has good reason to speed up permitting.

"We can cut in half the time it takes to improve a building project and still keep the same level of review. The project gets out on the street faster and brings in tax revenues to the city that much sooner," he said.

That incentive could prove strong as the council faces a budget deficit of at least $75 million this year amid the slowing economy. Garcetti already has unveiled a program, dubbed "12 to 2," that reduces the number of city departments required to give approvals for certain projects.

Another area where early action is likely is in creating further incentives for filming within the city. Already, the city has waived fees for filming on city property. Next, is the possible creation of a special business district that would grant tax breaks to entertainment-related businesses locating within its boundaries.

"We want to make sure it's easier to film within the city," said City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel.

In South L.A., the council and mayor appear eager to use surplus land the city owns for affordable housing and mixed-use projects. The report recommends forming a joint-power authority to expedite these projects.

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