The County of Los Angeles could attempt to fuel its $40 billion bioscience industry by clearing some regulatory roadblocks to building labs and manufacturing plants in unincorporated areas.
County supervisors unanimously passed a motion Aug. 7 to look into how to streamline the entitling and permitting of new bioscience businesses within unincorporated regions spanning nearly 2,700 square miles.
The motion passed by unanimously by the five supervisors included sizing up current zones that allow for bioscience manufacturing, in addition to creating a new overlay zone where new businesses could potentially cut construction costs.
“We’ve been seeking to pay attention … to the bioscience industry,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, author of the motion, whose district covers a swaths of South Los Angeles, the Westside and city center as well as cities such as Hawthorne, Compton and Torrance and nearby industrial zones.
“Jobs, jobs and more jobs – that’s the mantra,” Ridley-Thomas added before he and his colleagues voted. “And it is jobs up and down the economic ladder.”
The motion directs the county’s Department of Regional Planning to examine the feasibility and legality of creating an overlay zone to help fast-track the entitlement and permitting process for bioscience incubators, research facilities and wet and dry labs.
It calls for planners to complete a study within 120 days on how to streamline a costly and lengthy entitlement process by potentially reducing parking requirements and other barriers to development.
The county sees an emerging bioscience industry – which includes the development of drugs, medical devices, diagnostics and more – as a key to the region’s economic growth. It has spent millions on bioscience incubators at California State University-Los Angeles in El Sereno and LA BioMed in Torrance. It also has set aside $15 million for an investment fund for start-ups and a 15-acre biotech park for early stage companies, as well as launching a bioscience office to encourage growth.
Ridley-Thomas is slated to host the county’s first Bioscience LA Summit on Sept. 20 at Loyola Marymount University, which is expected to draw hundreds of bioscience entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, clinicians and students.
The Los Angeles County bioscience industry generates $40.3 billion in annual economic activity, including 232,000 direct and indirect jobs at nearly 2,500 companies and institutions, according to Biocom LA, a Los Angeles-based trade group.
“One of the most common concerns we hear from Biocom members building or renovating facilities in LA is the variability of the regulatory environment,” said Dina Lozofsky, its chief executive, who addressed the supervisors to support the bioscience land-use motion.