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Start, Expand & Finance Your Business

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Helping businesses in San Diego grow and flourish is a major focus of the City of San Diego. The City is dedicated to helping foster the region's economy to improve the quality of life for its citizens and business community. Through many continuing programs and projects, the City creates opportunities for businesses to succeed.

Online Business Portal and Other ToolsOnline Business Portal landing page

Take the first step to start or grow your business in San Diego.

Ten Key Steps to Starting a Business

(For Businesses Within the City of San Diego limits)

Read the full version: PDF icon 10 Key Steps to Starting a Business
Spanish version: PDF icon 10 Pasos Clave Para Iniciar Su Negocio

There are several key steps to starting a business in the City of San Diego. The steps may vary depending on the type of business you intend to start. Following the 10 Key Steps to Starting a Business will give you a general idea and help the process run smoothly.

Many steps can be researched and processed online through the websites listed, saving you the time of calling or visiting department or agency offices. The City’s Central Library and all branches provide Internet access during library hours.

Get Basic Information with help from the City of San Diego Public Library.

  1. Select a site and determine zoning by visiting the Zoning Portal and site permit requirements with help from the OpenCounter Business Portal. If you plan to operate out of your home, obtain information about requirements for Home Occupations. For new construction or questions about the development process, please contact the Development Services Department.
  2. Determine a Business Name and register at County of San Diego, Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk’s Office.
  3. Create a Business Plan with help from the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) South San DiegoNorth San Diego and U.S. Small Business Administration .
  4. Determine the Business Activity Type from the list provided by the Office of the City Treasurer's PDF icon Business Tax Certification application.
  5. Determine the Legal Structure of the business.
  6. Obtain any special licenses and permits. (Read more about this in the PDF icon full version of 10 Key Steps.)
  7. Get tax information from the California Tax Information Center, and the Internal Revenue Service.
  8. Learn about Employer Responsibilities at the City level (Earned Sick Leave and Minimum Wage Ordinance) from the Office of the City Treasurer. Learn about Employer Responsibilities at the State and Federal levels from the Employment Development Department and Internal Revenue Service
  9. Apply for a Business Tax Certificate (Business License) from the Office of the City Treasurer, Business Tax Division.

For those business start-ups that do not have access to the Internet, the City's Central Library and all branch libraries provide access to the Internet during hours the library is open.

Download a complete version of the PDF icon 10 Key Steps to Starting a Business, which includes contact information and additional resources.
Spanish version: PDF icon 10 Pasos Clave Para Iniciar Su Negocio

For questions or concerns, call 619-236-6700 or email [email protected]

Financing Incentives

The City of San Diego offers business incentives that are aligned with PDF icon City Council Policy 900-12 , giving companies an edge in the marketplace and helping them expand and prosper.

A business is eligible for financial incentives if it meets at least one of the following criteria:

  • It provides significant revenues and/or jobs. 
  • It promotes the stability and growth of City taxes and other revenue.
  • It constructs appropriate development in older parts of the City. 
  • It is being induced by other jurisdictions to relocate from San Diego. 

The City can help with project advocacy, due diligence and expedited permit review. Financial incentives can include reimbursement of all or a portion of building and/or development-related fees.

The City's Economic Development Department has a proactive Business Expansion, Attraction and Retention (BEAR) Division that works directly with key businesses in targeted industries. It provides assistance and incentives to businesses and other economic development stakeholders in our region, resulting in the creation and retention of jobs in San Diego. Several business incentive programs are available  to assist companies in the San Diego region.

Permit Assistance

Certain San Diego businesses may also be eligible to receive expedited review and approval of building- and development-related permit entitlements. Prior to the lease or purchase of real estate, Economic Development staff can also provide assistance, including the identification of zoning standards, development regulations and submittal requirements.  

 
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