When considering opening a business in Mill Valley, it is wise to contact the Planning and Building Department regarding zoning ordinances, use permits, etc. as part of planning your business model. It is highly recommended this consultation take place before entering into any sort of lease or purchase agreement. Once it is determined that the endeavor is feasible, the next stop should be Building if any sort of alteration to the interior or exterior of the structure that houses the business is being considered. At this juncture, we can advise you as to other departments or agencies that may be involved in the approval process, as well as which building codes and ordinances may be applicable.
A major consideration on the Building Department side is accessibility. Accessibility is defined in the California Building Code as: "the combination of various elements in a building, facility, site, or area, or portion thereof which allows access, circulation and the full use of the building and facilities by persons with disabilities." Almost any type of alteration will trigger the requirement for some degree of accessibility upgrade to the building or site.
Accessibility is an extremely complicated and potentially litigious subject. The importance of retaining experienced and competent accessibility consultants and/or design professionals as an integral part of your potential alterations and how they impact your overall business model cannot be overstated. While Building staff can advise on applicable code interpretations, we cannot act in the role of a consultant. Competent professionals may be worth their weight in gold in this arena.