County departments meet with business community for launch of LA County Connect

L.A.County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, right, starts the inaguaral meeting for L.A.County Connect held at the Stevenson Ranch Library in Stevenson Ranch on Wednesday. Dan Watson/The Signal
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After a forced relocation, Gymcheer USA is looking for a new home but owner and Santa Clarita resident Shelly Walker said due to a reclassification she may go out of business. 

“We’ve been reclassified all of a sudden as a fitness gym,” she said. “We need 100 parking spaces for 11,000 square feet and for us there’s no place in the entire county (or) valley that holds that, so now we’re going out of business. We’re very emotional about it and I came to this meeting because we need help.” 

Walker was one in several dozen local business owners and developers who sought information Wednesday about a new initiative by the Los Angeles County in collaboration with the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation, and ultimately, advice on situations like that of Gymcheer USA. 

Attendees gathered at Stevenson Ranch Library for the inaugural meeting of L.A. County Connect, a new effort that will offer prospective and actual applicants to meet with various county departments on a monthly basis in the SCV to discuss development projects. 

The initiative was introduced at the event by L.A. County Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Holly Schroeder, SCVEDC president and CEO. They were accompanied by county officials, including Dennis Slavin with Regional Planning, Mark Pestrella of Public Works and Daryl Osby of the Fire Department. 

SCV-based applicants will now have the opportunity to meet monthly with department heads and “be available to answer questions, to brainstorm, resolve conflicts or confusion so that you don’t have to go to different locations across the county and you don’t have the delay that is intrinsic,” said Schroeder. 

One key tool officials provided updates about was EPIC-LA, or Electronic Permitting and Inspections for the County of Los Angeles, which allows users to track permits and requests for projects via a public portal. 

“From a business person perspective and residential property owner, it’s a place for you to see the process and be able to communicate directly with all the government agencies you have to deal with to get permission,” said Pestrella. “You’ll be able to submit plans and to have interactions digitally without having to move so we’ll save you time and money. You’ll be able to go online and talk to a real person about your specific project.” 

Closing a communication gap between county officials and applicants, as well as offering EPIC-LA, will streamline the process without skipping regulations, according to officials. The online tool is set to offer additional features in the near future such as applications for sprinkler and alarm plan checks as required by the Fire Department. 

Some local developers have already started meeting with county officials on a monthly basis, including Marie Cooper, who said she has learned how to better navigate EPIC-LA, ultimately speeding up the permit process for her projects. 

Walker said having department staff hear her situation first-hand offered her hope for her business. 

Meetings will be held on the last Thursday of every month at Stevenson Library, with the next one scheduled for July 25 from 10 a.m. to noon.

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