New city-installed benches and planters intended to beautify Hollywood Boulevard are having the opposite effect by serving as magnets for bums, winos and other street people, according to boulevard merchants.
Many of the benches are covered with graffiti, inhabited frequently by seedy-looking people and, rather than attracting customers, are driving them away, they say.
"We are trying to get the city to remove the benches," said Mitch G. Siegel, manager of Book City at 6627 Hollywood Blvd. "The bums congregate there all day. You won't catch decent people sitting there."
'Good for Creeps'
"The benches are only good for the creeps," said Doreet Rotman, owner of the Snow White Cafe at 6769 Hollywood Blvd. "Because there are no public restroom facilities, street people urinate in the flower pots."
Another business owner, who declined to have his name published, said that "junk people" sit on the bench in front of his newly refurbished electronics shop playing deafeningly loud music on their radios.
"I would not mind the planters because they do add some color to the street," he said. "But the benches are terrible."
The benches and planters are being installed by the Hollywood Economic Revitalization Effort, a city agency set up to help Hollywood Boulevard businesses refurbish and beautify their stores.
The agency is using a $170,000 grant to install the furniture between Highland and Wilcox avenues.
Pompea Smith, director of the agency, said that the project, including planting shrubs in the planters, will take a few more weeks to complete.
She acknowledged the complaints, but said that she is asking merchants to be patient until all of the furniture is in place and the shrubs and flowers are planted.
"Once the project is finished," she said, "we will have a more accurate gauge of its effectiveness. I have told the business people that if it does not work, after a couple of months, we will remove them."
Smith also expressed annoyance at the criticism, saying that some of the complaints voiced by merchants could be directed at themselves.
"We get complaints about people playing their radios too loud in front of stores," she said. "But many of the electronic merchants have their own radios blasting away. It is a vicious circle here in Hollywood. But we keep trying to improve the community."