South Bay beaches were not so hot this summer. Many surfboard renters, T-shirt dealers and other beach-related businesses said that sales declined even more than the mercury.
About 17.4 million people visited the South Bay beaches between January and August this year, a decrease of 2.6 million from the same period in 1984, according to the Los Angeles County lifeguard service. For the same eight-month period in 1985, 2.2 million fewer people ventured out than in 1984--the last year that the lifeguard service considers average.
"If there's less people, less money goes in the register," said Nick Dante, an employee of Jeffers, which rents bicycles, boogie boards and surfboards on The Strand in Hermosa Beach. Business at the store declined, he said, but he did not have an estimate of how much.
"It was all tied to the weather," said Howard Lee, assistant chief of the county's lifeguards. He and several area business people said they had expected more people than usual to visit South Bay's beaches this summer because fears of terrorism were supposed to keep people from traveling abroad.
Most of 27 beach businesses surveyed by The Times reported business declines up to 60% and blamed them in part on a cool, overcast summer. Also cited as chilling factors were construction, parking problems, and aggressive parking enforcement in Hermosa Beach.
Replacement of a storm drain on Pier Avenue and Beach Drive forced temporary closure of those and other nearby streets and created noise and appearance problems, business people said. The project was scheduled for completion by June 30 but probably will not be finished until next week, said Debbie Murphy, assistant city engineer.
An estimated 48,000 parking citations will have been issued in Hermosa Beach from May through September, said Marguerite Sturges, who keeps such records for the city. Parking fees and tickets, which are expected to raise about $900,000 this year, are the fourth-largest revenue generator for the city's $11.6 million budget, she said.
Manhattan Beach business people also complained about parking problems. The few who said business was good said they do not depend on the beach traffic for their clientele.
Beach crowds in Manhattan Beach were smaller, except at volleyball tournaments and other events, which were more popular than ever this summer, according to city Recreation Department Supervisor Charles Saikley. "It hasn't been the greatest weather for beach-going this year," he said.
Steve Voorhees, captain of the Los Angeles County lifeguards, estimated that air temperatures near the beaches were about five degrees cooler than normal on most days this summer. A swell that came in about July 20 cooled the water and since that time it has been five to eight degrees below the normal range of 72 to 74 degrees, the lifeguards said.
"I've never seen that happen in midsummer--cooled off that abrupt, overnight," Lee said.
Based on National Weather Service statistics for Los Angeles International Airport--the nearest location where weather data is kept--the average high temperatures were about one degree warmer than normal in May (average is 69.1) and in June (average 72) and about one degree cooler in July (average 75.3) and August (average 76.5). Those months also had more clear days than normal, according to the statistics.
National Weather Service meteorologist Peter Wilensky said Los Angeles Airport statistics are a good indicator for the beaches, although tempeatures at the water's edge may be slightly cooler than at the airport and the skies may be somewhat cloudier.
People who were at or near the beaches almost every day, however, insist that the weather was overcast more often than usual and hurt their businesses.
"If the sun would come back out, business would be better," Tammy LoDolce, manager of the Surf Side Bike Shop in Manhattan Beach, said on a recent overcast day.
"Because of the unseasonably bad weather, business has been unseasonably poor," agreed Gerry Delan, owner of Robert's Liquor on Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach. The weather and subsequent decrease in beach traffic forced him to have sales and promotions he normally would not need to keep his business on a steady level, he said.
Frank's Bar and Grill on Highland Avenue in Manhattan Beach, is having its worst season in 8 1/2 years, said manager Pat Thomas, who estimated that business has decreased 25% to 50% from last year. "The weather really affects it," she said.
Guy Lucas, owner of Sloopy's Beach Cafe down the street, disagreed. "I don't think the weather has anything to do with it. . . . This is going to be the best year we ever had, the best summer," he said, adding that the restaurant has been open for 18 years. Weather inland was hot, so people still came to the beaches to cool off, he said.
Increase in Business