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Merchants Feel Pinch of Street Project

February 05, 1987|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

Shocked by sudden massive traffic snarls and parking problems, merchants facing a major street reconstruction project in downtown Glendale are pleading that the city untangle the mess.

Shopkeepers in the 400 block of North Brand Boulevard presented hastily drawn petitions to City Council on Tuesday, complaining that their business has been severely reduced--by as much as 50% in some cases--since the city fenced off half of the busy main thoroughfare last week. The move eliminated all angled parking on the block and pushed the four lanes of traffic to the east side of Brand.

Merchants in the 400 block are being hurt because most of their customers use the angled parking spaces. The project includes five blocks of Brand and stretches from Lexington Drive and Arden Avenue north of the Ventura Freeway. The remaining blocks, which do not have angled parking, include mostly large office buildings with their own parking areas.

The $3.8-million project, which is expected to take 10 months to complete, includes installation of landscaped medians, underground utilities and traffic signals, and reconstruction and widening of sidewalks.

City Manager James Rez said shopkeepers were warned in November that the project would cause congestion and possibly disrupt business for several months. He said the project is expected to increase business when completed.

However, some merchants complain that their businesses won't last long enough to reap the benefits.

"We could all go bankrupt," said Ellen Schuler, who owns two buildings in the block. She leases space to six merchants.

Joe Manop, owner of Glendale Bootleggers, a mini-market in the block, said he soon will face bankruptcy if problems are not resolved. The city is providing validated parking in the nearby Cabot, Cabot & Forbes building, but Manop said customers are unwilling to walk a block to buy convenience food.

Rez said city workers are talking with merchants to determine if there is some way to alleviate the problems, including directional signs for nearby parking. Merchants have demanded that, at the very least, the city hang a banner across Brand to direct customers to parking spaces behind the stores.

Schuler, in a letter to the city on behalf of some merchants, urged that traffic be re-routed around the block to speed completion.

"They need to forge ahead with the project just as if we were at war and had to move the troops," she said.

Rez said block-by-block construction of the project is not possible, however. "This is a major, major project and we can't do it piecemeal," he said.

Schuler said the city promised that construction would take place one block at a time and would inconvenience merchants and their customers for only short periods.

"I couldn't believe it when they stuck up signs saying there would be no more parking until Oct. 27," Schuler complained. "My tenants were shocked and I was shocked."

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