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Community News: Mid-City

WILSHIRE CENTER : Red Line Sound, Radisson Fury

March 20, 1994|JAKE DOHERTY

When guests at the Radisson Wilshire Plaza Hotel lose sleep because of the noise from the Metro Red Line construction site beneath their windows, the hotel loses business.

Since subway construction between Normandie and Western avenues began more than two years ago, dust, noise, construction platforms, heavy equipment and traffic obstructions have interfered with commerce on Wilshire Boulevard.

The hotel at 3515 Wilshire Blvd. has been particularly hard hit and in January presented the Metropolitan Transportation Authority with an $18-million claim for damages, including loss of business and business good will, property damage, increased maintenance costs, noise-related stress and impaired access to the hotel.

The MTA is reviewing the claim, said Steven Chesser, an agency spokesman.

Many regular guests and larger clients--including one tour agency that booked 6,000 rooms annually--have said they will not stay at the hotel until major construction is completed sometime in 1995.

Robert Mooney, the hotel's public affairs director, said the hotel does not expect subway construction to be invisible, but "we expect reasonable efforts to mitigate the impact."

The hotel's claim states that the MTA has been lax in forcing the project contractor, Tutor-Saliba Corp., to abide by contractual obligations to lessen the impact of disruptions. Moreover, the agency itself responds to community concerns only when pressured by city officials, Mooney said.

The hotel's specific complaints include construction begun earlier or finished later than within specified work hours, obstructions to the hotel's driveways and surrounding sidewalks and the MTA's failure to heed independent recommendations for reducing the effects of construction.

MTA officials have previously acknowledged noise problems but say they are now taking a more aggressive trouble-shooting approach.

"Construction is a messy job," said Dennis Alexander, a contract engineer with Parsons-Dillingham, the company hired by the agency to inspect subway construction. "It's never going to look pretty but we're going to try to address specific problems."

Mooney said: "Talk is cheap, but if it's not accompanied by action, it could be very expensive."

At an MTA meeting organized last month to deal with community concerns, officials from the agency were unprepared to answer numerous questions about its loan program for impacted businesses. The program is administered by East-West Federal Bank.

The MTA scheduled another community meeting for 6 p.m. Monday at the hotel to discuss construction claims and the loan program.

But as Wayne Williams, the Radisson's vice president of operations, said in a letter to the MTA after the Feb. 17 meeting, "a concerned community on Wilshire" is turning into "an angry community."

The loan program was started last year. As of March 9, three businesses had received loans of $25,000 or $50,000; 13 other loan applications are under review, Chesser said. The MTA has also made two separate large loans outside the program.

Mooney said that the hotel has not applied for a loan through the program because applicants must waive the right to sue the MTA. "Our damages won't be addressed with a loan," he said. "What can a loan do to bring people back? We want compensation for damages."

City Councilman Nate Holden told Wilshire Boulevard merchants that he has urged the MTA to implement a construction mitigation program similar to the $27.7-million program planned for the Hollywood Boulevard construction phase.

The Hollywood program includes some measures for noise reduction and provides for a full-time MTA staff to deal with public complaints as well as a citizens committee to monitor mitigation measures.

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