Business owners in California’s Orange County are mad, and it has nothing to do with taxes. Some owners say their shops have been barely hanging on as it is— that over two years of the pandemic has hurt them financially. Now, their beef is with the noise and lack of business from the construction of a streetcar in Santa Ana, California, which is just compounding the financial pains, as the OC Register reports.
First approved in 2014 by OCTA (Orange County Transportation Authority), the streetcar will run just over four miles from Santa Ana to nearby Garden Grove. It’s planned to be completed by 2024 with a half-billion-dollar price tag.
The biggest problem though, is that a part of the line runs right through the main street for businesses. Local owners say that business has been affected by the construction. Many claim to have been blindsided by the construction as it started seemingly out of nowhere with no warning or any information as to how long it would last. From the Register:
Penaloza said that OCTA did not communicate with the business owners aggressively enough before closing Fourth Street.
“We’ve known for three years it was going to happen, eventually. But I think the resentment comes from the fact that there was no immediate warning of what the exact dates would be,” Penaloza said. “All of a sudden, (construction) was at the merchants’ front door.”
Everything from construction noise to dust has kept people away. One owner of a cafe says business was down 70 percent since the start of construction. Others described the street as a ghost town, citing traffic is nonexistent on the two-lane street.
Owners are so angry they took to the street in protest. They want to be compensated by both the city and county officials.
…are asking for better signage to advertise that their businesses remain open. They also want the city to pause parking fees at nearby structures, as well as economic aid to supplement decreased sales and fund additional cleaning services.
Santa Ana’s mayor doesn’t believe that the city should pay for everything. While he agrees that there should be a discussion between the city and business owners over what to do, he thinks that OCTA should be paying the city to help with costs related to affected businesses saying, “This is a county-led project. I would hope the city doesn’t bear all the cost of alleviating the hardships.”
Businesses owners don’t believe the $509 million price tag is worth it, but county officials say the boom for local businesses from the streetcar will make it worth it. That is, once the project is completed.