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Bird Rock businesses frustrated with construction

The extensive construction along La Jolla Boulevard in the Bird Rock area, which is designed to improve traffic flow, has been having a negative impact on local businesses.

Three new roundabouts are being constructed, and the entire sewer line and sewer laterals are being replaced. Finally, the street will also be repaved.

Because of the lack of parking caused by the construction, potential customers are avoiding shopping at the businesses located along the street.

“It’s very intrusive, because people avoid it because of the parking,” said Stephanie Whitlock, who owns Stephanie’s Shoes shoe store.

Jerry Klein, who has owned A Better Deal Tuxedo for twelve years, also expressed his frustration at the lack of parking for potential customers. He said there is hardly any parking available except for nearby residential areas and that there is no access to the side streets. Even walking to his store can be problematic, as construction vehicles take up space in the street.

Tom Leach, who has owned Blue Salon for the past eight years, said that customers have been up to 45 minutes late because of the unavailability of parking.

“If somebody is fortunate to get here by walking, there is no way that they can cross the street for three blocks,” said Klein, who said that his business has gone down since the construction began. He also said that the construction poses problems for his customers in particular, because dust and dirt is liable to get on their formal wear when they leave his store.

Whitlock said customers tend to frequent her store on the weekends and at night when the construction workers have gone home. Also, customers who live close to the store will often walk.

Klein has extended his hours in order to garner more business, and he has doubled his mailings. He has even gone as far as to pick up customers and bring them to his place of business.

Whitlock believes the construction will be beneficial in the end, because it will make the area “more walker and shopper friendly.”

“I think overall it will be a very positive impact for the retail community especially,” she said.

Whitlock also said she has found the contractors to be very accommodating to her needs as a merchant by working quickly and putting up signs for parking. She said that parking is available in the back of her store, which potential customers may not realize.

However, Klein, from A Better Deal Tuxedo, felt that contractors are not particularly sympathetic. “The contractors are worried about getting the job done, not how it affects businesses,” he said. He also said that the original date of completion had been postponed significantly. “We were initially told the project was going to last seven or eight months, and the date of completion has been changed dramatically,” he said. He said he knows of five other businesses that have had to close since the construction started.

Leach agreed that the construction shows a lack of consideration for the impact it has on nearby businesses. “There’s been no consideration for businesses here at all,” he said. “These are private businesses. They get affected.”

Leach has been impacted financially not only because of lack of access to his salon, but because he now must keep his windows closed, which causes him to have to use air conditioning, which in turn causes his electric bill to go up. He also has had to resurface his floors.

In addition, he said he also did not see the reason for the construction in the first place, even if it is going to eventually look more pleasing. “It’s mind blowing to me that people came up with the idea to make it a smaller lane,” he said. “The roundabouts aren’t even wide enough to make the turns.”

Leach will soon be moving his business to downtown San Diego due to the construction, rising rents and what he says is an increase of crime in Bird Rock. “I love Bird Rock, but it’s not set up for commerce,” he said. He said that his business and others in the area have been broken into on several occasions and that local police are spread too thin to have much of an impact.

He feels that his new downtown location will have the benefits of being less expensive to maintain and being able to attract more customers because of access to foot traffic.

Klein said that merchants like him are in a predicament as to whether or not to voice their complaints. “We’re between a rock and a hard place. The more attention we bring to what’s going on here, the more we also alert people who will be customers to our store.”