ORANGE, Calif.—Several Santa Ana business owners who have been impacted by the Orange County Transportation Authority’s streetcar project asked for reparations during an April 11 board meeting.
The owners argued that the shutdown of 4th Street for the construction has caused their buildings to become dirty, have endless construction noise, created safety hazards, reduced nearby parking, and more, all causing a major loss in sales for their businesses.
Owners expressed the need for financial support, saying their businesses will not survive without the assistance.
“The stress [this] situation causes is almost unbearable,” one told the agency's directors.
Directors did consider direct financial support as an option, though ultimately did not vote on it due to direct financial support having the potential to be viewed as a gift of public funds, according to a legal analysis by James Donich, general counsel for the transportation authority.
“[We] will seek clarity from the state’s Attorney General as to whether any direct financial support" can be offered, agency spokesman Eric Carpenter told The Epoch Times.
Previously, the transportation authority allocated $400,000 to two associations representing Santa Ana’s downtown to promote shops, restaurants, and area theaters in the area and to bring more awareness to the streetcar project, Carpenter said.
Last month, the Santa Ana City Council gifted $1.5 million to about three dozen businesses on 4th Street impacted by the streetcar construction, though only stores within 100 feet of the construction qualified.
During the meeting, some businesses owners said during public comments that even with the current signage indicating parking detours, it is unclear to residents that businesses on 4th street are open.
“Sadly the streetcar program has really had its issues,” transportation authority director and Huntington Beach Mayor Barbara Delgleize said during the meeting. “And I would just hate for us to sit back and do nothing and somehow have this eventually be done, yet have the residents and the businesses completely gone.”
Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner said it is time to “pull the plug” on the project altogether, saying doing so could save the public nearly $200 million.
Doing so would “save all of those eloquent businesses from the ruin that some of them say they're facing,” Wagner said. “[The project] is causing an enormous amount of pain that was unexpected and unplanned.”
Ultimately, the board unanimously directed staff to continue working with the City of Santa Ana and the downtown business owners to mitigate the impact where possible, including adding updated signage and ensuring there is sufficient security in place.
The $509 million project will serve as Orange County’s first modern electric streetcar, with a 4-mile route from Santa Ana’s bustling downtown to Garden Grove, with 10 stops in each direction.
The project is about 60 percent built and is estimated to be completed in March 2024, with 4th street traffic in the Westbound direction estimated to reopen in mid-May 2022. Both sides are expected to reopen to traffic in November 2022.