By Ed Moosbrugger
"Construction has become a dirty word on the streets of Downtown
Santa Monica as business people and their customers try to cope with detours,
no turn signs and disrupted bus routes due to road work.
Its such a pain to drive down Fourth Street, said Sameer
Jooma, owner of the Giorgio Vasari mens designer clothing store
on the Third Street Promenade. That situation has affected business, he
Merchants seem particularly upset about the no turn signs
that send drivers a few blocks out of their way to get where they want
They have shut down so many left and right turns, said Naren
Patel, owner of two Shiva Imports stores on the Promenade and 4th Street.
While business is fine at his Promenade store, the traffic disruptions
have hurt the 4th Street store, he reported.
Theres no access to my store (on 4th Street), Patel
said in mid-March. Compounding the problem, he said, is the fact that
one law enforcement person has prevented customers from loading purchases
into their cars in the alley behind the store.
Where are we supposed to do our business? he asked. I
Merchants have reason to complain because it is clear that the prolonged
street work is turning off some customers.
One couple said they drove Downtown intending to attend a movie but became
so discouraged by the street detours that they just gave up and drove
home. Another customer of a Downtown business said he usually avoids the
area now because it is such a hassle.
This construction has caused so much damage to businesses,
said Peter Katsikides, owner of Peters Barber Shop on 4th Street.
He estimated his business is down at least 40 percent.
Some merchants wonder why work on 4th Street is taking so long, while
work on Santa Monica Boulevard and Broadway seemed to move along faster.
And they dont think the City is doing much to help the merchants
But all is not gloom over the street and sidewalk work. Hopefully,
all the construction will pay off, Jooma said. He likes the new
look, including street furniture, on the sidewalks on Santa Monica Boulevard
Its nice to have something fresh, Jooma said, emphasizing
the importance of looking at the big picture.
Merchants also expressed other concerns, including the loss of restaurants
on the Promenade and problems caused by some transients.
There are, however, some positive signs. Jooma said business has picked
up recently, and hes seeing more tourists after the slowdown following
the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks.
They are spending again, the clothing merchant reported.
Another Promenade apparel merchant said he is still happy
with his store, noting that the Promenade remains packed on weekends,
although he doesnt think there are as many people during the week.
ATTENDANCE at this years American Film Market trade show
fell by 6 percent to 6,714, with the number of registered buyers dropping
to 1,327 from 1,447 last year.
The AFM, which is Santa Monicas biggest single piece of convention
business, did lure a record number of exhibitors, with 338 companies selling
films compared with 332 a year ago.
While attendance was down, AFM continued to be an important event for
AFM helped us, said Jooma of Giorgio Vasari. He attracted
business by leaving promotional materials at the AFM information desk
at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, offering a 10 percent discount
and free delivery and alterations.
HOTEL OCCUPANCY was the worst in many years in Santa Monica during
2001 but showed signs of leveling off in the final month of the year,
as hotels cut rates sharply to maintain business.
For all of 2001, the hotel occupancy rate fell to 69.5 percent, down 10.8
percent from the prior year. It wasnt too long ago that Santa Monica
enjoyed annual occupancy rates of more than 80 percent.
The average room rate in Santa Monica dipped 1 percent to $200.56 in 2001,
according to a report from PKF Consulting and the Los Angeles Convention
& Visitors Bureau.
In December, the hotel occupancy rate edged up 1 percent from the prior
December to 59.2 percent, but the average room rate plunged 18 percent