DTLA - Unlike people in many neighborhoods across Los Angeles, Downtowners generally are in support of big construction projects. That’s because Downtown is an evolving community and still needs many amenities that other neighborhoods take for granted. The desire to achieve a critical mass of residents, food outlets, businesses, shops and services has largely quashed the NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) sentiment encountered across the city.
Downtowners also tend to accept that long-term progress can require a certain level of short-term difficulty. No one likes the traffic snarls that accompany a housing or other project, but people seem willing to endure the pain if it seems finite, if it appears to be spread evenly, and if all sides are working together for the common good.
This issue is at the forefront in the red-hot development zone of South Park, and one can certainly feel for a clutch of frustrated business owners who are being buffeted by parking challenges on several fronts.
One egregious example is what’s happening with the My Figueroa bicycle project. For months now large cement barriers have been placed across several blocks of 11th Street, blocking parking spaces and traffic lanes, and construction has been painfully slow (some days it seems nonexistent). This is exacerbated by area housing projects that have claimed numerous metered spaces often used by customers of small businesses — developers can pay to reserve spaces during the day. Now many spaces are often unavailable to the public during weekday work hours, and as Los Angeles Downtown News recently wrote, some business owners are reporting falling revenues, saying the lack of parking has caused their customers to go elsewhere.
We’ve seen this before in Downtown. Metro construction in the 1990s hammered business owners, particularly along Seventh Street. Customers could not get to them, and many closed.
What is happening in South Park is untenable. Developers must recognize that after construction finishes, their tenants will need an established cluster of stores, bars and restaurants. The small businesses here now will help create the long-term fabric of the neighborhood.
Unfortunately there is no direct source of help in dealing with the builders in South Park. There is no single responsible entity such as the MTA on Seventh Street in the ’90s. The many builders all have their permits and will be reluctant to take on what they will consider someone else’s burden.
However, we encourage the small businesses to not be daunted, but to band together and fight hard and loud. They should pester their elected officials. They should not lose hope.
Developers and builders, meanwhile, should realize that the goodwill that encourages them to build Downtown, when so many parts of Los Angeles fight any project, is a goodwill that can be turned against them if they don’t do their part to solve this problem, whether it is required by their building permit or not.
Public officials would be wise to consider the potential of a shift of goodwill as well.
© Los Angeles Downtown News 2017