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City assists Balboa Peninsula merchants

January 01, 2002

June Casagrande

BALBOA VILLAGE -- Some say they've made a huge difference, others say

they've made no difference at all. To ease the burden on Balboa Peninsula

merchants while roadwork is underway, the city has made free many metered

parking spots, put up banners announcing businesses are open and made a

few other changes.

"Nothing is going to help down here until the work's over," said

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Maggie Allison, co-owner of Balboa Market, who said she has seen about a

40% decline in business since roadwork began in November. She said

torn-up and blocked-off streets and sidewalks have at times blocked cars

from entering her parking lot. At other times, the closure of Washington

Street has encouraged drivers to cut through her parking lot to get to

nearby streets.

Others, though, especially merchants reliant on street parking, say

the city's efforts have made a big difference in their businesses.

Metered spaces in the area now offer two hours of free parking from 8

a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Signs direct shoppers to available spots.

For Yvonne Mithrush, owner of Mithrush Fashions on Balboa Boulevard,

the free parking has helped her business a lot. But the biggest help came

when the city lifted its prohibition of left turns from Balboa Boulevard

onto Main Street.

"They acted really fast, and it helped a lot," Mithrush said.

Officials also tried to put the word out to neighbors that their local

merchants could use their help.

"Continuing and increasing your patronage of Balboa merchants whenever

possible will help them through this period of difficulty," a city-issued

flier implored neighbors.

"One man came in and said, 'I don't need anything but I'm going to buy

something anyway because I feel sorry for you businesspeople down here,"'

Mithrush said, adding that he was one of a number of neighbors who have

gone out of their way to show support.

The roughly $8-million renovation project will add new lighting and

sewers and rebuilt restrooms at the base of the Balboa Pier, along with

other functional and aesthetic improvements. Construction is expected to

continue until May. In that duration, metered spaces will continue to

allow two hours of free parking.

"When they're done, I think it will be worth it. It's going to look

good, and I think it's going to get more tourists to come," said Happi

Singh, co-owner of Bal Harbor Liquors, who said his business has suffered

only a slight decline because of the construction. "They're doing it for

all of us. I don't really have any complaints about it."

* June Casagrande covers Newport Beach. She may be reached at (949)

574-4232 or by e-mail at o7 june.casagrande@latimes.comf7 .

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