Construction Halted on Huntington Drive

A “bah, humbug” has been averted for merchants along a stretch of Huntington Drive in the run-up to Christmas.
Amid outcry from business owners about road construction on the north side of the boulevard, the city has chosen to shut down the work and postpone it until next spring.
“There’s nothing to gain causing damage to the businesses,” Mayor Dr. Allan Yung said. “We’re definitely pro-business. I’m glad it worked out well.”
During the summer, the city contracted with All American Asphalt to rehabilitate the north side of Huntington Drive from Winston Avenue to Virginia Road, a nearly $1-million project that will involve replacement of damaged curbs, gutters and sidewalks, and the grinding and replacement of asphalt. The work began Sept. 12, and merchants along Huntington have been contending ever since with lost parking spaces and customers scared off by the slow-moving snake of one-lane traffic.
The project was expected to last at least until Dec. 2, perhaps until Dec. 12 — potentially devastating for retailers who typically rely on the holiday season to keep their businesses viable.
The city was able to persuade All American Asphalt to suspend the work, patch things up and resume next year, perhaps in the spring. “The contractor was just very, very accommodating and understanding,” Public Works Director Dan Wall said.
And for the city, the cost of the postponement was only $5,000. Had a paving crew mobilized at the site, it would have cost much more, officials said. Yung placed it in the range of $50,000-$100,000.
So the San Marino High School homecoming parade (Oct. 27), the Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas Around the Drive (Dec. 2) and the shopping season in general will not be severely disrupted.
How did this happen in the first place? It appears to be a case of left hand vs. right hand. With maybe a left foot thrown in. At the time the contract was awarded on July 29, City Manager John Schaefer was retiring, Cindy Collins was taking over as interim city manager and Wall, who had come aboard just two weeks earlier, was just getting steady on his feet.
Schaefer, now working at a church in Fullerton, said last week, “I don’t remember a discussion about when the work would happen.” He added, “In Cindy’s defense, I probably didn’t do a good enough job notifying the Chamber that the work was going to be done.”
Wall, who says he is trying to create some protocols for future projects in Public Works, said, “There should have been outreach to the merchants along the street before the contract was awarded. That didn’t happen. Going forward, it most certainly will happen.”
Collins sent a letter to business owners last week apologizing for the “untimely scheduling” of the Huntington Drive rehabilitation work and apprised them of its suspension. “This lack of staff thoughtfulness does not reflect [the] Mayor and City Council goals to support the business community, nor does it reflect the commitment of staff to serve the community,” the letter said.
Dan Hodgkiss, whose family’s Huntington Drive business, Hodge Podge, was impacted by the work, said he complained to Schaefer when a similar project was conducted on the south side of Huntington Drive last year, and that he was assured it wouldn’t happen again.
Hodgkiss complained bitterly to the City Council at its Sept. 30 meeting, saying business at his store typically runs $2,000-$3,000 per day during this time of year, but with no parking in front of the store “we’re lucky if we’re making $500.”
His message obviously rattled around City Hall. The postponement “was the result we had hoped for,” he said last week, “and they’ve been very helpful in deciding to wait to do that until after the first of the year.”
Hodgkiss said city officials have agreed to meet with business owners early in the new year to determine a more suitable time for the work.

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