ONE of southern California's premiere tourist attractions - the star-studded sidewalks of Hollywood - is bracing itself for four years of upheaval and slow business.
Los Angeles' Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is notifying scores of merchants along Hollywood Boulevard that construction is soon to begin for an extension of the city's Red Line subway. The construction is expected to last four years, so stations at the boulevard's intersections with Vine, Western, and Highland Avenues can be finished. Merchants are questioning whether to stay for the duration, or close up shop.
``I don't know if my business will be able to survive,'' says Doreet Hakman, owner of the Snow White Coffee Shop. She says the main reason people come to Hollywood is to look at the sidewalk stars and take pictures. ``Without foot traffic, we're in trouble,'' she says.
In recent years, businesses have failed and suffered heavily in several other areas of the city while underground rails have been constructed. Because of detours and construction activity, patronage of retail outlets has fallen off steeply and caused severe hardship to merchants.
But city officials hasten to add that businesses will eventually benefit from the increased traffic of pedestrians provided by subway commuters from all areas of the city. A noted example is Langer's Delicatessen near the MacArthur Park Red Line Station. The store suffered an almost fatal lack of business while the station was being built, but has since been the object of several articles as the hottest deli in town.
More than $27.7 million has been set aside by the city to help merchants survive. Part of that includes money allotted to remove more than 300 stars from the Walk of Fame, including Bette Davis, Gene Kelly, Bob Hope, Sammy Davis Jr., and Cecil B. DeMille. The stars will be taken to a temporary plaza nearby, off Vine Street, and will be replaced in their original spots when subway construction is over.
But promises by authorities that precautions will be taken to lessen the impact - such as limiting heavy construction to non-business hours and at night - have done little to assuage concerns. Business owners along another subway corridor, Wilshire Boulevard, have gone to the press with several horror stories, ranging from noise and dust to complaints of major building cracks and gas-, power-, and water-line damage.
Ed McSpedon, the MTA's interim chief executive for construction, says the MTA is trying to tailor-make its relief program to each area of the city.
``We're looking at each part of the city individually and will try to tailor a mitigation program to its needs,'' says Mr. McSpedon.