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First and Main Street Reopening Eagerly Awaited

Despite city efforts to offset the disruption, some businesses have seen a decrease in sales by as much as 70 percent since the streets closed in July.

Downtown figures to be a busy place these next two days.

Los Altos High School's earlier-than-usual Homecoming Parade is at 1:30 p.m. Friday, while the long-delayed Pet Parade kicks off on Saturday morning.

First and Main streets, however, will remain closed until Monday, and merchants are hoping it's not a minute later. 

Downtown businesses are waiting eagerly for the First and Main construction to end Monday—a one-week delay from the original projected opening date.

Since construction started in July, business at the gas station off Foothill Expressway and Main Street has gone down 50 percent, when the driveway off Foothill was closed early, said owner Jay Kim.

Snack shop sales have also dropped about 70 percent, and repair shop business has decreased by 10-20 percent, he said.

Likewise, Connie May saw a 70 percent drop at her designer consignment store, , on First Street. Only after buying radio advertising did business get better, she said.

, also on First Street, reported a 50 percent decrease in business after the intersection closed.

Kim said he gave up his salary since the end of July and would not have been able to get by without the help of his property owners, who decreased his rent about 30 percent.  

"I'm losing a lot of money, so 30 percent is a lot to me," he said.

The First Street construction project is the last of Los Altos that began in October 2010, said project information manager Beverly Tucker.

Despite the nearly year-long construction, streets have been closed only since July of this year when s began intensively.

Tucker said the one-week delay actually speeds up the opening of parts of the intersection that were originally going to be phased in.

A few businesses have not seen any change in sales since the street was closed, and at least one has benefitted from the increased foot traffic. Jamie Lucia from said more people are walking into her clinic, because while streets have closed, sidewalks have remained open.

The driveway to Kim's gas station was closed three weeks early because of what's been called a "severe public safety hazard" caused by drivers cutting across to get to the other side at excessive speeds, said Los Altos police Chief Tuck Younis.

According to Younis, the police department took several measures to help keep the station open, such as keeping a uniformed police officer at the station to give citations, parking an empty cop car and putting out signs.

"We made numerous sign modifications and enforcement, but people were just not listening," he said. He added that Los Altos police patrol vehicles and city employees have been filling up at Kim's station to help support him.

"Right now, I'm really thankful to the customers coming over here through all this trouble," said Kim. "I really don't want to increase the prices."  

Kim and May both said they wish they had been better notified about construction dates and delays. But Tucker said that information has been widely dispersed through news reports, email and meetings, as well as through the chamber, community groups and a website created for the construction project which gets about 900 hits per month.

Tucker said she released the information about the delays as soon as she knew about them. There were engineering difficulties she noted, such as manholes that were larger than expected and a "giant" piece of concrete in the middle of the intersection underground that hadn't been detected before.

Problems like this are to be expected, she explained, because "you have a street that hasn't been worked on in over 50 years."   

May, who had planned a re-opening party on Sept. 15, sponsored by fellow First Street businesses, said, "I feel sorry for everyone on the street. I'm frustrated. I just spent all this money to promote this party, assuming First Street would be open."  

Tucker sympathized with the businesses that are losing money. "It's very difficult," she said, adding that how much a business has been affected depends on what their industry is as well as how close they are to the construction.

Businesses that have had the street torn up in front or near them for an extended period of time include Skip's Pizza, the Dailey Method and European Cobblery.

The city has spent thousands on full-color ads in newspapers and sign posting on behalf of the businesses, she said, and plans to do so until the construction ends.

Jameen Kim September 24, 2011 at 05:40 PM
Avni, great job with the article! Your article presents a nice, unbiased view of the issue. However, Beverly Tucker cannot expect for emails and reports to cover her responsibility to keep the affected business owners involved. As the affected businesses, it is not the owner's responsibility to go out and search for the information; rather, Ms. Tucker should consider that if even one business felt that they were inadequately prepared and informed, then she has failed in her duties to update them. 1.) With such a small section of Foothill and Main remaining closed for the past month, I am sure that Ms. Tucker could have taken the time to personally visit each of the businesses to see how they were doing. Many of the affected business owners feel that the city doesn't care about their losses; a personal visit could have been a cheap way to boost morale. 2.) Ms. Tucker and the city should have worked with these businesses BEFORE construction started to prepare and brace them for the upcoming disruption. 3.) I feel that Ms. Tucker should have factored in a compensation package for the businesses that were hit the hardest (or something for everyone). Creating signs and newspapers ads are a worthy effort for a middle school student; it is laughable and the least that a city should do. When it comes down to it, Beverly Tucker, for all her good intentions, failed to prepare and protect the affected businesses, period.
Amanda Reckenwithe September 11, 2012 at 02:57 AM
None of this construction will help downtown Los Altos. For one thing, the so-called "beautification" removed 8 PARKING SPACES, per block!! What kind of idiots are running this design process?
Amanda Reckenwithe September 11, 2012 at 03:00 AM
BTW, that is "Mimi" from Heritage Bank, in my photo....

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