Costa Mesa Merchants Protest Drain Project

Times Staff Writer

Worried that their businesses will suffer, about 50 Costa Mesa merchants say they will protest the city’s plan to close lanes for nearly a mile on heavily traveled Harbor Boulevard to lay storm drain pipes.

The City Council is expected to choose a contractor today to start work Feb. 1, said Rick Pickering, acting city public services director. The work is expected to take about 8 months.

The pipes will be laid from West 19th Street to Wilson Street, Pickering said. Two of the three lanes in each direction will remain open, with the exception of the time when the pipes are actually being laid, when the contractor will restrict northbound traffic to one lane.

Lisa Cassara, acting vice president of the recently formed Costa Mesa Merchants Assn. and owner of Lisa’s Moore Flowers, said that the project will cause gridlock and that about 180 businesses on that strip will lose money.


Business Drop Predicted

“It’s going to be very congested, and a lot of people will avoid it,” she said, estimating her business will drop 20% to 30%.

Brooks Morris, manager of Basket Bazaar Imports, said he gets much “business from people driving by, looking at the window and coming in.”

The merchants group has hired engineers to study an alternate routing for drain pipes, Cassara said. The group is urging members and business owners to appear before the council and urge postponement of the contract award for 60 to 90 days to give the engineers time for more study.

Pickering, however, said that a 3-month postponement would force the city to resolicit bids and that alternate routes were considered and rejected as unfeasible.

Cost Would Be Higher

“The length of the pipes and distance would increase, and we would have to move people out of their homes,” he said, adding that the cost would have been higher.

The city considered doing the work at night, which would have cost $1.4 million more, he said.

City staff members recommended Aman Brothers Inc. as the contractor. Of the 10 bids submitted, the highest was $5.8 million, and Aman’s was $4.1 million, Pickering said.

The area, he said, needs the storm drains so water will “run off into the ocean rather than people’s homes.” Needed street repairs will be done at the same time.

In 1983, homes near Harbor Boulevard were damaged by floods. Several suits by homeowners are pending against the city.