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Road Improvement Projects to Displace Several Firms : Saticoy: Businesses must relocate to allow the straightening of California 118 and addition of Santa Clara Bridge lanes.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Salvador Aldrete has begun to pick the last batch of apples from the tree outside the Saticoy trucking business where he works.

A bulldozer making way for a new stretch of California 118 will uproot the tree and plow the 30-year-old Ortiz Brothers truck yard clean in half.

“They’re going to come straight through here and we’ve got no way to stop them,” said Fidel Perez, who has worked at Ortiz for 18 years. “We’re still looking for somewhere to put our trucks.”

Roadwork to straighten a dogleg of the highway officially began Friday, while a separate project is under way to widen the Santa Clara Bridge from two lanes to four. By the time both projects are completed in 1995, construction will have run through several Saticoy businesses, demolishing some buildings completely and, in some cases, forcing people onto smaller plots of land.

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Many of the businesses along Los Angeles Avenue and Wells Road have already begun to move.

Buena Tile Supply Inc. left for Ventura last week after 17 years in Saticoy.

“We all knew it was coming, but we didn’t know when or where,” said Gerry Steed, co-owner of the tile company. “Then all of a sudden they came and told us it was coming right through our property.”

“Moving the store was a horrendous job,” Steed said. “We had to move everything--the racks, the materials. It’s going to take six months to get our showroom back in place. So far, we have not gotten one penny of help from the state.”

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The state by law must reimburse the merchants for lost property and the expense of relocating their businesses, Caltrans officials said. But the state will not pay the businesses until after they have moved.

The highway widening project will go up Los Angeles Avenue and across to Wells Road during the next several months, shearing the parking lot from the front of the Saticoy Antique Mall. Then, it will plow through the front building of R & H Paving Inc.

“There will be cars going 55 m.p.h. right over where my desk is,” said Jo Norwood, a bookkeeper at R & H Paving.

Ironically, the paving company won the contract for the bridge expansion that placed its office in the path of the highway’s destruction.

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“I guess you could call it a blessing and a curse,” said secretary Sharon Rassey. “It’s a good job for us but there’s some sadness that comes with it.”

Caltrans officials said there was no way to avoid tearing down the properties.

“It’s unfortunate, but there’s always somebody in the way of a project like this,” said Joe Boyd, a deputy director at Caltrans. “We have to look at this in terms of the greatest public good.”

Construction engineer Jay Steele said the path chosen was actually the least destructive of all those considered. “No property owner is completely satisfied with the state,” he said. “We tried to minimize that as much as we could.”

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Charles (Buster) Davis, who owns Buster’s Original Bar-B-Que & Bakery in Saticoy, said he was not satisfied with the efforts of the state.

“I came here, picked myself up by my bootstraps and opened this business, and the state has come and knocked me down,” he said.

Davis opened the restaurant on Wells Road five years ago and considers it the flagship of his small chain of barbecue businesses. He sued the state to prevent it from taking his property but the court awarded the land to the state anyway.

The state gave Davis a Sept. 30 deadline to vacate, but Davis said he would be gone by the end of August.

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Most businesses in the area said they will adapt to the new surroundings and hope for the best.

“We’re going to stay and see what happens,” said Wade Horigan, the co-owner of Saticoy Antique Mall. “Who knows?” he said. “It may be great. We’ll have increased traffic coming by and increased visibility. As long as there is some sort of turn lane here, we’ll be OK.”

Salvador Aldrete said he was sad to be losing his apple tree. “This was the first year we really had a lot of apples,” he said. “It’s really a shame.”


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