Maintenance Program Urged for Renovated Downtown Area : Business: Merchants are frustrated by the debris. Council members are startled to learn that money had not been set aside for upkeep and repairs.


Every day, Charlie Avants dutifully sweeps and scrubs the small patch of sidewalk in front of his Main Street restaurant. And every day, it seems, a careless pedestrian spits his gum, spills her coffee or crushes a cigarette on the freshly cleaned concrete.

“I’m disgusted with people,” said Avants, who runs The Lunch Box with his wife, Vicki. “[The city] spent so much money and people are such slobs. I bet I sweep up 30 cigarette butts a day.”

Barely a month after construction workers finished $4 million worth of renovations to downtown Ventura, frustrated business owners and mortified city leaders say a maintenance plan is badly needed to preserve and protect the Main Street corridor.


“We have got to come up with some sort of maintenance plan or our $4-million investment is going to look like a mess,” Councilman Greg Carson said Thursday during a meeting of the city’s economic opportunity and revitalization committee.

During that meeting, council members discussed adding trash pickups for holidays and weekends, and increasing the number of times streets and sidewalks are steam-cleaned. Currently, California and Main streets are steam-cleaned only twice a year, after street fairs.

But city officials said the additional maintenance would cost about $200,000 annually.

“I understand that we have a good investment and I want to protect it,” Councilman Gary Tuttle said. But, he said, “My gut reaction is, I don’t think we have $200,000 a year to add to our budget.”

Some City Council members were startled to learn money had not been allocated for maintenance or repairs when the downtown revitalization plan was launched.

“I find it appalling that we invested over $4 million and it takes council action to maintain it,” Carson said during Thursday’s meeting. “Obviously we need to have the downtown cleaned.”

Downtown business owners agree that more frequent maintenance is necessary to keep the area looking nice. Although they are willing to take on part of the responsibility, some merchants say there is some work they cannot do.


“We can get out there and scrub the sidewalks, [but] we can’t get the gum up,” downtown property owner Tom Wood told council members and city staff.

“I hose down our sidewalks in the morning,” said Jim Luttjohann, owner of the Daily Grind. “That doesn’t get rid of the gum and doesn’t get rid of the stains. That’s why we need steam-cleaning.

“Either that,” he said, “or we need to get an enforceable ordinance about gum and spilling.”

Wood said downtown business owners are willing to work with the city, but that a clear plan is needed.

“I think we can get the involvement of the merchants,” he said. “But we need some sort of agreement.”

The city of Santa Barbara has a shared relationship with its State Street business owners for maintenance of that heavily trafficked thoroughfare. The city pays the merchants’ organization $100,000 a year to sweep, steam-clean and collect garbage from State Street.


“We’ve kind of got an interesting relationship,” said John Schoof, street maintenance manager for Santa Barbara. “We end up paying them to maintain it.”

Ventura Planning and Development Manager Mitch Oshinsky said a joint partnership between the city and its downtown merchants would be the best solution, although how such a partnership would work has not been determined.

“It’s opportunity time,” he said. “We’ve made this multimillion-dollar investment, now let’s see some sharing.”