Despite pleas from some Hollywood residents and business owners, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will shut down a famed stretch of Hollywood Boulevard around the clock for the next 24 days starting this morning to rebuild the street after years of subway construction.
Although the MTA is offering nearly 100 residents and businesses along the boulevard from Vine Street to Gower Street financial compensation for the noise and inconvenience, some residents and business owners protested at a MTA meeting Wednesday that it wasn't enough for the damage being inflicted on them.
Late in the day, after MTA officials disclosed that the street closure would take effect immediately, angry business owners appeared stunned.
"We had no idea they were going to begin immediately," said restaurant operator Don Linden, chairman of the Hollywood-Vine Business and Merchants Negotiating Committee. "They are basically trying to run over us like a steamroller."
At the earlier meeting, representatives of several acting schools, casting services, restaurants and businesses warned that the closure could drive them out of business. "We'll end up losing our business," Cynthia Brown of the To the Top Entertainment agency told the MTA's construction committee. Actors will not be able to perform scenes because of the construction noise, she said.
Paul Gray, a representative of the Pantages Theatre, supported the plan for round-the-clock work because it will speed the reopening of the street. If restoration work continues only at night, the street will not be restored for five months and that will interfere with several upcoming shows, he said.
MTA officials said the financial compensation program that will cost the transit agency up to $250,000 is a good-faith effort to ease the pain of moving swiftly to repave and reconstruct a four-block stretch of Hollywood Boulevard.
"We are doing something here that is unprecedented," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. A MTA board member, Yaroslavsky said objections to the work were "absolute folly." He said the MTA had done the best it could to compensate residents and businesses who will be affected by the closure. His sentiments echoed those of the MTA's new chief executive officer, Julian Burke, who said the compensation program was "not perfect" and "doesn't solve all the problems of inconvenience."
MTA officials noted that the approach will complete the work of removing wooden planks over the Hollywood and Vine station and subway tunnels far faster than otherwise would be the case, reducing inconvenience in the long run.
"There is no getting around the fact that we have to close the street to restore it," said MTA Deputy Executive Director Stephen J. Polechronis.
The transit agency has reached agreements to pay 12 of 20 street-level businesses in the area 70% of their rent during the 24-day closure period. And 71 of 80 residents in the affected area have agreed to accept payments of $1,000 to $2,000 for the impact of constant construction work on the street.
"We're tired of the noise," said Susan Black, a neighborhood resident supporting the closure.
The compensation plan does not cover merchants and other businesses not operating on the street level or those just off of Hollywood Boulevard. They warned of dire consequences.
"We don't want to be ruined," said Linden, whose restaurant is on Vine. "These are empty promises."
Linden said he wants to be a part of the revival of Hollywood, but fears detoured traffic will adversely affect his business.
Salvador Mendez, whose Mexican restaurant is on Hollywood Boulevard, said he worries that his business will suffer and the rent assistance will not pay for his losses. "How am I going to pay for my employees?" he asked.
Mohammed Afzal, whose import business is on Vine near the famed intersection, said the merchants may never regain what they lose while the street is rebuilt.