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Santa Ana’s Fourth Street partially opens to traffic during OC Streetcar construction

A small stretch of Santa Ana’s downtown Fourth Street disrupted by the construction of the OC Streetcar recently opened its westbound lane back to traffic.

An Orange County Transportation Authority spokesman called Thursday’s reopening of Fourth Street between French and Bush streets “a good first step.”

Workers are expediting construction on the two-block segment of the project, which is creating a street car line between Santa Ana and Garden Grove, in hopes of alleviating the construction’s impact on local businesses, said Joel Zlotnik, OCTA’s spokesman.

Meanwhile, the eastbound lane on those two blocks is expected to reopen to vehicles in August and overall construction on Fourth Street should be done by Thanksgiving, Zlotnik said.

But for Dana Jazayeri, whose retail gift shop, Unlisted, is on the segment that’s now open one way, “the economic damage of what they did to the area is done. It was poorly mitigated to start,” he said Monday.

“It’s going to take months, if not years,” he said, “to make people aware that they can come down here – because people wrote this place off.”

Earlier this year, Jazayeri and other small business owners on Fourth Street complained that they got little-to-no notice the project was starting and that it involved tearing up both lanes on Fourth Street, blocking streets, views and parking spaces, while bringing noise and dust – all the makings to keep customers away.

RELATED: Santa Ana merchants protest the fallout from trolley construction

Jazayeri said his gift shop saw a drop of at least 50% in sales.

“It’s like I hit a wall, going 100 miles an hour,” Jazayeri said.

Some have argued the merchants will benefit once the project is completed. But what will it take until it’s completed, Jazayeri asked.

“What kind of hole do you want me to dig myself into, then crawl out of, to be even financially from this project?” he said. “They said, ‘Wait for the future.’ So how much money do I need to lose to get there?”

Maria Perez, owner of Chevita’s Juice and Bagels, is on a side of Fourth Street that is still completely blocked off. Her sales have dropped by more than 60%, but she’s still having to pay $4,800 in monthly rent, she said. To make rent, she’s taken to pushing a cart with her juices around Third and Fourth streets every morning – sales are still slow, she said, because the construction is keeping people away from the area.

“We need more rental help until this is done,” Perez said.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved in May providing grants of up to $20,000 for small businesses impacted by streetcar construction. In March, the Santa Ana City Council approved a $1.5 million business interruption fund and free parking during certain hours in four downtown-area garages.

Santa Ana’s historic Fourth Street, a predominantly Latino area, closed Jan. 31 as part of the $509.5 million project to build the street car line, which will also travel along Santa Ana Boulevard.

Construction began in 2019, but there were delays as workers uncovered unmapped utilities in the city streets and contaminated soil, among other things, Zlotnik wrote in an e-mail.

The project was supposed to be completed last year. It’s now projected to be done in 2024.

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