Just days after NBC Bay Area’s exclusive report about a VTA construction project crippling businesses along San Jose’s Alum Rock Avenue, Mayor Sam Liccardo is promising real help to the businesses impacted.
Liccardo walked part of the Alum Rock neighborhood on Monday morning, along with area Councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco, to hear directly from those merchants. They told them the months-long construction and delays has triggered layoffs at some businesses and has others on the brink of closure.
The stretch of Alum Rock between highways 101 and 680 in East San Jose has been coned off for months for a VTA construction project, but there hasn’t been any actual construction for quite a while.
Monday, the mayor heard about it from merchants first hand. He walked with Councilwoman Carrasco, talking to business owners, handing them his card, and more importantly vowing to make them whole again.
“I know this has been devastating to a lot of businesses,”Liccardo said, “and we’re pushing VTA to get out and help businesses that have been impacted by the construction.”
Ironically, both the mayor and Carrasco sit on the VTA board of directors. The mayor announced Monday both VTA and the city will pledge $25,000 each to help businesses impacted by the construction.
Merchants say they’ve lost between 20 and 40 percent in sales because of the construction of this VTA bus lane along Alum Rock Avenue. The street has been torn up for months. And, because of delays, the cones won’t be picked up until the end of next year.
“We had to lay off workers because business has been slow,” said Sweet Passions bakery’s Romesh Vidanage.
VTA and the city are also promising to help attract customers back to the business district.
“Helping them with marketing plans. Making sure the streets are safe, that customers have access to driveways and it’s visible. Make sure pedestrians can walk and not fear they’re going to injure themselves,” Carrasco said.
VTA has apologized to merchants, but one store owner told NBC Bay Area an apology doesn’t put food on their tables.
“They are right,” Liccardo said. “An apology isn’t enough, and that’s why we have to make it right.”
Some business owners have even asked whether they were targets, because they’re in a more economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, saying, this kind of thing wouldn’t happen in the county’s richer neighborhoods. Now, the merchants have united, forming the Alum Rock Business Association.