Half his revenue goes to the landlord. The other half goes to the government in taxes.
"Where's the half left for me and my children?" asked Alex Hawari of, one of the many merchants whose since Castro Valley Boulevard began last October. When finished in 2013, the boulevard will be beautiful: old-fashioned street lamps, pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly pathways, and .
But pain and anger built as Hawari spoke on Wednesday, finally propelling him to his feet, his voice rising. "I'm dying between you and your project," Hawari said. "I'm freaking out."
That's when spontaneous applause broke out for the first time in the . Miley has been working on ways to help the merchants survive the disruption of their businesses, and got an earful of creative ideas from residents, ranging from communal advertising and promotional events to county letters to landlords, validating the extreme and unusual hardship.
Here's what else heard:
"You are hurting us. It's unintentional, I'm convinced. But you are hurting us."
"I'm double-digits down from where I was a year ago."
"What happens if our businesses are gone by the time you're done?"
"My sales have dropped more than half."
Construction work and traffic bottlenecks have kept people away from Castro Valley Boulevard between Redwood Road and San Miguel Avenue since October, creating a double whammy on top of business losses due to the recession.
But businesses further west on the boulevard have been hurt, too, as motorists and pedestrians try to avoid the street altogether, said Hairston, whose Burger King restaurant is four blocks west of the construction zone.
Until Hawari's graphic account of his own family's grief and fear, the meeting involved cool-minded lists of which streets would become unblocked when, with explanations about why the construction is "difficult" and "complicated."
"'It is difficult' doesn't do any good," Hawari said.
Creative ideas came from Ben Gurule, past president of the, and Cheryl Miraglia, chairperson of the , which serves as a kind of city council for unincorporated Castro Valley.
Neither Gurule nor Miraglia own businesses on the boulevard, though Gurule's business, Ben's Signs, was located there for 40 years until he sold it in 2005.
Gurule suggested the merchants band together to offer promotional advertising and events that take in the downtown businesses as a whole, acting as a unit instead of individually.
Miraglia shared research she did on towns in Wisconsin, Michigan and elsewhere in the United States where merchants faced similar threats.
She also asked about money.
"I have to believe a construction project has a contingency fund," she said, emphasizing that good ideas can't turn into action without money.
Her research uncovered campaigns with names like:
- "Eat, Pray, Shop Sunday"
- "Boulevard Bucks"
- "Boulevard Bonanza"
- "Boulevard Stretch"
And T-shirts with sayings like: "Surving Progress Together."
The campaigns included live bands, emails with lunch specials, free park-and-ride buses, giveaways, and regional rather than individual advertising.
Why not nights and weekends?
Frank Mellon, a Castro Valley resident and a director on the East Bay Municipal Utilities District board, said EBMUD uses nights and weekends for construction projects, and makes a firm commitment to be out in three months.
By contrast, the construction zone on Castro Valley Boulevard is quiet by night, yet equipment and safety railings take up just as much space as during the day.
Mellon said he walked the boulevard and found construction work and debris that and potentially unsafe.
County redevelopment staff try to help
The boulevard construction, however, is in fact very complex, with multiple projects converging and overlapping one upon another. The current construction is for laying new sewer lines. Only after that and other infrastructure work is done—perhaps a year from now—can construction begin for the streetscape beautification project.
To hear Bill Lepere of the Alameda County Public Works Department talk about the project, click on the video at right (green shirt).
Alameda County redevelopment staff asked how often the merchants want to meet and what time of day, gave out a phone number for a direct line to county assistance (510-670-6165), reminded the audience that the construction schedule and changes are published twice a month in the , and told merchants to go ahead and use sandwich-board signs, which previously weren't allowed.
The county also added a next to the one behind . The same driveway leads to both parking lots.
How businesses can work together
Castro Valley Eden Area meetings offer another natural venue for working out solutions together. Its next networking event for members is May 18. The chamber also offers marketing opportunities.
, president of the chamber, gave opening remarks that you can watch by clicking on the video at right (black shirt).
How Patch can help
Patch itself makes it easy for community members to promote events and announcements. The . [But to advertise in Patch, contact Sarah Stocker. Editorial and advertising services are kept separate.] Please make sure your event or announcement is for the benefit of the community, not strictly promotion of your business. For example, temporary parking arrangements or unusual regional promotions or events would be suitable for editorial posting.
Alternative Routes: Patch has begun a list of ways people are easily getting around the construction to access businesses they like and want to keep around. To see the list or add your suggestion, click here.
Miley toured and talked with the merchants last month and says his staff members are working hard on solutions. He closed the meeting by saying, "We aren't BS'ing around" and "We're going to implement."
To see the conversation about this under way on Facebook, click here. To get regular Facebook posts from Patch on your own Facebook page, click the "Like" box at the center-top of the Patch Facebook page.