Protests led by business owners are breaking out in downtown Santa Ana due to the construction of the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) streetcar. The construction of the streetcar led to road closures that block entrances to businesses on Fourth Street, which business owners claim has caused them to lose customers.
Construction for the 4.15-mile streetcar began in 2019 and is estimated to be complete in 2024.
According to the OCTA website, “one convenient stop at a time, [the streetcar] will connect employees with workplaces, shoppers with merchants, students with schools and communities with each other.”
Current construction pushes customers away, which affects the sales of businesses. Business owners find this unfair, and claimed that OCTA informed them that construction would initially take place for a couple of months, but they later found out that construction would last one year.
The first protest began on Feb. 9, with business owners from Fourth St., also known as Calle Cuatro, occupying a restricted construction zone with signs. Maria Perez, the owner of Chevita’s Juice and Bagels, told KUCI News that she organized the first protest after talking about the issue with other businesses.
Perez told KUCI News the story of how she started her business. She recalled how she used to sell tamales in the street and Northgate Market for years to save up to open up her shop. She said she is afraid that all of her years of hard work will go to waste due to her recent decline in customers caused by streetcar construction.
Valentine Ramirez, the owner of Nino’s Bridal Couture, stood up by placing one of his dresses in the middle of the construction as a form of activism on March 31. On this same day, dozens of business owners met with Santa Ana city leaders to talk through their concerns.
Business owners have requested accessible parking for customers and marketing signs to bring new patrons. The city of Santa Ana has helped businesses by providing free parking in several structures near Calle Cuatro and approved $1.5 billion for the Santa Ana Business Interruption Fund.
Eric Carpenter, the OCTA Senior Communications Specialist, released a statement stating how the transportation company plans to support businesses.
In the statement, OCTA promises to help with marketing and outreach efforts through newspapers and radio. They also mention how they provided businesses with grants of $400,000 through two local business associations.
The recent first 400k grant provided money for businesses on Calle Cuatro. Business owners surrounding Fourth St. are concerned because they are not receiving any money despite being affected by the construction.
In addition to the protests, Walsh Construction Co., the contractor for the streetcar construction, filed a $50-million breach-of-contract lawsuit against the OCTA. The company claims that OCTA owes money and that the design for the streetcar is unbuildable.
Natalia Villarreal is a City News Intern for the spring 2022 quarter. She can be reached at email@example.com .