The promise of a renovated Pardall Road has left local businesses gasping for air as the series of ever-changing roadblocks and construction work continues to keep potential customers off the street and away from shops.
The undertaking – the flagship project of the Isla Vista Master Plan – was intended to revitalize the main business section of I.V. through a series of renovations, but business owners have found that the construction has lead to a decline in customers, as students take detours to class in order to avoid road closures.
Having already laid ruin to Mr. Pickle’s Sandwich, the Pardall Road renovation has registered 90 percent sales drops for some businesses and threatens to claim the lives of others, including Caliroll Express.
Jason Yoo, the struggling owner of Caliroll Express, said that while the Master Plan may be rooted in good intentions, it has failed to provide the promised benefits for small businesses.
“Ultimately I think it’s somewhat of a good idea – there’s good behind the plan, but it was just planned horribly,” Yoo said. “They’re preaching to us about how it’s going to help small business and affordable housing, and a better parking situation, and yet it hasn’t.”
Yoo, who said Caliroll Express is just not drawing the crowd it has in the past, decided last week he will have to sell the store unless conditions improve.
“Putting the spot up for sale is what it is – it’s business,” Yoo said. “I don’t want to, but unless the construction finishes up or something miraculously happens with the economy, I’ll have to.”
Sam’s To Go has also seen a noticeable difference in the number of customers throughout the construction, according to owner Mehrdad Homayouni.
“For a while we didn’t get any bike traffic at all – on our section [of Pardall Road] at least – and we didn’t get much foot traffic for some period of time,” Homayouni said. “We definitely noticed it, but it’s hard to say what percentage of sales has dropped.”
I.V. Deli Mart owner Michael Hassan, however, estimated a 50 to 60 percent drop in sales during the course of the construction, and even worse numbers when the street directly in front of the store was torn up.
“It slowed down a lot,” Hassan said. “When they were right in front there was at least a 90 percent drop, and that’s a minimum.”
Hassan said the construction affected the store’s hours over Winter Break, when they opened for only two or three hours a day. Sam’s To Go was also forced to close for a few days while the sidewalks were torn up.
In addition to limiting bike traffic along Pardall Road, the maze of narrow sidewalks and cumbersome fencing makes it difficult for pedestrians to access Caliroll Express and many of the other businesses along Pardall.
“It’s a nuisance for people to come to my store,” Yoo said. “There is just that one walkway to get here and my wingspan is bigger than the walkway.”
The construction, which was originally scheduled for completion by the end of Fall Quarter is now supposed to be finished by the end of March. Yoo, however, doubts the project will be meet the new deadline.
“They’re telling me the 30th of March, but we’re in the rainy season now and it’s going to make it hard for them to work out there,” Yoo said. “So that’s going to push it back another month and we’re looking at April 30 before I have a clear road.”
However, business owners agree that the Master Plan’s Pardall project may be beneficial in the future.
“I think it’s something nice for I.V.,” Homayouni said. “It looks really good and hopefully in long run it will pay off. I have no problem with it – I think it’s worth it.”
Still, Homayouni questioned the necessity of the construction in light of the student population, which he feels might not appreciate nor maintain the new Pardall Road streetscape.
“For Isla Vista in particular, the students, they really don’t take care of the stuff,” he said. “They should be more careful and more thoughtful.”
Hassan agreed that the construction is aesthetically pleasing, but had concerns with the practicality of the design.
“It looks nice – that’s the positive,” Hassan said. “But there’s no place to park. They’ve been giving tickets to my customers because they put all those no parking zones out front.”
The Pardall streetscape is the first project under the Isla Vista Master Plan, and focused on widening the sidewalks, updating the water and sewage systems to reduce flooding along the street and adding streetlights and additional bike parking.
Yoo, echoing his fellow business owners, said that while the end result would no doubt be an improvement, he had to question if it was really a good investment.
“They’re trying to make it nice, but this is a college town, it gets ruined because you’re always going to have this age group here and that’s when everyone’s learning responsibility and life, and they’re going to have a responsible side and this wild side.”