Devil’s Slide closure wasn’t that harmful

While a number of businesses saw a steep decline in customer traffic after the coast’s main artery was shut down for months due to weather-related sliding, some merchants north of the damage say they actually saw customer counts go up.

The uptick in business has contributed to what city officials are predicting to be a slight increase in sales tax revenue in the next fiscal year, some good news in spite of a less-than-rosy budget outlook that is sure to include some $1.1 million in cuts.

Devil’s Slide, a precarious section of coastal Highway 1, was closed for months after the rain-soaked roadway underneath started to buckle in April. The closure cut off the roadway from much of the Peninsula, leaving several businesses and hotels in the doldrums.

Doug Bowman, whose wife owns Patty’s Hallmark in the Linda Mar Shopping Center — which is located north of Devil’s Slide but south of most Pacifica shopping districts — said business in the immediate area dropped sharply, prompting several merchants to consider shutting down. Bowman estimates that he and his wife experienced a 30 percent drop in business, which is just now starting to level off to pre-slide figures.

But the closure may not have had the same effect on business in all parts of the coast.

Sales tax is not a huge line of revenue for the city, which functions largely as a bedroom community composed of residents who commute out for work, Interim City Manager Bill Norton said. But his office is projecting a slight increase — they are unsure exactly how much — in sales tax revenue for this fiscal year, up from a projected $1.4 million in 2006-07.

Councilwoman Sue Digre said that this news is in keeping with what she learned while chatting with business owners in Pacifica. While Linda Mar took a hit, other shopping centers — such as Rockaway Beach Plaza and spots on Palmetto Avenue, located north of Linda Mar — were able to thrive when people “got stuck” in Pacifica.

“The slide allowed Pacifica to be found,” Digre said. “And it looks like while people were here, they said, ‘Lets get something to eat, while we’re at it’ or ‘I can maybe buy that while I’m here anyway.’”

tramroop@examiner.com

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