Established two years ago primarily to alleviate the area’s parking shortage and beautify messy sidewalks and streets, the Studio City Business Improvement District is facing tough criticism these days from merchants who say the organization is moving too slowly to attract customers. “Parking is the issue and people want that now, not tomorrow. So, it’s frustrating,” said Ray Franco, a local architect and president of the Studio City Improvement Association, which oversees the district. With a parking study on the table and lots of recommendations, ranging from a new parking structure to more on-street parking, the district is facing pressure from merchants who say the district must relieve the area’s parking problem now. The district was created in 1999 to improve and market the area. It is funded by an annual fee, averaging about $2,500 for most businesses in the district, on Ventura Boulevard between Colfax and Rhodes avenues. Matthew Dunn, president of the Dunway Co., which manages the 55,000-square-foot Studio City Plaza shopping center on the southeast corner of Laurel Canyon and Ventura boulevards, said his shopping center is hurt by insufficient customer parking. “At any one time there are 30 to 40 cars in our lot that should not park there, but that’s going to stop,” Dunn complained, vowing his own personal crackdown. “I have to spend $5,000 a month on the lot to chalk and ticket people to get cars towed because of the lack of parking.” Dunn, whose company last year paid $20,000 to the district, will see some relief after the district worked out a deal with the CBS Studio Center to allow shopping center employees to park in the studio lot across the street. But that’s not all Dunn and others want out of the business district. “We were promised more police and more parking and that hasn’t happened,” Dunn said. Franco agreed the district has been slow in responding to merchants’ needs. “The first year you’re getting organized and getting your feet wet and you’re getting to know what needs to be done. It’s just a slow process,” he said. But property owners interviewed remain angry over the district’s slow progress on parking issue, even though few would say so on the record. A parking study contracted by the Studio City Improvement Association, which oversees the district, was completed last year. But so far few of its recommendations have been put into effect. “The study showed that we had 1,000 parking spaces during peak hours but, unfortunately, they were on the wrong side of town,” Franco said, meaning several blocks west of Laurel Canyon. While a recommended parking structure is yet to be built the city has agreed in principle but has moved slowly with implementation the district has leased parking spaces in the CBS lot and at a nearby Dulux paint store. However, a planned free shuttle bus along Ventura Boulevard for customers and a proposal to add more on-street parking are still under consideration. But Franco says it is still too early in the process to say the district’s efforts to resolve the parking situation has been a failure. “We’re making good progress with the proposed parking structure and getting some spaces leased,” he said, “and I think merchants recognize that.” Art Ginsburg, owner of Art’s Deli on Ventura Boulevard, said the district has made a difference in other areas besides parking. “It’s little things like cleaning and trimming trees, but it shows that the property owners have pride in their community,” Ginsburg said. With a $287,000 annual budget, the district has allocated $64,000 for the parking issue, mostly for leasing spaces, said district Executive Director Lorena Parker. “Parking is an issue, but it’s not the only issue. Merchants are also concerned about clean sidewalks, lighting and safety,” she said. This year, the district plans to spend $50,000 on bicycle security patrols, $25,000 on sidewalk and tree maintenance, $20,000 on sidewalk cleaning and $103,000 on administrative and rental costs. “Beautification is really important to the merchants and that’s been one of our priorities,” Parker said. Last year, the district rejected the city’s plans to install new bus benches that would have featured advertising on the backing. Instead, the district purchased its own antique-style metal benches for bus stops. Susan Levi, executive director of the nearby Sherman Oaks Business Improvement District, said beautification is always a large part of any district’s activities. “You have to focus on streetscapes and keeping things clean,” she said. “But parking is always an issue on people’s minds and you have to work on that.” In Sherman Oaks, district officials discovered that people who could have used a nearby public parking structure generally weren’t. “People thought that it was private parking for this apartment building so it was underused But now we have new signage pointing to the structure and it’s helped relieve some of the parking problems,” Levi said. Meanwhile, a $3 million plan in Studio City to bury overhead electrical wires and add landscaping to the rear parking areas of a cluster of businesses along Ventura is still in preliminary planning stages, but Franco remains optimistic. “It’s going to take a lot of cooperation and some luck, but it can be done,” he said.