Delays in the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's pipe replacement project are threatening to shutter decades-old businesses in Valley Village.
The LADWP launched the project on Magnolia Avenue 20 months ago, as part of a system-wide effort to update the city's aging underground water pipe system.
Crews have taken over an entire city block with huge equipment, digging massive trenches that have made the sidewalks, stores and restaurants nearly inaccessible to would-be customers. The project is running two months behind schedule.
Lucky You boutique owner invested all her retirement savings into her shop when she opened her doors three years ago.
"If I do $40,000 a year, I've had a really, really good year," she told NBC4. "I love being of service and I love the neighbors coming in."
But lately, she's barely ringing up any sales at all, as shoppers avoid the noise and the mess on Magnolia Boulevard.
Neighboring businesses are also feeling the pain.
"How much is business down? About 30 to 35 percent," said Joe Peeps New York Pizza owner Marvin Cardenas.
A few doors down, Boutique Voila and Valley Photo Shop are usually empty, too. All three businesses have been serving Valley Village customers for decades.
NBC4 took their concerns to Joe Castruita, director of water distribution for the LADWP.
"We understand that this can be painful for a duration of time," Castruita said. "We’ve got some delays because of tight work areas."
Castruita said he understands this is a painful situation for business owners, but that in the wake of a series of underground pipe breaks around Los Angeles, the upgrade work is a necessity.
He also said the utility is trying to help by posting signage that stores remain open, and by offering owners a 10 percent break on their LADWP bills, as well as a chance to sign up for an extended payment plan.
"The percentage that DWP is offering is a smack in the face," said Mike Perrin, owner of Valley Photo. He told NBC4 that he'd like to see the utility subsidize their losses.
"Any kind of monetary compensation, we cannot do that," Castruita said.
With the project expected to continue through summer, that leaves business owners considering unpleasant options.
"I don't think wer'e going to make it all the way, so I'm looking at other aspects for a career choice," Cardenas said.
Boutique owner Lippman said she may lose her shop in a matter of months -- if not weeks.
Wiping away tears, she said, "I gave everything I had, and physically, I give everything I can."