By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The promenade proposal is the key element in the EDC’s plan to remake the entirety of San Pedro into something that a wide range of Angelenos will find worth visiting.
It is hoped it will be picked up as a centerpiece for the new port development. The plan would involve three extensive sites along the proposed walkway.
The idea seems to be gathering wide local support and some media coverage; the Harbor-Watts EDC has an office and a small staff, led by development expert Bruce Dobb, who likes to call San Pedro “a gold mine on a waterfront,” Southern California‘s last underdeveloped commercial shoreline. Dobb says his plan tried to avoid a “gold rush,” the massive and slapdash revamping he fears from the Harbor Department.
But as in most gold mines, there’s more dirt than gold along the San Pedro shore. It‘s studded with disused tank farms, derelict docks and underutilized warehouses of the department of harbors. Papadakis points out that the entire world of shipping has changed since the city took over the once-independent port town: Cargo now arrives in giant containers, which are unloaded north of the Vincent Thomas Bridge. Much of the old pier area south of the bridge, which handled old-time loose cargo, is now obsolete. That’s why, say boosters, it so badly needs the promenade‘s symbolic and actual unification.
As noted last week, mayoral candidate Steve Soboroff is very interested in the EDC proposal. “I love the idea and it is very well thought out,” says the man Dick Riordan wants to succeed him as mayor. “It’s something we should go ahead with as long as it doesn‘t interfere with the port.” And even if it does, Soboroff says, the promenade project should be completed with the appropriate route changes.
But the decision making is up to the department of harbors. Harbor spokeswoman Barbara Yamamoto says that her agency is at the pre-request-for-proposal stage in its big plan. “We’re interested in what Mr. Papadakis proposes,” she says. But the final decision on what goes on the San Pedro shore will probably be made by whoever gets the redevelopment contract with the Harbor Department.
When Papadakis and Dobb mention that all-powerful agency, it‘s with foreboding. “They just haven’t been with us on this sort of thing; it‘s as if it weren’t their concern,” Papadakis says. Dobb puts it more bluntly: “They‘re just not equipped for this kind of project.”
There is a common San Pedro lament against the department: “They don’t even think of us as residents.” Or to realize that the harbor community interpenetrated by the city‘s shipping operations is also home to more than 100,000 people.
To Dobb, the major affront came seven years ago, when the department ordained a new export facility -- the so-called LAXT -- for finely divided coal and carbon-coke. He complains that little consideration was then given to the possible pollution via dust from a large, open coal pile. Nor that it could be a health danger. Locals united, the pile was covered. But the harbor agency, the largest local employer, was less trusted than ever.
Some San Pedrans think the mayor’s recent ejection of Harbor Commission president Ted Stein could improve department-community relations. “He wasn‘t very receptive,” Dobb says of the former Riordan intimate.
Replacement Rick Caruso is locally unknown, but has development experience Stein lacked. There’s ambivalence, however, about how Stein went. Hector Cepeda -- a consultant to state Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg and candidate for the local 15th District council seat -- adds, “No one‘s sorry to see Stein go, but no one’s happy about how he went.”
Cepeda strongly backs the EDC proposal, though: “The place has its own character. It should keep it.” Fellow candidate Frank O‘Brien agrees the EDC is a good idea, but he is skeptical about what difference the Stein ouster will make. “The Harbor Department doesn’t believe in the community. I believe the new boss will be the same as the old boss.”
Yamamoto says that the department‘s board may not choose a contractor until November. If so, vital decisions on whither San Pedro are going to be made by a new mayor. Could people-friendly harbor development become a big 2001 campaign issue? I wouldn’t be surprised. In fact, Soboroff, who says, “I‘m for greening L.A.,” is already out there running with it.#