L.A. Councilwoman Janice Hahn voted today to overrule the Harbor Commission, siding with Gambol Industries in their long-running battle to build a new shipyard at the Port of L.A.
Hahn was the only council member who showed up to today's hearing at the Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee, so the outcome of the vote was not in doubt. Hahn has long supported the project, and strongly disagrees with Port of L.A. staffers who say it will delay the port's Main Channel Deepening Project, which all agree is critical to the port's future.
What was more of a surprise was that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, has now weighed in on this.
Like Hahn, he is in favor of the shipyard. Hahn and Rohrabacher occupy opposite ends of the political spectrum, but on this they see eye-to-eye.
The conflict comes down to where to store the contaminated dirt from the dredging project. After years of regulatory hurdles, the Army Corps has been given the go-ahead to deposit the dirt in two vacant slips at the former Southwest Marine terminal. Those are the same slips where Gambol wants to put the shipyard.
In testimony today, Brian Moore of the Army Corps of Engineers testified that Gambol's proposal could mean a two or three year delay to the dredging project, due to the hurdles involved in getting new regulatory approvals.
In a Jan. 21 letter, Rohrabacher asked the Army Corps to reconsider its position.
“I am requesting that you give Gambol the opportunity it rightfully seeks to 'prove the merits of its proposal,' in a timely manner consistent with both rational environmental practices and the importance of a project that will create 500 to 1,000 jobs,” Rohrabacher wrote.
The proposal has split labor groups, with the building trades in favor and longshoremen against. At the meeting today, David Arian — a past international president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and a current Harbor Commissioner — warned that Rohrabacher's involvement showed that the issue is “spinning out of control.”
“We cannot have both (the dredging and the shipyard) at this moment in history,” Arian said. “Anybody who tells you anything else is bullshitting you.”
Hahn replied, “I see it differently and I'm not bullshitting myself.”
Hahn was alone at the hearing because Bill Rosendahl is recuperating from surgery and Tom LaBonge apparently found something better to do. As a result, her recommendation to move forward with Gambol's proposal will require 10 votes instead of eight when it comes to the City Council next Tuesday.
Ben Reznik, one of Gambol's lobbyists, called Hahn's recommendation “thoughtful and courageous.”