I recently finished and highly recommend San Pedro alum and childhood friend Peter Adum’s novel, A New Day Yesterday, which is set in our town back in the early ‘70s. Main character Niko narrates us through the ebb and flow of his senior year at San Pedro High School, the elimination of cruising Pacific Avenue, great restaurants of yesteryear such as Cigo’s, hanging out at Averill Park under the cover of darkness, movies at the Strand Theatre, neighborhood versus neighborhood football games on the weekends, and the inevitable angst of young adult relationships. Adum also reminds us of the questionable demolition of historic Beacon Street rather than thoughtful renovation, and the end of the Vietnam draft, which luckily changed/possibly saved the lives of myself and most of my friends.
Like Peter and his character Niko, I am a lucky person to have grown up here in the ‘60s and early ‘70s. We had the San Pedro Boys Club, Cabrillo Beach, Peck Park and Gaffey Street pools, organized sports with just as good competition in the streets and open spaces, great restaurants such as Cigo’s, Peppy’s, Trani’s, Chin’s Garden, Papadakis Taverna, La Conga, La Paloma, Ryps Café, the Hamburger Hut, and many more. We all came from immigrant families – and that was okay! Our parents worked hard, and we had some families who truly prospered. Too many families who were the working poor and/or lived in public housing, and the rest of us that fit somewhere in between.
The reason I am “savoring” San Pedro is that I see how our community has so much to offer, while we address a number of issues all communities are facing. I see how generous individuals, companies, and others support non-profits who serve “those who need us most” including my Boys & Girls Clubs, Harbor Interfaith, Rainbow Services, Beacon House, and many others. I see the success of Clean San Pedro, the planned renovation of Rancho San Pedro, the hopefully soon to be initiated San Pedro Public Market, the successful early stages of AltaSea, the Downtown San Pedro Arts District, and other business improvements. We now have four high schools and the fabulous John Olguin campus, the great expansion of recreational facilities by the San Pedro Youth Coalition and others, an amazing Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, and many savory restaurants including three Thinks, Pina’s, Taxco, Sushiya, Tashiro, Sorrento’s, Pacific Diner, Omelette & Waffle Shop, and an even better J. Trani’s, to name just a few.
Today, the homeless situation continues to monopolize the conversations of many, and Councilman Buscaino is chastised for not solving an unsolvable problem while he diligently tries to overcome our NIMBYs and bring forward a temporary/partial solution to those few who are living on our streets. I say few because the real housing problem is our working poor neighbors facing housing costs that relegate a much larger portion of our community to living in cars, 10 to a small apartment, or in converted garages. These number in the hundreds, if not thousands in our community, and are only a missed paycheck away from joining the relatively few relegated to the streets. So, if we really want to “save” San Pedro, we need to concentrate on improving the housing limitations of the growing number of our working poor neighbors and families. For those relative few, visible homeless, are not the real problem. The real problem is the many more homeless that we don’t see, or who will soon be without true public and private sacrifice.
Even with our limitations, I continue to savor San Pedro. I believe we can address our challenges realistically, while at the same time savoring what is great about our community. We are not perfect, but we never were. We need to keep working to make us better – but that takes effort, collaboration and investment. Wishing you and yours and those who need us most, a most happy and savory Thanksgiving holiday! God bless.
Mike Lansing is the Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor.