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Artist rendering of the Rancho San Pedro public housing redevelopment, slated to begin construction in 2024. Click to enlarge. (photo: HACLA)

With the San Pedro waterfront redevelopment finally gaining momentum, it’s time to consider the next major project to move San Pedro forward: redeveloping Rancho San Pedro. For those who don’t know, Rancho San Pedro is the public housing that borders Harbor Blvd. in the east, 3rd Street in the south, Santa Cruz to the north, and Mesa to the west. 

There are currently 478 units on the 21.5-acre site. The first 284 homes were built in 1942 on 12.5 acres of land developed to attract and house shipbuilders and their families. After WWII, with housing still in short supply, nine more acres were purchased, and 194 additional homes were built. In 1952, the property management was transferred to the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA), which receives much of its funding from HUD.

Safety is the number one concern for the residents and surrounding community. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, Rancho San Pedro started to fall into disrepair and saw a rise in gang activity along with drugs and violent crime. Much of that remains today and has escalated in recent months. 

In 2015, HACLA commissioned a study to determine the highest and best use for the property. The conclusion? Tear it down and replace it with a mix of property types that expand the number of units and benefit various incomes of workforce housing.

What is affordable housing and why is it needed? The average monthly family income in HACLA housing is $2,035 ($24,424 annually), with rent capped at 30 percent of income. Sixty-six percent of these families have jobs, and their income is from wages, while 7.6 percent receive public assistance, 21.4 percent receive veteran’s benefits, SSI, or social security, and 5 percent receive income from other sources. Thirty-eight percent of the residents are minors, 50 percent are adults under 60, and 12 percent are 61 and older. There are over 45,000 families on the HACLA waitlist for affordable housing. Without affordable housing, most of our restaurants, hotels, retail, and small businesses wouldn’t be able to retain local employees that keep their doors open. 

In 2017, HACLA held more than 90 meetings and town halls in San Pedro to get input on how best to reimagine Rancho San Pedro from the ground up. Conversations around crime, safety, parking, public transportation, education, job training, open space, beautification, retail shops, a grocery store, and connecting Rancho San Pedro with the rest of the community provides the vision for the project. Also, constructing new units to replace the existing housing with minimum disruption of the current residents is key.

The following year, HACLA selected a team of developers that was most engaged in the community outreach and provided a working plan to deliver on the vision. This team is now known as the One San Pedro Collaborative. It includes some big names in affordable construction that specialize in building and maintaining housing, improving the quality of life for the residents and the surrounding community. 

One San Pedro is currently working on the Specific Plan to submit to the L.A. City Council. The plan is expected to include 694 affordable units, 134 affordable units of senior housing, 478 new market-rate rental units, and opportunities for ownership with 45 affordable and 32 market-rate units for sale. These are estimates, with the final total number of units likely to fall between 1,250 and 1,500. Expect a lot of underground parking, better connections to public transit, and better bike and pedestrian access to help move people around.

The plan includes about 85,000 square feet of residential amenities for community space, youth sports and recreation, a health clinic with wellness care, small business incubation, and workforce development facilities. Another 49,000 square feet could be dedicated to retail/commercial space, making room for a grocery store, pharmacy, laundromat, and small shops. There will be over two acres of open space that will include community gardens that could produce food for the residents and opportunities to sell at the San Pedro Farmers Market.

The buildings and spaces incorporate crime prevention through CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design), which employs strategies that reduce opportunities for crime by creating a defensible space while increasing community engagement and ownership. Adding market-rate housing helps with financing the project and diversifying the mix of residents that often become isolated and disconnected from the rest of the community.

Attention is being paid to the views, massing, and height of the new buildings. The intent is to add additional units to conform with the San Pedro community plan and fits into the community as a whole. The construction will be very slow to reduce the amount of displacement of the existing residents. The intent is to build in the current open spaces and nearby land so they can move folks to the new housing and then replace the old buildings as they go. There are expected to be job opportunities for residents and other San Pedrans to participate in the construction.

So, what’s the timeline? The Specific Plan, along with the city, state, and federal reviews — including CEQA, Environmental Impact Reports, studies, and mitigation measures — are expected to be released this fall for approval by the L.A. City Council. If all goes well, we could see construction begin in 2024 and end in 2037 (yes, about 14 years). Initial phases will focus on replacing the existing housing with the first finished units delivered in 2025. Later phases will include additional units, community amenities, and homeownership units.

The new Rancho San Pedro could be transformational in terms of crime reduction, addressing our homeless crisis, and offering workforce housing, and could help many residents by offering the resources, education, and tools to break the cycle of poverty with new businesses and opportunities. It may not get here quickly, but we are indeed moving in the right direction. For more information, visit OneSanPedro.org. spt

Lee Williams

Lee Williams is board chair of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce and leads The Williams Group at Keller Williams PV Realty.

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