Last month marked a big milestone in our waterfront development journey.
The Port of Los Angeles has completed the Waterfront Promenade and Town Square at the water’s edge, from the Maritime Museum to the former Jankovich fuel dock. The remaining section, located at the San Pedro Fish Market, will be completed in the next phase. The port has handed over the site to the Ratkovich Company and Jerico Development team to begin building West Harbor, which was the cover story in last month’s San Pedro Today. The West Harbor development is significant and paves the way for generations of families to build lifelong memories, just like Ports O’ Call did for decades.
Since being appointed to the Port of Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners in 2013, there has been a solid commitment by many in leadership positions to ensure the port built the infrastructure necessary to enable such new retail, food, and entertainment development like West Harbor. From Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilman Joe Buscaino, the Board of Harbor Commissioners, and the Harbor Department, under the leadership of Gene Seroka, you couldn’t ask for a better team to be in place working together on this huge undertaking.
It is important to look back to September 29, 2009, when our then Board of Harbor Commissioners held a marathon meeting to determine the fate of our waterfront. That meeting went well past midnight, as hundreds of local residents, along with our then councilwoman Janice Hahn, spoke in support of approving the San Pedro Waterfront Final Environmental Impact Report after hundreds of hours spent in community meetings, hearings, and workshops. I was proud to speak that evening, not only as part of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce but as a lifelong member of the community. The reason for the great turnout was simple. The promise of prosperity for past, current, and future generations from San Pedro has always started along the waterfront. Thankfully, the Harbor Commissioners then approved the waterfront development plan that set the stage for today’s developments.
The approval led to the 2011 groundbreaking ceremony of the downtown water cut between the Fireboat Station and the Maritime Museum, which I participated in as chairman of the board of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce. In 2014, now as a harbor commissioner, I participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for this site, where a few thousand people came to enjoy the evening’s festivities. But deep down inside, I understood and knew that our waterfront development efforts would be judged solely on whether or not the redevelopment of Ports O’ Call would actually happen. This was a driving force for many of us in leadership positions.
The Harbor Commission and port leadership understood that we needed to find a way to fund the infrastructure improvements such as the promenade, town square, roadways, and parking; otherwise, there would be no West Harbor development. The community understood this as well and communicated this at commission meetings that followed. In 2014, our Board of Harbor Commissioners adjusted the annual budget to add funding to begin the engineering to realign Sampson Way. The realignment was completed in 2016. In 2015, our board approved the Public Access Investment Plan, providing a ten-year funding strategy for the waterfront development occurring today, not only in San Pedro but along the Wilmington waterfront as well.
The next step was for the port to prepare the Ports O’ Call site for demolition to make way for the West Harbor development. This led to a groundbreaking ceremony in January 2020, a day many waited for decades to occur. Although the pandemic hit a couple of months later, the construction jobs related to the development were deemed essential and work continued. Other elements completed as part of this development phase include a turning circle and parking lot in front of the Maritime Museum, a Main Channel overlook, ramps connecting to 7th Street, a giant swing, art deco bollard lights, benches along the promenade, two dozen trees, public restrooms, and a 600-foot floating dock providing tie-up space for visiting recreational boaters. On October 21, 2021, a Waterfront Promenade and Town Square plaque was dedicated to mark this huge accomplishment. spt