Cover Stories
Open image in lightbox
NEW SAN PEDRO: The recently finished L.A. Waterfront promenade. (photo: John Mattera Photography)

San Pedro is changing?

San Pedro is changing. 


The cornerstone laying ceremony for the San Pedro Municipal building on Beacon and 7th Streets, Feb. 1928. (photo: San Pedro Bay Historical Society)

Eleven years ago, I felt this unfamiliar shift in the air. I didn’t know what it was, and it felt kind of good, so I started a walking tour company. I may have jumped the gun a bit, but every year since, the shift has intensified. First, it progressed into chatter, then a rumble, and now it’s absolutely seismic in magnitude. San Pedro is definitely changing. This isn’t normal time-passing kind of change. San Pedro is moving into a new era, and this year it will feel as if we are straddling the old world and the new.

Old San Pedro is the community that was created by and for the laborers in and around the Port of Los Angeles. For those of us that are multi-generational, it is the town that our families built. While the city of San Pedro may have been founded in 1888, this Old San Pedro that I am referring to didn’t really begin to flourish until the 1920s. That is why centenary celebrations are about to become more common. This year alone, groups like Temple Beth El, the Rotary Club, and the Lions Club will be celebrating 100 years. Old San Pedro has matured and now has the gravitas needed to transition from old into historic.

2022 is a crucial year for New San Pedro. Politically, we will be choosing a new city council representative and a new mayor who will ultimately usher in a new regime at the Harbor Commission. Then, barring anything out of the ordinary, the Port should be handing over the land to developers this year so real progress on the new waterfront can begin.

Artist rendition of an aerial view of the upcoming West Harbor. (photo: courtesy Studio One Eleven)

Old San Pedro is authentic and charming. New San Pedro is fresh and exciting. Old San Pedro is single-family residences in neighborhoods, while New San Pedro is downtown waterfront condos. Old San Pedro was built for San Pedrans working in the port; New San Pedro is being built for people who don’t mind that San Pedro is a working port and might even think that’s kind of cool. For a while, we’ll have something for everyone until you can’t afford to live here.

Have I mentioned that San Pedro is changing? 

Now look, I’m not asking you to choose sides here. I have a very complicated relationship with development, and some of my best friends are actual developers, so I would like to build a bridge between the two San Pedros that allows us to have the best of both worlds.

I am going to put myself out there and put a name to the thing that millions of dollars in marketing research have failed to brand. San Pedro has a vibe that we all love. It’s why people wear it on their clothes, ink it on their skin, and get vanity plates. A vibe that has made people move here after a single visit. San Pedro is special because San Pedro is cozy. It’s comfortable and neighborly. It gets under your skin in both good and frustrating ways, but you’ll never give up on it. San Pedro is a forever home — no matter where you go, you can always come back. This is how we bridge the two San Pedros; we work to keep San Pedro cozy.

Nothing captures “Pedro Pride” better than a t-shirt. (This one is by Renzwear from 2012.) (photo: John Mattera Photography)

Keep San Pedro Cozy is both a guiding principle and a call to action. Let’s all be clear: People are finally seeing San Pedro for the hidden gem it has always been. Our “charm and authenticity” have been attracting people for years. Our job as San Pedrans is to fight for the San Pedro that we want to have — the actual things that make us want to live here. Progress is marching right towards us, and it’s our job to be really neighborly and hand developers, prospectors, and new businesses a list of Keep San Pedro Cozy guidelines. Nothing has ever worked in spite of San Pedrans. Keeping San Pedro cozy is just good for business.

And what of the throngs of new San Pedrans coming to fill these downtown waterfront condos and snatch up longtime family homes? We keep San Pedro cozy and welcome them to the club. My favorite thing about New San Pedro is leaving this nativist prerequisite in the past where it belongs. New San Pedrans have always bought into the dream that is San Pedro, and we will need their energy in the constant battle to keep San Pedro cozy.

Let me share a prime example of Keep San Pedro Cozy already in action. Last month I met Emma Rault, a woman who moved to San Pedro during the pandemic. In the short time that people have enjoyed venturing out into the community again, Emma fell in love with Walker’s Café. 

For Emma, Walker’s is the epitome of San Pedro’s coziness. A scenic and comfortable place where people from all walks of life could enjoy a burger, a beer, and a good conversation. When the café suddenly closed with no explanation, Emma jumped into action to save Walker’s. She believes that Walker’s Café is an important part of San Pedro life and should remain for future generations to enjoy. Emma didn’t worry about her status as a recent transplant to organize an effort to get Walker’s Café historical recognition. Navigating L.A. bureaucracy is a tough gauntlet to run, and Emma has spent weeks researching the history and amassing an impressive report to save this gem from becoming another stack of condos.

A still from the film Chinatown, featuring Walker’s Cafe and Point Fermin Park. (photo: Paramount)

Keeping San Pedro cozy takes work, but it doesn’t have to all be herculean, like Emma’s effort to save Walker’s Café. You’d be surprised how far saying hi to people on the street goes for new San Pedrans. I mention movements like Save Walker’s Café because I know big change makes people nervous, and a lot of you are scared that we’re going to lose ourselves, especially when we see beautiful iconic Spanish colonial homes get razed for condos. 

Keep San Pedro Cozy is a way to give us the power to define who we are and what is important to us as a community. Organizing has always been a strong San Pedro suit, and I look forward to keeping San Pedro cozy with you and all of our future San Pedrans. spt

To learn more about the effort to Save Walker’s Café and to sign the petition, please visit

Angela Romero

Angela Romero is the founder of the San Pedro Heritage Museum. She can be reached at