Last summer, I took a spontaneous two-week road trip with one of my sons. Pre-COVID, I was on the go with carpool, family errands, working, going to the gym, and traveling. For the last two years, I have been driving a lot less and working remotely at my social service job. I got rid of my nice car and have been sharing older cars with my family.
When my son said he wanted to look at colleges from here to Seattle on a road trip, I was the only person available to take him. I was happy to spend time with him but had gotten used to my new driving-less lifestyle. Driving three states as the only driver was a first for me, and I was a little nervous.
As we visited multiple campuses, my son made it clear he wanted to attend school in a walkable community where he wouldn’t need a car to get around. Many college towns are designed for students without cars who can walk, bike, or take public transportation around the campus and to the necessities like stores, hospitals, pharmacies, and restaurants. This wasn’t his only criteria for colleges, but it was important. Often people look back on their college years with fondness, as they felt connected to others in walkable communities.
My son’s focus on walkable towns made me look at San Pedro in a new light. San Pedro is a great place to walk in some areas. I walk and hike almost daily, but it is not designed with community walkability in mind like many European towns where you can walk from your house to eat or buy groceries. San Pedro does not have a main area for people to congregate per se. There are some great local businesses like The Corner Store, Sirens, and The Elks Lodge, which serve as community centers as well to some. While a town square is being finished on the waterfront, without a coffee shop or food, it may be a destination where people drive to and then walk, not congregate.
When my dad quit driving, he became more isolated in his suburban home, not close to any of the strip malls where he used to shop. My dad lives in a city where the Dial-A-Ride for seniors is easy and affordable. While San Pedro offers Access Services through the County, options for Dial-A-Ride are more challenging to navigate. Services like Uber are not for everybody, and public transportation is limited. It might be easy to take the silver line to Downtown Los Angeles but to get from Cabrillo Beach to Western poses more obstacles.
As I walk across San Pedro, I notice so many things that I didn’t before in my car. I meet different people and get a feel for neighborhoods and the people who live there in a way that I never got driving by in my car. I have become more aware of how many seniors are alone, especially since COVID. My friend and I recently met an older man on one of our walks; he was in front of his house. He shared that his wife had passed away, and tears came to his eyes. I was glad to have a meaningful conversation with him and knew it was only because I was walking that day that we met.
One benefit of living in San Pedro is the abundance of parks and nature. Places like Royal Palms or Cabrillo Beach become daily outings for many connecting them to both nature and other people. My favorite spot is low tide, where I pick up trash that has been washed ashore, and I can walk from my house.
I hope the future of San Pedro includes ways for those who are more isolated to be connected. If that is you, consider visiting a local coffee shop or a place in nature or walking on Paseo Del Mar. Being alone is fine, but sometimes we all need to feel connected to each other. spt