Community Voices
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A rendering of the mixed-use building that will replace the courthouse in Downtown San Pedro. Click to enlarge. (photo: Genton Cockrum Partners)

On February 9, Supervisor Janice Hahn counted down the long-awaited demolition of the county courthouse building in Downtown San Pedro. Many gathered to share stories of paying parking tickets in this building and the difficulties of finding jurors who either didn’t know or weren’t related to the defendants appearing in court. Many elements in this project make it uniquely San Pedro before construction even begins, and there is a little something for everyone to get excited about.

The County of Los Angeles owns this property. From day one, Supervisor Hahn has been unwavering in her commitment to building mixed-income housing with a large affordable housing component. She has been steadfast in the construction being 100 percent union labor. This was behind her selection of Genton Cockrum Partners as the builder. Genton Cockrum Partners has a track record of construction with Project Labor Agreements and is looking for additional opportunities to employ San Pedrans as a way for them to learn the trades and land union jobs. Much of the financing has come from union pension funds with members of the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust on hand to witness the beginning of a labor-built and labor-financed project.

Tim McOsker, former president of the PBID (Historic Business Improvement District), and CD 15 Councilman Joe Buscaino have been active and engaged in making sure this project brings union jobs, mixed-income housing, and lifts the surrounding businesses. McOsker, an attorney born and raised in San Pedro, had some of the best stories of historical and humorous moments in this building. You could tell he will miss it but is very enthusiastic about the next chapter for this property and what it will mean for Downtown San Pedro. Buscaino spoke about all the moving parts that had to come together to push this project forward. Joe is focused on solutions and making the right long-term decisions that will benefit San Pedro for generations.

Like many of you, I had hoped for a dramatic implosion like you see on TV. The demolition could take a couple of months due to all the reinforced steel surrounding the jail cells. Then the site will be prepared to begin construction this fall. Genton Cockrum Partners were given the contract at the end of 2018, and they have spent much of this time getting feedback from the neighborhood councils, the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce, local businesses, and residents. We will see a clearer picture of what is planned for the site this fall.

The eight-story project will include 300 studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom rental units, with 60 affordable. Some people get confused by what “affordable housing” means. In this case, rents will be based on 80 percent of the Los Angeles Area Median Income (AMI), household size, and 30 percent of the adjusted income. Here’s an example based on today’s numbers for those who hate math: A family of three with a household income of $85,000 may qualify for rent around $1,400 per month.

It’s mixed-use projects like this one that make the numbers work financially. The market rate units pay for the construction and the affordable units, allowing for housing for fixed-income seniors and families struggling to get out of poverty and making workforce housing possible. Having workers live close to their jobs means less traffic, a better quality of life, and more participation in our community at all levels.

There will be public parking and 20,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor that includes a food hall for local entrepreneurs to establish themselves. There may be a rotation element in these food stalls and retail spaces. Some of these may lead to stand-alone family restaurants here in San Pedro. I already know of several chefs and San Pedro locals who would be a great fit.

The design and addition of public open space are intended to tie well into the existing historical buildings and add to a more active and vibrant downtown corridor. This building is almost centralized between Harbor and Pacific. It will be a draw for people to visit our downtown, explore our shops, breweries, and restaurants, and contribute space to our larger annual events.

Revitalizing the property where the courthouse once stood will be one of the most visible examples of the post-pandemic renaissance coming to San Pedro. What’s more San Pedro than creating union jobs, workforce housing, and a place for family businesses to get their start? So much work of so many people behind the scenes — it’s exciting for the public to see the progress finally taking place. spt

 

Lee Williams

Lee Williams leads the Williams Group at Keller Williams Realty and is a member of the Board of Directors for the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce and the Boys and Girls Club for L.A. Harbor.

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