Community Voices
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An artist rendering of Bark Social at West Harbor. (photo: courtesy Studio One Eleven)

The renewal of the San Pedro waterfront is now underway, and with it comes a much-needed update for how we move people around to enjoy it. 

The San Pedro Chamber of Commerce and the Neighborhood Councils have been pushing for an updated plan for how the waterfront connects to San Pedro and the rest of the region. The Port of Los Angeles has hired the planning and urban design firm the SWA Group to gather community input, map out the needs of waterfront development, and create the San Pedro Waterfront Connectivity Plan (SPWCP). The SWA Group is an international firm known for beautiful landscape architecture for urban parks, city districts, university campuses, commercial complexes, major resorts, and planned communities.

The SPWCP is a dynamic planning document that builds upon the existing waterfront public access and private development progress, providing a conceptual program to guide future port improvements and private development sites into a network of well-connected, multi-use spaces that are internally accessible to the public and externally accessible to San Pedro and the larger Los Angeles region.

Much of the discussion has been focused on connecting our waterfront with opportunities in tourism, cruise ship traffic, small business growth, revitalizing our downtown, and all the jobs that come with it. Mike Galvin, director of waterfront and commercial real estate at the Port of Los Angeles, is also talking about the importance of better connecting San Pedro to the waterfront for San Pedrans. Improving access to the waterfront for locals is just as important as the draw sites, like West Harbor. There will be extensive community outreach in the coming months to best guide how that works, looks, and operates.

The design elements include pedestrian and vehicular thoroughfares, public transit, transportation networks, motorized and non-motorized transportation methods, crosswalks, water access (including water taxis, recreational boats, etc.), wayfinding signage, public art in open space as a larger attraction, open space utilization, and active programming opportunities that increase flexibility. West Harbor recently announced the inclusion of Bark Social, a space where folks can bring their dogs, have a beer or glass of wine, and allow their pets to socialize. Not everything is about cars, buses, and cruise ships. The connectivity plan will bring in elements to help locals enjoy the open spaces, views, and walkways now that the Promenade is complete.

The mission of the SPWCP is to draw on global best practices in blending urban design, planning, architecture, landscape, public transportation, and other elements to create a global destination/attraction that is both aesthetically pleasing and fosters connectivity within the local community. Local businesses should draw from local talent, our residents should have a waterfront that improves our quality of life, and we should have better access to arts and entertainment without having to go out of town. The plan will include suggestions for trees, green space, and areas in San Pedro that are less vehicularly intense, as well as better signage to help direct people to where they want to go more quickly.

Finally, the SPWCP will consider ways to move traffic and people around San Pedro from out of town. There is already a massive project about to start on Harbor that will improve access to highways 47 and the 110. Cruise ship passengers, ship crews, folks heading to the Battleship IOWA, visitors to West Harbor, and people looking forward to joining me at the new amphitheater will need to move around quickly to reduce the impact on the local community. As I wrote about in the August 2022 issue, my wife, Sara, and I left the Dreamstate Harbor music event at closing (midnight) and were home near Holy Trinity in seven minutes. Giving people options before and after events and attractions will require improving ways to get around efficiently. Galvin often talks of a “park once and spend the day in San Pedro” strategy for visitors.

As I mentioned above, the process will take several months and will include numerous opportunities for public input, both in the early draft and in the final revision. The SPWCP will be a living document; it will be revised as needed and will function as a guide to how everything can best fit together. It will need to be flexible as visions and opportunities in San Pedro become more plentiful and in focus. Getting people to and from the waterfront is only a piece of the overall plan to connect the rest of San Pedro with the spots that make us unique and remind us that this is a great place to live. spt

Lee Williams

Lee Williams leads The Lee Williams Real Estate Group at REAL Broker and is a Los Angeles Harbor Commissioner. He also serves on the board of directors for Boys & Girls Clubs of the LA Harbor, the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce, Harbor Connects, and the San Pedro Education Foundation. He can be reached at