Community Voices
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West Harbor under construction in October 2023. (photo: John Mattera Photography)

My best friend Otto Schutt grew up in San Pedro, and while he was alive, he was famous for looking for ways to give thanks. 

Accomplishments, small and large, hopes delivered and disasters avoided, minor miracles, and huge opportunities for celebration were often followed with a shout of “Give thanks!” Before I dive deep into my planning for 2024, I want to “give thanks” for the things I am grateful for in 2023.

Give thanks to the local nonprofits I participate in on the board of directors. Harbor Connects is the successful transition from the Harbor Neighborhood Relief Fund. It helps connect people in need with the local service providers that do the work. Harbor Connects also fills in the gaps with resources to help our local nonprofits and first responders with unusual requests, such as fixing a tire so a recently housed single mother can drive to work or paying for a night at a hotel when the LAPD is helping a victim of domestic violence. 

I’m grateful for the newly founded San Pedro Education Foundation, where we are helping fund projects and opportunities for San Pedro schools to do things to improve the quality of education outside the LAUSD annual budget. I’m grateful for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor, where they fill the non-school hours for its young members with a real focus on their future, be it college or career opportunities. There is no other organization in the South Bay with a more significant impact or a higher return on investment than the Boys & Girls Club, serving over 8,500 kids annually.

Give thanks to Elise Swanson of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce, who is working with the L.A. City Council Office to improve small business opportunities and the hard work necessary to create an L.A. City Jobs and Economic Development Incentive (JEDI) Zone and an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District (EIFD) that could transform Pacific Avenue and so many of our boarded-up businesses. Because of Elise’s tireless work, this is a chamber that cares about fighting poverty, ending homelessness, and improving the lives of all San Pedrans.

Give thanks to Linda Grimes, Cindy and Patrick Bradley, Ken and Kathy Creighton, Lucrecia Jacobson, Liz Schindler-Johnson, Windy Barnes Farrell, Amy Eriksen, and the countless others who make San Pedro an excellent place for all forms of the arts. San Pedro is one of California’s state-designated Cultural Districts, highlighting our little town by the sea’s thriving cultural diversity and unique artistic identities.

Give thanks to men like Major General Peter Gravett, Dr. Felton Williams, Councilman Robert Farrell, Senior Lead Officer Maligi “Junior” Nua, Sergio Carrillo, and Kenny Green for the doors they have opened for so many young kids of color in San Pedro who may never have had opportunities without them.

Give thanks to women like Amber Sheikh, Diane Middleton, Connie McOsker, Lisa Williams, Caroline Brady, Shari Weaver, and Janice Hahn, who have had an extraordinary impact on our community and me personally. They get things done when no one else can, sometimes while wearing heels and often without taking credit.

Give thanks for the progress we can see at West Harbor. It is quickly taking shape and remains active during the construction. The cynics have been silenced, and the excitement is growing. The same goes for AltaSea, where new industries around the Blue Economy are being created, and solutions for climate change, food insecurity, and clean energy generation are being researched and developed. 

Give thanks to my team at REAL, Laura, Lisa, Anne, Debbie, and Amanda, for your commitment to making a difference in our community and to “work hard, be kind.”

Give thanks to all the people I couldn’t thank within this short column for forgiving me for the omission and for all the work you do for San Pedro. 

Give thanks to San Pedro and all those who make it a great place to live, work, and play. Our best days are well on their way.

Lastly, I give thanks to the woman who has put up with the challenges of my community involvement. My wife sacrifices daily at her job as a longshorewoman so I can serve on the Harbor Commission. It has cost her wages, hours, contributions to her pension, a lengthy commute, and time with many of the friends she has made in her 16 years on the waterfront. The losses we have suffered in recent years have brought us closer, and I can’t imagine a better life partner. I love you, Sara. 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