Redeveloping Ports O’ Call

I know it sounds cliché, but where did the year go? As I reset my clock it seems like just yesterday I was turning it forward and getting ready for summer. Now the holidays are in full swing and before you know it will be summer again.

We have much to be thankful for during this holiday season in San Pedro and I would need more than just this column to describe all that is good with our town. It’s rare to find such a place like San Pedro with love and pride that goes well beyond words; it’s an emotion that flows through our veins.

On many occasions, I get asked about three particular subjects that spur emotion: Ports O’ Call, Ponte Vista and the Rancho San Pedro public housing projects. The future of the first two appears to have a tangible outcome whereas the third is uncertain. Ponte Vista with its new plans for a smaller foot print and adjusted turn lanes to mitigate traffic on Western may yield support from the original massive planned development once proposed, and the process held by the Port of Los Angeles to solicit a developer for much needed change at Port’s O’ Call is well underway.

Ports O’ Call development is the moment San Pedro has been waiting for and by the end of this year eight prospective developers will be whittled down to one to determine its future. Today, although the parking lots are packed every weekend at Ports O’ Call, it is rare that you will find many locals there unless a wedding or baby shower is being held. Since the taking down of the space needle to the closure of many of the small businesses that truly made Port’s O’ Call the place to be back in the 60s and 70s, the very mention of it is always followed with fond memories and a cautious optimism about its future. As I see it, it’s time to create a new Port’s O’ Call that will not only provide new memories for our generation, but for our children and grandchildren’s generation, as well. So the real question is what will make locals and tourists alike want to go to Ports O’ Call on any given day of the week?

A new Port’s O’ Call must reflect who we are locally and where we have come from internationally. It must incorporate ideas from successful developments that attract us throughout the year such as L.A. Live, The Grove, Third Street Promenade and The Block, to name a few. I believe anchor establishments such as a Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen, BJ’s and Starbucks tied in with our historic Fish Market, Ports O’ Call Restaurant, Acapulco Restaurant and other successful establishments that have kept Ports O’ Call alive is the recipe for success. An added attraction like a concert hall should be considered as well as a convention center. Today, many of our local non-profits have to hold their annual fundraisers in Manhattan Beach, Torrance and Long Beach because San Pedro does not have a facility that can accommodate over 500 guests. A convention center that can accommodate such events must be part of the plan. In a nutshell, Port’s O’ Call must have the very amenities we seek in other cities in order to draw locals and tourists everyday of the week.

We must continue the momentum of moving our waterfront and town forward. We have seen the recent arrival of the USS Iowa and Crafted, Marymount College establishing roots on 6th street, downtown San Pedro being infused with new events and street lighting by the PBID, a marine research center in the works for City Dock #1, new schools have been built and much more is on the horizon. San Pedro is truly on the rise.

Our time has come to transition Port’s O’ Call into something that we can once again be proud of and transform it into an international attraction once again. The development of Ports O’ Call is the true catalyst that will breathe real life into our waterfront development efforts for generations to come. spt

One Vote, Your Vote

In 2008, the nation came out in record numbers to vote during the presidential election. All across the country, voters lined up for hours to exercise their right to vote and the change that many hoped for happened.

Among the many questions that have been asked during this presidential campaign, one in particular is whether or not this is the change the nation expected. After all, unemployment is still hovering at 8%, gas is at $4.50 per gallon, food prices continue to rise, median incomes are lower, and in general our economic recovery continues at a snail’s pace. The government is more divided than ever and it seems as if the extreme sides of each political party are holding the rest of the country hostage. It is now in our hands to decide whom we send to Washington and Sacramento to change the gridlock that is so desperately needed.

Our decision is for us to determine which presidential candidate has the best policies, right approach and clearest vision to solve our nation’s problems. At the core of the debate is what the role of government should play in our daily lives. An example of this debate is that of trickle down economics vs. trickle down government.

One side argues that tax cuts provide businesses the opportunity to invest and create jobs, provides more money in our pockets that enables personal spending and in the end increases tax revenues. The other side believes in leveling the playing field, distribution of wealth and deficit spending to help stimulate the economy. What has transpired is that neither approach seems to be the sole answer to address our economic issues.

For example, although the Bush tax cuts provide a little more cash in our paychecks it did not appear to help grow the economy and the Obama stimulus package hasn’t created the millions of jobs that were promised. The answer resides somewhere in the middle of these two fundamental philosophies in order to turn our economy around. Our decision is to vote for the candidate that we believe can reach across the aisle to restore the belief in America and move our country forward.

Looking to California, propositions again make up the bulk of the November ballot. In many cases, it’s the propositions that we have approved over the years that have created new fees and increased our taxes. Many Californians question whether or not the state really needs more tax revenue or should focus on doing a better job managing the tax revenues it already receives along with working to bring new businesses back to our state.

Case in point, with the state’s parks department operating in the red, Governor Brown had planned to close a quarter of California’s natural attractions over this past summer. Generous donations from businesses, private citizens and cities allowed the parks to remain open only to find out later that $54 million in park revenues had been hidden in separate trust funds over the past ten years. This was not only embarrassing but also created a breach of trust with the taxpayers. Such a lack of trust with our state government’s ability to make sound financial decisions, balance the state budget and allocate proposition monies as promised may be a key factor on whether or not this year’s propositions get passed.

In the end, it is our duty to elect those who we believe represent our core values and will make decisions with the best interest of the nation and/or state in mind. We must do our homework when it comes to voting on the propositions so that we make an informed decision. Together we can put the country on the right track. After all, “we the people” determine the direction of the United States of America and one vote – your vote – can and will make a difference. So make sure to vote on November 6. spt

Space Shuttle Endeavour Returns Home

On April 12, 1981, the maiden voyage of space shuttle Columbia not only marked the day twenty years prior when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the earth, but also began the first of 135 STS missions to and from space with a reusable spacecraft. One of the most complex machines ever devised the space shuttle was the only spacecraft capable of delivering and returning people, large payloads and scientific experiments to and from space. So, when NASA announced that the California Science Center in Exposition Park would be awarded Space Shuttle Endeavour it not only complimented Southern California’s rich aerospace history but also the dedication and commitment of thousands to shuttle missions over the past 30 years.

The arrival of Endeavour is also a homecoming for one of the nation’s space shuttle fleet that were built and maintained in Downey, Canoga Park and Palmdale by our regions once dominant aerospace industry. Up until the early 1990s, the aerospace industry not only dominated the Southern California job market but the industry itself transformed the city as a whole. Companies such as Rockwell International, The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin Corporation and Rocketdyne employed thousands who all contributed to the shuttle program. Edwards Air Force Base served as the shuttle’s second home and alternate landing facility if bad weather was forecasted for Cape Canaveral, Fla. On those occasions sonic booms would quickly catch our attention and would be overcome by a strong sense of pride that “our” shuttle was landing.

The presence of Endeavour at the California Space Center will not only provide a learning experience for students and pride for those who designed, built and launched it, but will also be a constant reminder of those brave astronauts who perished aboard Challenger in January of 1986 and Columbia in February 2003, including local Hughes Aircraft Payload Specialist Greg Jarvis who was a member of the Challenger crew.

The last of NASA’s shuttles to be built, Endeavour was the second to the last of all space shuttle flights, STS-134. Atlantis STS-135 would be the final flight and mission of the space shuttle program. In 25 missions over 20 years, Endeavour logged more that 122 million miles in space and circled the globe at 17,500 mph, but it will be the last 12 miles that may be the most memorable for this shuttle. As Endeavour made its grand entrance to the west coast this month a top a modified 747 flying as low as 1,500 feet passing by some of California’s points of interest as well as over the very facilities that gave life to the shuttle program here locally.

Among others, the shuttle derived technologies that have been used in developing an artificial heart and limbs, three-dimensional biotechnology, a light for treating tumors in children, improving crime prevention and wildfire detection to name a few. Endeavour’s final journey will be a reminder of the last 30 years of space shuttle missions, a sign of American ingenuity, pride for thousands who dedicated decades to its success and will remind us of a shared commitment to sending humans into space and returning them safely to earth. This will be the legacy of America’s space shuttle program.

We experienced the exhilarating triumph and dealt with two heartbreaking shuttle tragedies together. Endeavour’s presence will tie us all together to this as well as this great national accomplishment. The ending of the shuttle means the beginning of a successor to once again have American’s send astronauts into orbit and beyond to do what we do best, explore. Godspeed, Endeavour and welcome home. spt