Field Generals Spark 2013 Prep Football Season

Mary Star's Tyler Sestich and San Pedro's Jacob Miller. (photos by Joshua Stecker)

The 2012 season brought upon new phases for both San Pedro and Mary Star of the Sea High School football.

In the prior year, San Pedro rolled to a perfect 10-0 regular season with a Marine League championship to boot (12-1 overall), while the Stars went completely the other way around with a disastrous 0-10 campaign.

Once the 2012 season ended, it saw the Pirates go 8-4, and the Stars made a miraculous return to the CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division playoffs by closing out the year winning four out of their last six games.

All of that sets up a promising 2013 campaign for both schools and the two who are looking to guide their teams to greatness are two young and promising quarterbacks who both came from Holy Trinity.

San Pedro sophomore Jacob Miller and Mary Star senior Tyler Sestich are two of the latest quarterback sensations to come out of Holy Trinity, following in the footsteps of former San Pedro High quarterback greats such as Jonathan Marselis from the 1997 CIF-Los Angeles City Section championship team, Gustavo Navarro from the 1998 and 1999 Pirate teams, and of course, the 2011 CIF-Los Angeles City Section Co-Offensive Player Of The Year, Kenny Potter.

Both quarterbacks will be working behind experienced offensive lines and playing in front of two passionate and well-supporting fan bases at two of the best and historic atmospheres in the South Bay and Harbor Areas, the Pirate Stadium (San Pedro) and Daniels Field (Mary Star).

Believe it or not, Miller and Sestich’s paths didn’t cross together at Holy Trinity. “(Sestich) was two grades older than me,” Miller said.

Sestich added, “When I was on the 7th and 8th grade team, Jacob was only a 5th or 6th grader but we did play together on an All-Star team at Peck Park.”

Miller and Sestich both had an interesting 2012 season, to say the least.

Mary Star started off the year 0-3, with the third loss being a heartbreaking 21-15 loss to St. Anthony of Long Beach, which ended up being the last of what was a 15-game losing streak. In that game, Sestich threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Alves on a fourth-and-long play with 48 seconds left that allowed the Stars to pull within one, and then a gutsy and successful two-point conversion run from Sestich’s fellow quarterback mate Jeremy Atencio put the Stars up, 15-14. Unfortunately, the hard-fought win was taken away when the Saints threw a 47-yard TD pass 30 seconds later.

The streak finally ended a week later when the Stars rallied to topple Verbum Dei of Los Angeles, 20-19.

“In 2011, we all worked really hard as a team and the scores didn’t reflect the effort we gave all year,” Sestich said. “But in 2012, we worked equally as hard and it felt great to see our hard work and effort translated on the scoreboard. And it wasn’t due to any one guy, it was our whole team working hard.”

Sestich, who split time as the starter with Atencio last season on matchup purposes, was the top passer on Mary Star who ran the spread offense that mainly favored the running game. He completed 38-of-75 passes for 437 yards, three touchdowns and seven interceptions. However, the Stars are looking to go more pro-style with their offense where the quarterback is lined up more than five yards behind the center in a shotgun style attack, which the spread normally is like.

What will also help Sestich tremendously is the fact that every single offensive line starter for the Stars are seniors. “The pro-style offense fits my style better,” he said.

Meanwhile, Miller didn’t find instant success right away at San Pedro, but he would soon make history by becoming the first freshman quarterback to ever take a snap in a varsity game. Miller was the starter on the junior varsity team for the first eight games, but was bumped up to varsity shortly after.

With San Pedro leading Harbor Area neighbor Banning of Wilmington by a sizable margin on October 26, 2012, head coach Mike Walsh substituted Miller into the fray, and history was made.

“It was a really good feeling, and a big accomplishment to be the first freshman to do that,” said Miller, who did not attempt a pass in the Pirates’ 48-6 victory over Banning. Miller threw for five touchdowns on the JV level, with his favorite play coming against Gardena in a Marine League opener where he scrambled to his right and threw a gorgeous pass on the run to Anton Srsen for a 22-yard touchdown.

Miller, who started playing flag football at age nine and played Pop Warner football for Palos Verdes starting at the peewee level, also comes from a great family. His father Leonard is now in his second year as the San Pedro Pirate Booster Club president, while his sister Macy, also entering her sophomore year, was the junior varsity girls soccer most valuable player in 2013.

San Pedro will once again look to challenge the likes of two-time defending CIF-Los Angeles City Section champion Narbonne of Harbor City and perennial powers Carson and Banning for another Marine League title in 2013. Walsh is excited about the defense and Miller’s raw but very amazing potential.

When asked who he thought was San Pedro’s biggest rival, Miller was pretty clear on his answer.

“Since they’re the defending champs, I would say Narbonne,” Miller said. “But Carson will give us a good game as well.”

Miller and the Pirates actually start off Marine League play on October 11 at Carson, and then they host Narbonne the very next week, so there’s a strong chance the Pirates can win the league again if they can win both of those games, and still have an outstanding run in league competition simply by winning at least one of those showdowns.

Sestich thinks Mary Star should do well enough to challenge La Salle of Pasadena for the Camino Real League championship this season and was pretty definitive on who he believes is the Stars’ biggest adversary in league play.

“Bishop Montgomery,” said Sestich. “We haven’t beaten them since I’ve been at Mary Star and they’re our rivals. I think we have a great shot at beating them this year.”

Mary Star will travel to face the Knights on September 27.

Other than the offensive lines that will seek to protect them, there’s one thing that will also carry Miller and Sestich throughout their respective 2013 seasons, and that’s an overwhelmingly support system and fan base at their schools. The experience at San Pedro is unlike any other, especially when the Pirates march onto the field through the fabled Victory Arch, a long treasured staple at school for 76 years.

“The Pedro fans are great and you really feel the energy behind you at the home games,” Miller says of the Pirate football followers. “And I know many of them will be there to support us at the away games.”

Speaking of which, the Pirates have six away games in 2013, with the first one being the second-longest road trip in school history when they travel to Morro Bay for their season opener on August 30. Morro Bay is a five-hour, 220-mile trip. This game came about after Centennial of Compton, the Pirates’ original opponent for Week 3, backed out, and no one else but Morro Bay had an opening in their schedule.

“It will be a good test to see how our team performs,” Miller says of the Morro Bay opener.

As far as the Mary Star football experience at their home facility Daniels Field goes?

“My dad (John) played for Pedro there and my mom cheered for Mary Star and our traditional walk down the alley is great,” said Sestich, who’s sister Meagan is a 2009 San Pedro High grad who once pitched for the JV softball team. “Our fans are great because they’re so loud and supportive. It’s just an overall awesome atmosphere, and to top it off we walk back down the alley (to Mary Star Elementary School) with our fans to say a decade of the Rosary at the Grotto.”

For those who aren’t familiar with the Grotto, this tradition got started in the 1960s when the football team would go to Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church and sing the alma mater to the nuns who taught them. In the 1970s, former Mary Star coach Joe Radisich began the tradition of walking down the alley to and from the old high school at the church.

Mary Star opens their season on September 6 with a long road trip of their own to Aquinas of San Bernardino.

Should the 2013 seasons be as fruitful for the San Pedro football teams, expect Miller and Sestich to play big time roles in the successes of both the Pirates and the Stars. It will definitely be a promising journey for both. spt

A Mediterranean Oasis In South Shores

Frank Ravalli and Paul Aghilipour converted the former Think Bistro into a blue oasis of Mediterranean cuisine at The Blue Grotto. (photo by Joshua Stecker)

It all started from a mutual appreciation for good food and wine. Friends Frank Ravalli, a retired foreman on the docks and waterfront supply business owner, and Paul Aghilipour, a 30-year veteran of the restaurant hospitality industry, were chatting late one night at Think Prime steakhouse when they decided to enter the wine business together. Their partnership took off soon thereafter and five years later, they would dream up a unique culinary experience to bring to their beloved hometown: The Blue Grotto Bistro Mediterranean Grill.

Tucked in the corner of the Pacific View Shopping Center on 25th and Western Streets, the Blue Grotto serves up a variety of Mediterranean and Persian cuisines in an oasis-like atmosphere reminiscent of the Grotta Azzura on the coast of Italy’s Island of Capri. The interior features eight variations of blue and relaxing guitar and flute music.

The space was formerly Think Bistro, the first of three Think restaurants opened by Paul’s brother Kashi, before Ravalli bought it in April, hired Paul as his manager, and turned it into a Mediterranean grill inspired by the real Blue Grotto he had seen decades ago in Italy during his Navy service. Ravalli himself was born to Sicilian parents in Brooklyn before moving to San Pedro 50 years ago, and has always had a passion for cooking, especially recipes his mother taught him.

“Frank always says life is about good wine, good food and good friends. We really wanted to create this feeling of relaxation when you first walk in,” says Aghilipour, who was born in Iran, raised in France, and moved to the United States in 1985, when he started working in and managing many five-star hotel restaurants throughout Los Angeles. In San Pedro, he has worked at the old Grand House, the Whale and Ale and Ports O’Call Restaurant.

“San Pedro is a small town, but there are many very good restaurants in town. Every single one has its own characteristics, charm and great food, so being the new kid on the block, you have to become competitive in terms of quality, price and service,” he says.

When Ravalli let him design the menu for the Blue Grotto, Aghilipour combined both his years of culinary experience and personal tastes to create a quality menu that is simple, flame-grilled and diverse.

“We have dishes from Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Morocco, Tunisia, and a great selection of Persian kabobs and stews,” he says. “Everything is flame-grilled with olive oil and herbs, and it’s a much healthier way of cooking.”

Aghilipour claims to have already lost 12 lbs. since rolling out the new menu a month ago.

The menu features more than 64 dinner selections, including vegetarian and gluten-free options, a children’s menu, and traditional desserts as well as diverse ones like baklava and saffron rice pudding. There’s also a selection of wines from California as well as imported wines from 20 regions. The Blue Grotto offers a 15 percent dinner discount to veterans and active service members, and also does catering.

“We offer a lot of different types of food — there are no restaurants in San Pedro that make the food we have,” Ravalli says. “So far, everyone has told me how delicious it is. People really have to come and try it. We’re always inviting new flavors that people like, and inquiring about what they like to eat.” His personal favorites are the lamb and veal kabobs, and the California Clam Chowder.

Aghilipour says the Blue Grotto’s kabobs and tapas have proven to be most popular among guests, especially the filet mignon kabob, which brings in regulars several nights a week. The restaurant also has a lunch menu of $10 entrees for professionals looking for a quick and quality bite on their lunch hour.

“People don’t always look for a big meal at lunch time and they don’t always have time for it,” Aghilipour says. “For $10 they get to sit down in a nice environment, and on top of that they get a nice piece of fresh fish, salmon, steak or pasta, scampi, kabobs — everything.”

A grand opening event is in the works, and every Sunday night, glasses of champagne are just $2 and singer Rosie Brand provides musical entertainment. Starting this October, the restaurant will be hosting monthly wine tastings with live opera singing, and Kabob Nights every Thursday with folkloric music and tarot card readings. Wine will be half-off on Tuesday nights.

So far, Aghilipour and Ravalli say business has gone up every week, and the feedback has been great.

“It’s like a culinary adventure of discovery because there are so many different flavors that are new to San Pedro,” Aghilipour says. “It’s a fun environment where you get to meet new people and have good food and wine. I look at it less as a job and more of a passion.” spt

The Blue Grotto is located at 1420 W. 25th St. and is open for lunch Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and dinner Monday through Sunday from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Fighting Back

Residents of Silvius Ave. in the Coastal San Pedro area pose for a picture on July 20 during their neighborhood block party, which was organized to bring awareness to the rash of home burglaries and to install security cameras in the neighborhood. (photos by Kelsey Duckett)

It’s a model that one small neighborhood, about 60 homes, is hoping will become the norm throughout the streets and neighborhoods in San Pedro – it’s simple, cost-effective and an effort to deter thieves from targeting homes.

It all started after a couple home break-ins turned into a rash of home and vehicle burglaries – six homes, 11 vehicles in 18 months – in one Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood on Silvius Avenue.

Residents were fed up and decided it was time to fight back.

That’s where Michael Herzmark came in, he spearheaded a neighborhood watch, planned two meetings, contacted Councilman Joe Buscaino and LAPD Senior Lead Officer Matt Vuoso, and started the push to get cameras installed on every home.

“My house was broken into in the middle of January, we were about the fourth or fifth burglary,” he says. “Enough was enough. It wasn’t just the stuff they took, it was the fact that they were in our home, going through our drawers. They violated our privacy and sense of security.”

So Herzmark knocked on his neighbors’ doors, all 60 of them, and suggested a meeting at White Point Elementary School. The turnout was more than Herzmark could have imagined, and better yet, the neighborhood had a plan.

Captain Nancy Lauer, Commander of LAPD Harbor Division, and Councilman Joe Buscaino attended the block party to lend their support.

A handful of residents, including Herzmark, installed security and surveillance systems in their homes. But a month later, Easter Sunday of last year, another home was broken in to, this time though, they had an image off of one of the neighbor’s cameras.

“We thought we finally caught the people involved,” he says. “But when we looked at the image it was too small, and too far away to see anything.”

Herzmark spoke with his neighbors and they knew if they could get everyone in the neighborhood to put up a camera, they would “have an unbroken view of the street,” he says.

“Again the residents got talking, we had another meeting and we decided to have a block party where the handy neighbors on the street could install cameras for anyone who bought them.”

The block party took place on Saturday, July 20 – about 100 neighbors showed up, fired up the grill, brought desserts and drinks, and while the kids played and neighbors visited, three groups of neighbors went around to various houses and installed cameras and surveillance systems.

Angeline Barnes, a block resident, had a camera and security system installed during the block party. She was the first break-in on the street, almost two years ago.

“They broke in through a window of mine and took all my jewelry, cash, an iPad and a camera among other things,” she explains. “It was a difficult time, I didn’t feel safe in my home and it just was a violation of my privacy.”

Barnes said she was thrilled with the idea of a block party, saying it not only brought the neighborhood out to help fight crime, but also was an event that allowed neighbors to meet and get to know one another.

“I have lived here for almost 40 years, and there are people that I just met today,” she says. “I spent a couple hundred dollars on these cameras and my neighbors are installing them and syncing them with my computer and phone. It’s fantastic.”

While some were installing cameras, others were posting signs on fences and street posts.

Residents installed security cameras on a number of homes along Silvius Ave.

“The installation of these cameras will not only ensure that individuals who commit crimes in this neighborhood can be brought to justice, but also sends out the message that this neighborhood has created a unified front against crime,” Vuoso says. “Facebook continues to be a great tool for both the police and citizens to share information vital to the safety of the community. The two together have taken the concept of neighborhood watch to a new level.”

Los Angeles police Capt. Nancy Lauer, the Harbor Division commander, also attended the block party and endorsed the community’s effort to use cameras and signs as a tool to help deter criminals.

“I applaud their initiative and willingness to get involved,” says Lauer. “Anytime we can work in partnership with a neighborhood is a big benefit and a positive for both the neighborhood and the police department.”

She also told the neighbors at the party that the Harbor Division has had great success in solving crimes through surveillance cameras on homes and businesses.

“Criminals aren’t just bound to one neighborhood,” she says. “Criminals are always on the move, and we have had success in capturing a suspect that committed a crime in one area by using video footage from another.”

Lauer did say that crime in the neighborhood, which includes Silvius Avenue and is bounded by Gaffey Street, Paseo del Mar and Hamilton and Weymouth Avenues is down.

“Major crime is down 57 percent in this area from last year,” she says.

She did note that any crime is too much, and each step neighborhoods take to secure their homes and their community will be beneficial.

Last year there were 21 cars broken into compared to 10 vehicles to date this year, there were 10 cars stolen compared to five this year and 14 burglaries compared to five this year.

Councilman Buscaino, a former Los Angeles police officer who worked in San Pedro as a senior lead officer, says the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Watch Facebook group is the largest in the area with more than 500 members. “This is exactly the type of proactive initiative I was hoping for when my office launched a series of Neighborhood Watch Groups on Facebook nearly a year ago,” says Buscaino. He adds that using the Facebook group to inform each other “will bring new meaning to ‘neighborhood watch.’”

“They have just raised the bar on crime prevention,” he says.

Herzmark adds that with “the installation of these security cameras we are going to make it as difficult as possible for criminals to operate in our neighborhood.”

“We hope this is a model that other San Pedro neighborhoods will adopt,” he continues. “It is time to take back our streets in our city. We are here not only with a model, but to help other neighborhoods implement it as well.” spt

A Golden Anniversary For San Pedro’s Golden Gate

The Vincent Thomas Bridge (photo by John Mattera)

San Pedro has more than one big birthday this year. Not only does 2013 mark the 125th anniversary of its founding, and the centennial of the Angel’s Gate Lighthouse, but this November, the Vincent Thomas Bridge is turning 50.

Dubbed “The Bridge to Nowhere,” “San Pedro’s Golden Gate,” and mistakenly thought by some to be named after a non-existent saint, the bridge that would become an icon of not only San Pedro, but the Harbor Area opened for business on Nov. 15, 1963, after a years-long push by the State Assemblyman it was named after.

The Road to “The Bridge to Nowhere”

For decades, San Pedrans used ferry service to cross the main channel to work in the canneries and naval shipyard on Terminal Island. As the Port grew, the concept of building a bridge was discussed as early as the 1920s, but when talks about building a connection got serious over the next few decades, the idea was to create an underground tube or tunnel like they have in New York City.

San Pedro’s hometown State Assemblyman Vincent Thomas, the son of Croatian immigrants, was met with skepticism and doubt that a bridge was necessary for his district, and would spend much of his career pushing through legislation to win the project’s approval. In 1958, a bill calling for the bridge’s construction was finally passed and won the support of the Board of Harbor Commissioners, which agreed to furnish rights of way. So began the $21 million San Pedro-Terminal Island Bridge project.

The official groundbreaking took place in May of 1960, but a slow bidding process meant construction wouldn’t begin until a year later, starting with the substructure. Next came the towers, pilings, 1,270 tons of tediously spun suspension cables, a concrete deck that was built from the towers in and paved, and finally the bridge’s signature green paint job that entails never-ending re-painting (no, really).

A resolution was passed to name the bridge after Assemblyman Thomas, who was still in office (he would serve 19 terms totaling 38 years). Designed by the Bridge Department of the California Division of Highways (or what we know today as CalTrans), the Vincent Thomas Bridge was the first and remains the only suspension bridge in the world to be supported entirely on pilings. It was the first suspension bridge in the United States to be welded instead of riveted, and is the third longest suspension bridge in California, after the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Late on the evening of Nov. 14, 1963, the Islander ferry made its final trip across the main channel, and at the stroke of midnight following a ribbon cutting ceremony, the bridge was officially opened to motorists. Assemblyman Thomas paid the first 25-cent toll.

The bridge under construction in 1963. (photo courtesy San Pedro Bay Historical Society)

Spanning Decades

The bridge exceeded traffic and revenue expectations, seeing 3.3 million motorists in its first year – almost one million more than projected. Within a few years, it became clear that a freeway connection would be needed, and in 1968, Governor Ronald Reagan was the keynote speaker at the official groundbreaking ceremony for the freeway link.

The bridge underwent several changes in the 1970s. Vertical safety screens were added in 1976 after longshoremen were so frustrated with dodging bottles thrown from cars above that they refused to work beneath the bridge. Two years later, a concrete center divider was added between the four lanes.

In 1983, the bridge toll was doubled to 50 cents, but lifted for eastbound traffic. It would be eliminated all together in 2000 and the tollbooths demolished.

In 1988, the bridge was closed for a 25th anniversary celebration that drew thousands and kicked off a fundraising effort to permanently light the bridge. At dusk, the bridge was lined with people carrying lights in a symbolic lighting ceremony.

In 1996, the bridge was named the official welcoming monument of the City of Los Angeles. A year later it underwent earthquake retrofitting.

The bridge was finally lit at night with blue LED lights in 2005. (photo by Jeff Loftin)

After a 17-year-long effort and fundraising campaign, permanent blue lights were finally installed across the bridge in 2005. The 160 solar-powered blue lamps made of 360 LEDs each are switched on every night from dusk to midnight.

“Sure, it took us 17 years to light the bridge, but it was such a struggle for Vincent Thomas just to get it built, and what a visionary – both the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach wouldn’t be what they are today without it,” says Louis Dominguez, who headed the bridge lighting committee.

Even though the path to making the lights a reality wasn’t without its hurdles, he says they turned out better than he first envisioned them. “It was sort of cutting edge, especially for the environment, not having to use coal-powered electricity. It’s the first LED-lit bridge to use solar panels in the country.”

Today, the bridge is temporarily closed on Labor Day for the annual Conquer the Bridge five-mile run.

 

On Camera and in Headlines

Over the years, the Vincent Thomas Bridge has been a backdrop in a number of films, TV shows and even a Jessica Simpson music video. Action scenes from To Live and Die in L.A., Charlie’s Angels and Gone in Sixty Seconds were all shot on the bridge.

Last year, it made headlines when Top Gun director Tony Scott shocked onlookers and the world when he parked his Prius atop the bridge, climbed the fence and leapt to his death. Scott had filmed scenes near the bridge in the past and had talked about wanting to shoot on the bridge for a future project.

The bridge has seen a number of bizarre and headline-making incidents over the years.

In 1976, tightrope walker Steve McPeak and his assistant successfully walked the cables of the bridge and were arrested by California Highway Patrol officers waiting for them below. In the 1980s, someone shot out one of the bridge’s navigational red lights, which required a tedious and dangerous replacement job. In 1989, the bridge made headlines again when a series of collisions resulted in a 30-car pileup, although no one was seriously injured. In 1990, diver Lawrence Andreassen, a bronze medalist in the 1964 Olympics, died diving from the bridge’s west tower in an attempt to set a new world record for the highest dive from a bridge. He had completed a dangerous dive from the Gerald Desmond Bridge two years earlier.

 

From Idea to Icon

Like many architectural landmarks, the Vincent Thomas Bridge has become an icon for San Pedro that has been featured in countless logos and images over the decades.

Anne Hansford, archivist at the San Pedro Bay Historical Society, says the bridge had a significant impact on the day-to-day lives of San Pedrans. “If you worked at the naval shipyard, which many people here in San Pedro did, it made your day so much faster, it just made life so much easier if you were heading east,” she says.

Fellow Historical Society member Chuck Short agrees. “It did replace one of our icons that we all miss, the Islander ferry, but the bridge is much more convenient and has become one of few San Pedro icons that are so recognizable.”

The one thing most people don’t know about the bridge, Hansford says, is just how hard Assemblyman Thomas had to fight to make it a reality. “There was just no credible belief in Sacramento that it could be worth the money; they really had the attitude that it was a bridge to nowhere. It was a very hard struggle for him,” she says. “Now it’s become a very recognizable symbol and it photographs so beautifully from so many angles.” spt

Bridge by the Numbers

* The bridge is 6,060 feet long and its towers are 365 feet tall, 35 stories above water.
* The road is 52 feet wide.
* The bridge has 19 cables made up of 212 wires each.
* It was built to withstand 90 mph winds.
* The bridge is supported on 990 steel piles each supporting 145 tons.
* 32,000 vehicles cross the bridge on a given weekday.
* The bridge cost $21 million to build.
* It is the third largest span bridge in California, the first and only suspension bridge in the world to be supported entirely on pilings, and the first suspension bridge in the United States to be welded, not riveted.
* The original toll to cross the bridge in either direction was 25 cents.
* The first car accident on the bridge occurred on October 6, 1964 and the one-millionth car crossed the bridge on March 9, 1964.
* High wire artist Steve McPeak was fined $126 for walking the bridge’s cables with his assistant in 1976.
* The bridge is lit by 160 lamps, each composed of 360 LEDs.

Sources: Port of Los Angeles, San Pedro Bay Historical Society, San Pedro News-Pilot, Associated Press

Downtown’s Living Museum

The "Once Upon A Book..." display at Williams' Book Store in downtown is one of many window displays the San Pedro Bay Historical Society have used as a living museum to tell the history of San Pedro.

In an effort to celebrate the past and the present of a city that so many have called home, the San Pedro Bay Historical Society has used the beauty of photos and downtown storefronts to give the residents a history lesson.

In lieu of an actual museum, the San Pedro Bay Historical Society has created a museum on the canvas of the downtown area through the project “Windows Into the Past.”

The project is the brainchild of Doris Theriault, a lifelong San Pedro resident and volunteer at the San Pedro Bay Historical Society.

As with most non-profits, money has always been a struggle for the historical society, but Theriault said she didn’t want money to be the reason San Pedro didn’t have a museum.

“Why not use the canvas that is already here,” she says. “I woke up one morning, and thought that the windows of businesses downtown would be a perfect canvas to create a museum for all of San Pedro to enjoy.”

Theriault and her colleagues at the San Pedro Bay Historical Society started approaching downtown businesses, going through photos and creating themes.

“It was a relatively simple process,” she says. “The history is great, the businesses were accommodating and the public’s response has been overwhelming.”

The project commemorates and celebrates San Pedro’s 125 year past, while educating both residents and tourists about the most critical points in the city’s history.

“The project has been a great success,” she says. “It’s allowed us to tell San Pedro’s story through photos – it’s been great for not only participating businesses, but each of San Pedro’s residents who have taken in photos and learned a bit more about the city they call home.”

“Windows Into the Past” has created a series of historical exhibits, each of which have the goal to tell a story and give a lesson of the past, in downtown business windows.

Lucero Newcomer, owner of the Le Grand Salon Lucero in downtown, says her customers have really enjoyed the display, titled “Smiles of the 70s.”

She says that all of her customers have asked about it. Adding that it is “really nice to have it, to be involved in such a cool celebration.”

“It’s really nice to have [the display], it’s beautiful,” Newcomer says. “We love our community, we love our old town – and this is a way we can contribute and help to celebrate San Pedro and all of its history.”

Vinyl historical posters line other businesses to continue the history lesson.

In all, there are 97 different themed windows at 55 locations in the downtown area. At these 55 locations, 17 have 2-D designs and 10 have 3-D designs. In addition, there are 29 locations that have posters, all of which are different and unique, these celebrate the 29 cultural landmarks in San Pedro.

The San Pedro Bay Historical Society received three grants from the Business Improvement District, which helped pay for the film that the photos were printed on. They also received a grant that will help produce the brochure that will be used and distributed for a walking tour.

Theriault says there was no shortage of themes, as San Pedro’s 125-year history is vast.

“We tried to focus on the crucial parts of the city’s history – development of the port, early modes of transportation, restaurants and more,” she says. “Once we had our themes, we tried to pair them with downtown businesses that matched the theme.”

Jerry Gusha of the soon to be closed Williams’ Book Store, says the window display, titled “Once Upon a Book,” has been a great addition to the store.

“Customers really seem to enjoy it,” he says. “It’s been very nice to look at, and it’s a nice way for us to contribute to the neighborhood and the city in which we live.”

The project kicked off last year, in May, and businesses have been eager to participate, says Theriault.

“The feedback has been positive,” she says. “These are photos that most people have never seen, and pieces of information that people, in most cases, didn’t know much about. It is exciting, and a great way to educate the residents and celebrate the city at the same time.

“This is our outdoor museum and it’s very exciting,” she says. “We were able to celebrate our city in a museum that we built on the storefronts of our businesses.” spt

125 Things To Do In San Pedro

1. Attend the Whale Fiesta
2. See a show at the Warner Grand Theatre
3. Go to First Thursday
4. Take a hike at White Point Nature Preserve
5. Enter a sand castle building contest
6. Have a coffee at Sacred Grounds
7. Go on a grunion run
8. Buy groceries at A-1 Market
9. Take a walk along Paseo Del Mar
10. Ride the Red Car
11. Visit the Cabrillo Marine Museum
12. Eat a kabob from Nazelie’s Lebanese Cafe
13. Watch the annual Fourth of July fireworks show
14. Catch a wave at Cabrillo Beach
15. Eat fish & chips at The Whale & Ale
16. Go whale watching
17. Eat a lobster at the Lobster Festival
18. Shop at Ticktocker Thrift Store
19. Eat calamari at J. Trani’s Ristorante
20. Take a walk around Cabrillo Marina
21. Go bird watching at the Salt Marsh
22. Eat a sandwich from Busy Bee Market
23. Watch the sunset over the ocean
24. Explore the tide pools
25. Check out the mural at Peck Park Pool
26. Eat a yogurt from Granny’s Yogurt
27. Take a Harbor Cruise
28. Visit the Muller House Museum
29. Attend Old Fort MacArthur Days
30. Ride on a block of ice down a hill at Averill Park
31. Donate canned food to Harbor Interfaith Family Shelter
32. Play tennis at Daniels Field
33. Ride the Ferris wheel at the Mary Star Fiesta
34. Go to the Taste In San Pedro
35. Listen to the seals bark
36. Take a dip in the ocean at the annual Polar Bear swim
37. Buy a gift at the Global Gift UNICEF Store at Crafted
38. Ride in a dragon boat
39. Volunteer to walk a dog at the Harbor Animal Shelter
40. Go camping with a group at the Cabrillo Beach Youth Waterfront Sports Center
41. Watch the ducks at Averill Park
42. Swing at Friendship Park
43. Participate in the The Holiday Spirit of San Pedro Parade
44. Help out at Turkey Alley
45. Enjoy the Fanfare Fountain
46. Watch the annual boat parade
47. Buy an old fashioned soda at The Corner Store
48. Check out the Cabrillo Beach Bathhouse
49. Visit the Deane Dana Friendship Park Nature Center
50. Eat a fish lunch at the Dalmatian-American Club
51. Listen to scary stories at Angel’s Gate Cultural Center
52. Swim to the buoy
53. Be woken by the sound of a foghorn
54. Attend Sea Scare
55. Look at the murals in the Beacon St. post office
56. Take a tour of the Point Fermin Lighthouse
57. Play ball at Bogdanovich Park
58. Have dinner and watch a dancer at Babouch Moroccan Restaurant
59. Roast marshmallows at Cabrillo Beach
60. Visit the Sportswalk to the Waterfront
61. Watch the moon reflect on the ocean
62. Eat a shrimp tray on the patio at the San Pedro Fish Market
63. Get tracked by Mojo
64. Visit the L.A. Maritime Museum
65. Attend a neighborhood council meeting
66. Stay the night at the hostel
67. Go to the downtown Farmer’s Market
68. Eat Chinese Chicken Salad at Sandwich Saloon
69. Watch ships coming and going into the port
70. Play checkers at the Cruise Ship Promenade
71. Eat an early morning breakfast at Pacific Diner
72. Fly a kite at the Korean Bell
73. Tour the SS Lane Victory
74. Fish off the pier
75. Visit the American Merchant Marine Veterans Memorial
76. Buy a pastry from Joseph’s Bakery
77. Enjoy the view from Lookout Point Park
78. Walk out to the small island at low tide at Royal Palms
79. Play bocce ball at 22nd Street Park
80. Order a custom omelette at the Omelette & Waffle Shop
81. Visit the Marine Mammal Care Center
82. Play horseshoes at Peck Park
83. Enjoy the lights on the Vincent Thomas Bridge
84. Eat pasta at Raffaello Ristorante
85. Ride a bike around Point Fermin Park
86. Visit the San Pedro Science Center
87. Have a picnic overlooking the ocean
88. Buy a late night taco at Maria’s
89. Watch trains at Hi-Railers and Belmont Shore Model Railroad Clubs
90. Eat a pizza at Sorrento’s
91. Attend Navy Week
92. Take a photo of Sunken City
93. See a show by Shakespeare by the Sea
94. Check out the Ship In A Bottle at the marina
95. Eat an ice cream at Ports O’ Call Village
96. Go on a walking Townee Tour of San Pedro
97. Eat a vegetarian torta at Jolly Burrito
98. Stroll around Fishermen’s Wharf
99. Visit Crafted
100. Tour the USS Iowa
101. Take a dog to the dog park
102. Walk through the underground bunker at Fort MacArthur Museum
103. Eat at the snack shack at Eastview and watch a game
104. Go to a play at Little Fish Theater
105. Watch a free outdoor movie at Bogdonavich Park
106. Try a fresh juice at Pronto’s
107. Go to Captain Kirk’s and rent a paddleboard
108. See a concert at the Grand Annex
109. Eat a Divine Burger at Utro’s Café.
110. Ride the trolley
111, Attend the L.A. Harbor International Film Festival
112. Participate in the Conquer the Bridge Run
113. Visit the Living Museum Art Center at Harbor View House
114. Eat carnitas from Guanajuato Meat Market
115. Donate gently used baby clothes to Cradle Closet at the YWCA
116. Eat a strudel at Mishi’s Strudel Bakery
117. Attend a Music by the Sea concert
118. Stroll along Whalers Walk
119. Enter a boat in the paper yacht races
120. Attend the White Point Home Tour
121. Eat a cannoli from Amalfitano Bakery
122. Tour the Marine Exchange
123. Volunteer at the International Bird Rescue
124. Buy a gift at the Assistance League Post Office
125. Eat hot wings at 710 Grille

Catching Up With The Councilman

Councilman Joe Buscaino, photographed in his San Pedro office. (photo by John Mattera)

It’s 1:30 p.m. on July 15 and Councilman Joe Buscaino is on a much-needed vacation. Nonetheless, he’s made it a point to be in his San Pedro office today, with his son and daughter in tow, to catch up on some business and speak to San Pedro Today for this anniversary issue.

Dressed in a polo shirt, shorts and tennis visor on this particular day, the council office seems to fit him quite well. It seems like a far cry from his days patrolling the streets as a Senior Lead Officer with the LAPD, but in reality that was just 18 months ago, and San Pedro has been quite busy during that year and a half.

Under his watch, he’s seen the USS Iowa and Crafted open along the waterfront, main thoroughfares Gaffey and Western have been repaved (including a number of side streets), Ports O’ Call redevelopment has begun, the Southern California International Gateway Project is moving forward, skateboard “bombing” has been curbed, and, with his help, Los Angeles has a newly-elected mayor who can actually find his way to San Pedro. (Not to mention, those frustrating bike lanes, which his office is currently trying to rectify.) It’s been quite a busy year and a half for the councilman, and he shows no signs of slowing down.

The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

San Pedro Today: What do you think the state of San Pedro is today?

Councilman Joe Buscaino: There are some exciting times ahead of us without a doubt. It all starts with the waterline. For us to be a part of it to ensure that we don’t delay and we don’t stop progress is one of my goals. We’re seeing it. We’re feeling it. We’re hearing it, as well. The people are interested in investing in San Pedro. Look at the recent developments in the last year: the USS Iowa, Plaza Park, naming a developer for renovating Ports O’ Call, Crafted… We’re just excited. Look at the number of visitors that have come through San Pedro in the last year, it’s phenomenal and we’re just getting started.

SPT: Some might argue that there’s a battle going on between “old” San Pedro and “new” San Pedro. The older generation vs. the younger generation. Status quo vs. change. Do you find it tough to convince people of change here? As councilman, how do you convince people that change is imminent and we should embrace it?

Buscaino: Well, I think we need to be fair. We need to respect people’s opinions without a doubt. But I look at when my dad came back from a fishing trip; he took my mom, my sisters and I straight to Ports O’Call for dinner and ice cream. Fast-forward to today and I’m raising two kids in San Pedro, I think of them. I think of our future generation and the opportunities that are going to be provided for them here in town. I hope and pray that my kids remain here and my kids’ kids remain here, as well. The only way for us to think about our future generation is to make sure that they have opportunities in San Pedro, not just working the docks. The docks shouldn’t be the only job opportunity here for our families. There should be other opportunities for them to work and remain here and raise their families here. Change is good, absolutely. It’s up to our generation to move the ball forward and not stop progress. I understand there’s always going to be concerns about development, but at the same time, we need to listen, we need to be respectful of the process, and make the right decisions.

SPT: Social media has really put a microscope on crime in town, causing many to believe that crime is rampant. Whether it is or not, it’s happening and people are concerned about the recent criminal activity that’s been going on. As a former LAPD officer, how do we stop this problem?

Buscaino: Last year, the Harbor Area had the best crime reduction in 50 years. So regardless of what’s happening on Facebook and other social media sites, we’ve seen a reduction in crime. If you look at San Pedro, we’ve seen a significant drop in violent crime. We’ve always had a history of property crimes in town. I’ve experienced that as a Senior Lead Officer, as well. To answer your question, if you look at what’s happened in Hollywood and Downtown Los Angeles, good, smart development weeds out crime. We’ve had our fair share of crime here, absolutely, but you weed it out by putting people back to work, by making San Pedro a destination, by attracting tourism dollars here. Look at Baltimore and how dilapidated it was and how quick it turned around. Good, economic development weeds out crime.

We have a vigilant community, and I’m proud of the fact and it’s evident in social media. I was proud of the fact that I have the most number of neighborhood watch groups in the entire South Bureau of the LAPD just because people wanted to help. The police cannot be on every street corner, as much as they’d like to. Our community can always use more eyes and ears.

Someone who’s just been victimized, they don’t care if crime is down or not. Yet, we have to acknowledge that the relationship between the police and the community is better than ever. We need to capitalize on that.

SPT: On another topic, filming in San Pedro seems to have dropped off lately. Some downtown businesses have complained in the past about film crews not respecting their businesses, which has caused distrust amongst the city and Hollywood. In your opinion, how important is it to bring more production to San Pedro?

Buscaino: I meet with Film L.A. quite often. Specifically, sitting on the Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee. As a kid growing up on 19th and Alma, I remember CHiPs filming on 19th Street. I ran out there and saw Poncherello on his bike. When my dad was working on the nets at Ports O’Call, he called and said, “Guess who’s down here? Tattoo from Fantasy Island!” Those are my memories of filming in San Pedro. Here’s the thing, when production companies come in they help commerce. Whether it’s the grips, the actors, the studio personnel, they come, and not only do we expose San Pedro, but we help the business community. Yes, they have to respect the businesses because it’s going to affect their business. We have to be respectful of that, too, because our small business owners put their blood, sweat and tears into their own businesses.

We need to keep filming in the City of Los Angeles. I have friends who are in the film industry and they are oftentimes away for three months at a time, away from their families. These kids I coach in baseball, their dad was away on a production in the Midwest because they offer more incentives. That’s what we’re competing with.

SPT: You’ve been councilman now for a year and a half. What’s been your biggest win so far?

Buscaino: (pause) Do I have to pick just one?

SPT: You can mention a couple.

Buscaino: Okay, two of my main goals in the next four years are to lead the city in job growth and not to delay progress. We’re moving forward on the Southern California International Gateway Project (SCIG) to make this port more competitive, more efficient and more effective, and at the same time improving our environment. Developers have been chosen to lead the Ports O’ Call redevelopment project. In Watts, we’ve cleared the path for redevelopment of the Jordan Downs Housing Development. These three main projects are going to impact our economy tremendously and put people back to work.

There’s now an opportunity to move forward on Ponte Vista where you can put people back to work and offer some homes. We’re working with the Planning Department, the neighborhood councils and the community on that and hoping that moves forward within the next six months. For me, going back to your original question, the waterfront redevelopment is crucial for us. By moving forward on that project, we already have a lot of people who’ve expressed interest in investing in the Harbor Area community. We’ve done a lot in the last year and a half.

SPT: What would you say has been your biggest challenge?

Buscaino: Not moving fast enough. At the same time, there’s a process in place that I have to respect. I get excited about these projects and at the same, you know, there’s a process in place at City Hall that we need to follow that includes a lot of departments, including the City Attorney, which we need the legal advice of. But when somebody comes up with an idea and I know it’s feasible, it’s a “let’s get it done” mentality for me.

SPT: Speaking of getting it done, you campaigned vigorously for our new mayor, Eric Garcetti. In fact, I would go so far as to say Mr. Garcetti has made more appearances in San Pedro during his campaign than the former mayor has during his entire tenure. Do you think that because of your relationship with Mayor Garcetti that we are going to see a lot more enthusiasm from the Mayor’s office for San Pedro and the waterfront?

Buscaino: Without a doubt. Eric’s family to me, he’s like my brother. And in the last year and a half, I’ve learned a lot from him sitting two chairs away. The reason why I went with Eric on this is because I’ve worked with him day in and day out. I was with him three days a week on that council. I’ve seen what he’s done in his district and I just want to replicate that here. He gets it.

He called me on Wednesday before the Fourth of July, he said, “Joe, what are you doing for the Fourth?” I said there’s a great fireworks show down here at Cabrillo Beach. So he says, “Amy and I are bringing Maya, we’re going to come down and watch the fireworks show.” And we’re going to see more of that. You’re going to see him around town. He has an office downstairs [in San Pedro City Hall] that he’s opening up for people to come in and have office hours. It’s not going to take a press conference to get the mayor down here.

SPT: Any final words our town’s 125th anniversary and what it means to you, personally?

Buscaino: I still gotta pinch myself for this opportunity to serve my hometown. When I speak across the city, I say only in San Pedro is where you can find a hometown boy getting elected to a city office. We are blessed with who we are as a community, a community of faith, a community of family, a community that never leaves this place. And if they do leave, they find their way back home. So I continue to be humbled and grateful to serve and this’ll be a great four years. spt

If They Build It…Will We Come?

(l to r) Eric Johnson, Wayne Ratkovich and Alan Johnson of the L.A. Waterfront Alliance. Photographed at the Brown Bros. Building in downtown San Pedro.

It wasn’t that long ago when Downtown Los Angeles was still trying to find its way. Before Staples Center, before L.A. Live, before the lofts, the new restaurants and the Nokia Theater, Downtown Los Angeles was suffering. There were even news reports on all the vacancies in the skyscrapers. It wasn’t a pretty picture. Cut to today and what do we see? A vibrant, urban environment, constantly busy, offering world-class entertainment and top-notch restaurants in a fun and safe atmosphere with plenty of parking. Concerts, sports, special events all seem to happen in Downtown L.A. these days.

Redevelopment is happening across Southern California. Look at Hollywood Blvd. with the Dolby (formerly Kodak) Theatre and the top of the line retail shops, and Old Town Pasadena with the same type of revitalization. It was only a matter of time before our waterfront became a top priority for redevelopment.

Earlier this year, Wayne Ratkovich of The Ratkovich Company, and Alan and Eric Johnson of Jerico Development, known collectively as the L.A. Waterfront Alliance, were awarded the opportunity by the Port of Los Angeles Harbor Commission to redevelop the current Ports O’ Call location. It’s a much needed yet daunting task as Ports O’ Call has fallen under hard times in recent years. Weekend crowds still fill the San Pedro Fish Market, but weekday traffic across the village is minimal. Most everyone in San Pedro will agree that it’s in dire need of redevelopment.

San Pedro Today caught up with Ratkovich and Alan Johnson (his brother Eric was unavailable) at The Ratkovich Company office in Downtown Los Angeles to discuss their “world-class” plans for the waterfront, their vision for the future, and what San Pedro can expect in the coming years.

The interview has been edited for clarity and length

San Pedro Today: Why did Jerico Development want to get involved with the Ports O’ Call redevelopment project in the first place and why did The Ratkovich Company want to join in? What was the genesis behind it?

Alan Johnson: As you know, the talk was that Ports O’ Call was going to be redeveloped and there was a lot of interest in town. We were approached by several people about doing it and well, you know, that’s not our thing. We do our own stuff. [Jerico] didn’t have the wherewithal to take on that big of a project. Then [someone asked], “Would you like to meet Wayne Ratkovich?” And I said absolutely! I’ve followed Wayne and his career for quite a while. I personally wasn’t going to miss the chance to meet Wayne. And the prospect of actually doing something together was just beyond even thinking about.

Wayne Ratkovich: That’s how it all began. We were introduced to one another. I don’t think [The Ratkovich Company] would have taken on the project if we didn’t have someone like Eric and Alan locally that would be part of the development. We needed to have somebody with a local presence. If we didn’t have that, I don’t think we would have put our hat in the ring. When we met, it seemed like we’d probably get along okay together. We shared a common culture in many ways. We also share the fact that this is very important for the City of Los Angeles and for San Pedro. This is important stuff. Alan and Eric have waited a long time to see this property improved and we saw it as an opportunity to fulfill our mission, our development company’s mission, which is to ‘profitably produce developments that improve the quality of urban life.’

SPT: What’s your opinion of Ports O’Call in its current state today?

Johnson: It needs a lot of help. I don’t think anyone would argue with that. There is an opportunity to do something much better than what is there. Keep much of the good, but give it a new life.

SPT: There is concern from the community that a place like the San Pedro Fish Market, which is a San Pedro institution, might become a victim of the redevelopment. What’s your mindset going into what will stay and what will go?

Ratkovich: We have to look at what we think belongs there. It must draw, and draw not only from the San Pedro community, but it must draw from the region. We got to have something that has a magnetic force to it. As we go through all of that process of trying to figure out what that is, it would be downright foolish to toss away existing success stories. We can’t guarantee anything at this point, but common sense says you want to keep what is already producing good revenue and doing good business as you build more to it. I think that’s the framework we have.

SPT: At the first public meeting at the Warner Grand, you gave a fairly lengthy presentation prior to the public comment of all the other harbor locations across the world; other ports and harbors that are on a much bigger scale than what is currently there now. Is that the mindset going into this project? Something that big and grand?

Johnson: Yes. Big. We have all talked about big. In a city like Los Angeles, with all the other world-class top attractions, I think it only makes sense. I think Ports O’Call deserves it. I think it’s fitting there. It’s L.A.’s waterfront. There are a lot of factors that say it should be big.

Ratkovich: We’re not looking at this from the standpoint of wanting to do big things just because we want do big things. We’re not measuring this in square footage. We’re saying if this is going to be successful, you can’t think small. It just won’t work. You’ve got to think big. You got to draw a big picture. You have to have a big attraction. You have to induce a lot of enthusiasm, because there’s not much enthusiasm right now. There’s not much hope. So we want to reverse that.

SPT: I know you’re still in the early stages, but what have you come across as the biggest challenges so far with this redevelopment plan?

Ratkovich: We’re early, but so far everything’s going really well. If we have a challenge right now, it’s convincing the San Pedro community to be patient, because they are anxious to have something happen. And in this day and age, I wish things happened faster than they do. But it takes more time than most people think. That’s why I’ve tried to convince the world that developers are entitled to two lives instead of one, because everything takes so damn long. (laughs) Right now that’s probably the one thing that concerns us the most – keeping the support of the community. I think we got a lot of support in that first meeting and we want to keep it, but we can’t expect people who are not in our business to understand why it does take so long. Also, we’re really happy that our work with the Port has been like a partnership, which you don’t expect very often when you’re dealing with a government agency.

Johnson: The port has so much planned down there and there are so many things that have to be done just right. There is going to be a couple billion dollars spent down there between AltaSea, Ports O’Call, the infrastructure… And I tell you what, there won’t be $2 billion spent there five years from now. Everything has to be laid out and understood and made to work. The challenges… certainly one is moving people along Harbor Blvd. How is that going to happen? The worst thing you’d have is this phenomenally successful development, you know, it’s not a disaster, it’s phenomenal, but it’s like a people explosion! Take what you see there now on Mother’s Day or any holiday weekend, we’re going to quadruple that. Those are the numbers that are going to happen. So how do we do that? It’s building the infrastructures. The port’s very open to it and I think we’re making good progress talking about this. We’ve had some very productive meetings and I think if there’s a roadblock, I haven’t seen it yet. It’s just time.

Could Ports O'Call become a world-class destination for all of Los Angeles? The L.A. Waterfront Alliance thinks so.

SPT: Let’s talk about funding, since you started dropping some numbers here. Where are the funds coming from to put this development together? Have you worked out a budget of what it’s going to cost?

Ratkovich: No, we haven’t, too soon for that. Our job is to create a scenario that will attract capital. So we first have to create that scenario. We have to put together the ingredients that are necessary to attract the capital. That means some pre-commitments from tenants. Perhaps existing ones, perhaps new ones. That all has to come together, and that’s our job. If we get the ingredients that will produce revenue, then we’ll get the financing.

SPT: So to be clear, that’s the current stage you are in right now? Putting the ingredients together to get that financing? Are you confident you’ll achieve that goal?

Ratkovich: That’s correct. We feel confident that there is a lot of capital available for investment. Our job is to create the scenario that attracts that capital. It’s complicated by the fact that this is ground lease property that makes financing more challenging. It’s certainly not impossible; it just makes it more challenging. It limits the number of investors or lenders. It changes the terms. Makes it a little less attractive. Interest rates are a little higher, terms a little shorter. That kind of thing. But it’s not impossible.

SPT: As far as tenant commitments go, what’s been the general response?

Johnson: Existing or new?

SPT: New.

Johnson: We’ve got some very interesting prospects.

Ratkovich: We do. We brought in the National Real Estate group from Commercial Real Estate Services (CBRE) to work with us. And while we don’t have anything in writing from anybody yet, we do have pretty positive expectations about what they think they can do, who the brokers think they can bring in. And that’s good, because if we didn’t have that, we might as well fold tent right now. So we’re very optimistic about the possibilities.

Johnson: Regarding the current businesses there now, the Port has set it up in such a way that all the current leases end in December 2014. That’s how they tend to deliver the space. But as Wayne said earlier, you’d be pretty foolish not to take advantage of what is working down there and those old connections.

SPT: There’s been an issue with the name change, because you’ve already gone public that the Ports O’ Call name will be retired. Why the idea for the name change? And do you have a list of new names you’re considering?

Ratkovich: I’m the one who said I thought there should be a name change, and I do believe that. We don’t have a new name yet. There’s just too many negatives associated with “Ports O’Call.” If you’re going to reach out to an entire region, as well as the local community, I think you need to say this is a whole new thing happening. [My company] has restored 17 historic buildings in the City of L.A. I have great respect for history. But to me, it’s the history of San Pedro – not the history of Ports O’Call.

Johnson: If you see what happened over time, the Fish Market was Norm’s Landing, and it was a fish market and it had nothing to do with Ports O’ Call. Ports O’ Call has just come to mean that whole [area], but it’s really not. I remember seeing this old picture, some old weekend and the crowd in the parking lot was all around Ports O’ Call in the village, very little around the fish market. But what a transformation from now, where it’s just completely flipped! I think there are very fond memories of Ports O’Call, but it’s the Ports O’ Call that people remember back in the day.

I think the promise this redevelopment holds is the ability to bring down those people in San Pedro that refuse to go down there. Bring them through downtown; see that downtown’s nice. With a town of 90,000 people like San Pedro, you really shouldn’t need to leave town to buy all your stuff like you have to do now. We have enough retail space in downtown and throughout town on Gaffey and Pacific and all of these places that if they rediscover the waterfront and they rediscover downtown, there’s plenty of retail space for every use that is necessary and needed for them if they come back, if they support it. You’re not just bringing tourists back, you’re bringing the town back, then all of a sudden you serve their needs on those streets and you just let the market figure it out. There’s a whole effort to make that connection between downtown and the waterfront and I think that is a really key thing. It’s important to us and it’s important to the development of the town because there’s a big disconnect now.

SPT: Finally, when this project comes to fruition and you guys are ready to get the proposal out in front of the public and show the designs and we see pictures of what could be, what can you tell San Pedro to expect?

Johnson: We really want to be measured against the waterfronts of the world. We have world-class developers working on it. So to me, I think nothing short of that. I think we’ll see a very efficient way to get people off the freeway and move them through to Ports O’ Call, but then we move them through to Alta Sea, we move them to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, we move them along our waterfront so they really have this full day in San Pedro. With tourism being the number one industry in L.A. right now, it just happens to be really good for us. We have a lot of wind in our sails, a lot of community support and so I think things really seem lined up, I know we’re going to hit bumps. I don’t want to have this become a burden on our town, a “what did we wish for?” scenario. It doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t be that way. And we’re going to work our asses off that it’s not that way.

Ratkovich: The time has come for the waterfront and downtown San Pedro to be what it really should be. Something that’s really wonderful and unique and that all the citizens can share. That’s sort of a vague and broad description of what we hope to get, but that’s what it’s going to be and it should be something that not only is successful in its own right, but it contributes to the success of downtown San Pedro and to the living environment – a whole urban complex – that’s down there today. spt

Holy Trinity’s Eagles Have Landed

New Eagle Scouts (l to r): Brad Fistonich, Matt Yracheta and Austin Leavitt (photo: Anita Yracheta & Julio Lemus)

Brad Fistonich, Austin Leavitt and Matt Yracheta aren’t your typical high school seniors. In addition to balancing varsity football, heavy class loads and choosing between college acceptance letters, the 18-year-olds have spent ten years going camping, earning merit badges and moving up in the ranks of the Boy Scouts of America. Three months ago, all three became Eagle Scouts, the highest rank in scouting, and an honor earned by only 5 percent of scouts annually.

On March 9, Fistonich, Leavitt and Yracheta had their Eagle Scout Court of Honor at Holy Trinity Parish, where they are members of Troop 234, and are the 24th, 25th and 26th scouts in the history of the troop to make Eagle. Congresswoman Janice Hahn was on hand to present them with certificates of honor from President Barack Obama.

“I’m extremely proud of what Matt, Austin and Brad have accomplished; they are great scouts and excellent role models for San Pedro’s youth both in and out of scouting,” says Troop 234 Scoutmaster Dwayne Cooper. “One of the aims of scouting is to develop well-rounded young men who are prepared to give back to their community. Through the service they provided in their scouting career and especially their Eagle projects, they have already begun to give back.”

Although the teens began their paths to Eagle Scout in different troops and went to different high schools – Yracheta attends the San Pedro High School Marine Science Magnet, and Fistonich and Leavitt go to Mary Star of the Sea High School – the three have developed and maintained a tight bond strengthened by their shared experience of making Eagle Scout.

“Boy Scouts isn’t all fun and games; it’s serious stuff and in the end, it’s very rewarding,” says Fistonich, who started out as a Cub Scout at Holy Trinity before bridging over to the Boy Scouts, eventually becoming a Senior Patrol Leader. Of the 21 merit badges needed to become an Eagle Scout, his favorite was the Shotgun Merit Badge.

In addition to the merit badges, Eagle Scouts must plan, lead and oversee a volunteer service project. Fistonich organized a 40-volunteer effort to renovate the gardening center at Silver Spur Elementary School in Rancho Palos Verdes.

“The whole process was two days, but there were dozens of prep days, which were probably even harder than the actual work days,” he says.

Leavitt spent months planning his project last summer to clean up his school’s deteriorating shipping container-turned weight room. The swimmer and honor roll student oversaw almost 50 volunteers. During his scouting career, he earned the 60 Nights of Camping Badge and reached the highest rank at Chawanakee Summer Camp.

“It’s been a long journey and it’s really nice to be able to finish after 10 years,” he says. “As you move up in the ranks, you figure out what you want to do and how you’re going to lead and be an example to others.”

For his service project, Yracheta led a two-weekend effort to replenish emergency kits in classrooms at Holy Trinity School. He’s also participated in food drives and camped in all types of weather conditions, earning him the 20 Nights Camping award. A member of San Pedro High School’s 2011 Marine League Title-winning varsity football team, he likens scouting to sports.

“When my team went 10-0, it was just like Boy Scouts in that when it was tiring and we wanted to stop and go home, we just had to keep pushing and pushing and go for gold.”

All three teens thank their parents, families, friends and scoutmaster for supporting them through their journeys to Eagle. They have all received multiple acceptance letters from universities. Yracheta plans on attending Marymount College and ultimately UCLA, Leavitt plans on attending California State University Long Beach, and Fistonich is still deciding.

“I think the Boy Scouts has given my son confidence, maturity, and the ability to speak in front of lots of people,” says Brad’s mother, Sharon Fistonich. “I think it’s a great growing experience and I’m very proud. I know all three boys will be friends for life.”

Yaracheta and Leavitt have been scouts together since they were Cub Scouts at Taper Elementary School, where Austin’s father Cary Leavitt was a Den Leader.

“I think the Boy Scout experience gives young men the skills and confidence to succeed at anything they do in the future,” Cary Leavitt says. “At Holy Trinity’s Troop 234, Dwayne Cooper is the most patient and understanding leader.”

Yracheta’s mother Anita says her son and Leavitt have developed a strong bond during the past 10 years that hasn’t changed despite going to different high schools.

“Matt and Austin have been friends since second or third grade, and even though they went to different high schools, it never changed their friendship. The scouts have kept them connected,” she says. “To see them grow and mature into such nice young men has been great. I’m proud of all three to be able to have accomplished what they have.” spt

A Third Chance at Life

Alicia Cline

It was a sunny afternoon in June 2005, and like many San Pedrans, Alicia Cline lined up excitedly to accept her high school diploma at Pirate Stadium, her family watching proudly from the stands. But unlike most graduates, as she made her way on crutches across the stage, rows of her classmates slowly rose to their feet and applauded her.

Only a year earlier, when most of her peers were worried about what they’d do over summer break, Cline faced a decision that could mean the difference between life or death: she had been diagnosed with stage four bone cancer after breaking her femur, and had to decide whether to have her leg amputated, or undergo a procedure that would save it, but at the cost of wearing a brace for the rest of her life.

Caught between the opinions of two doctors and her torn mother, the strong-willed 16-year-old opted for the choice with the best odds of survival. A few weeks after her seventeenth birthday, her right leg was amputated above her knee, and her life forever changed.

“Becoming sick makes you grow up really fast, and I think cancer really changed the person who I was. I was hell-bent on staying strong for my family,” says Cline, now 25 and finishing her bachelor’s degree in sociology at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

She still has the strong, witty, infectious and bluntly honest personality that helped her face cancer as a teen. It would help her again when her cancer returned twice in college: once in her lung, and again in an ovary. Today, Cline is officially in remission.

“When I found out, I just cried; it was such a huge relief. Thinking I might have cancer again every time I had an ache or pain for the past eight years was not fun.”

But despite all she’s endured, Cline will be the first to tell you that it could’ve been worse. While in treatment at Kaiser Permanente in Hollywood, she became friends with another teen in the pediatric ward named Joanna Cervantes. Sharing photos, they realized that they both went to San Pedro High and they both hung out in senior court.

Cervantes would also lose a limb in her fight against cancer.

“I chose to have my leg amputated, but she didn’t have a choice,” says Cline. “One night, it got really bad, and they had to take her arm. Later on, we both had recurrences, and unfortunately, she passed away.”

After months of chemotherapy, Cline returned to school for her senior year on crutches and a prosthetic wearing a wig and jeans. She got involved with a new club organizing SPHS’s first-ever Relay for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. The experience boosted her confidence and she decided she wasn’t going to hide beneath her wig and jeans anymore, boldly coming to school one day in a dress and no wig.

“People who knew my situation were supportive, but it wasn’t easy being open. High school kids can be mean.”

That May, Cline and her father, who had overcome Hodgkin’s lymphoma himself, were among the first group to complete the survivor’s lap at Relay. It’s an event she and her family still participate in today. Later that summer, they went on a family vacation to Disneyworld through the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

“It was hard to see her go through something like this and not be able to just fix it,” recalls her mother, Cathleen Cline Dovolis. “If it weren’t for our family’s support and especially our sense of humor, I don’t know how we would have survived the whole thing together. Laughter was a huge part of keeping us all sane during that time. Alicia is one special young lady. She is my true inspiration and the epitome of the word ‘survivor’ for sure.”

Cline also participates in Relay for Life at CSUDH, where she’s a member of several clubs and the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority. She’s taken an interest in disability studies, and is considering graduate school.

“Regardless of what I do with my degree, I want to help people. It would be cool if I could get involved with the American Cancer Society or some type of nonprofit that helps amputees or cancer patients,” she says.

Entering adult life as an amputee and three-time cancer survivor is an experience Cline doesn’t sugar coat. In the real world of student debt, a competitive job market and steep medical costs, she sometimes catches herself second guessing her decision, but ultimately knows she might not be here if she hadn’t bravely made it.

“My patience might be tested, I might get sad, but I know I can handle it and at the end of the day, I’m not dead,” Cline says. “My mantra and something I tell my boyfriend all the time is that it might not be easy, but it’s going to be worth it.” spt

Relay for Life will be held May 18 at San Pedro High School. For more info, visit www.relayforlife.org.