A Place Of Gratitude

November is the month of Thanksgiving. Our Thanksgiving holiday can be traced to a 1621 celebration in Plymouth, Mass. by the Pilgrims at their first harvest in the New World. This feast lasted three days, and was attended by approximately 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native-Americans, who had donated food to their new neighbors during their first winter here.

Our annual tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday in November began during the Civil War when President Lincoln declared a national day of “Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

In San Pedro, many of the new immigrants from Croatia, Italy, Portugal, Japan, Mexico, Norway, and other seaside nations didn’t get off a boat and stay on land like the Pilgrims. They went back to sea on fishing boats and worked hard so that they could provide for their families. In the process they built a town. This is something that those of us who love San Pedro should always be thankful for.

Although the American tradition of Thanksgiving was brought to the New World by Pilgrims from England, ceremonies of prayer and thanksgiving are common among almost all religions after harvests and at other times.

In Ancient Greece, Thanksgiving was Thesmophoria, a festival to honor the goddess that taught mankind to tend the soil. Southwest Native-Americans perform a corn dance to give thanks for their crop. The Jewish people celebrate Sukkot, which marks the end of the end of the agricultural year and celebrates the final harvest before winter. Many Asian cultures have festivals of gratitude for their rich rice harvest.

For many years, the San Pedro festival of thanks, which heaped gratitude toward the heavens for our harvest, was the Fishermen’s Fiesta. Our local crop was fish and in many ways, both literal and figurative, it fed our town. Because the great majority of the fishermen in our fleet were Catholics, the central piece of the Fishermen’s Fiesta ceremonies was the blessing of the fishing boats by the cardinal or bishop of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. The men and women saying their prayers of thanksgiving on those days were in many ways San Pedro’s Pilgrims and just like the Pilgrims had their Plymouth Rock, we have our port.

Another set of San Pedro Pilgrims that helped build our town from its very first days, and have emerged as the economic engine that have driven our local economy after the fishing industry shrank, is our longshoremen. They also have an annual day of thanks that honors the deep struggle of their forefathers to ensure good compensation for the harvest of their labor. It’s called Bloody Thursday.

Every year on July 5, ILWU members gather at a picnic to remember the men that were killed in the Big Strike of 1934, a labor struggle that was won by the longshoremen and created the conditions for a waterfront that has greatly prospered our community.

As we embark on a new era in San Pedro, the coming waterfront development at Ports O’ Call and the construction of AltaSea, a world-class marine research center at City Dock 1, provide us the exciting opportunity to start dreaming of new Pilgrims that will join our fishermen and longshoremen in building the next chapter of what we will be thankful for in our community.

This Thanksgiving, while the rest of the nation carves turkey and looks back at Plymouth, I think it might be appropriate for us San Pedrans to include a side dish from the sea and to take a long and reflective look at our beautiful harbor that has given us so much to be thankful for. spt

Jack Baric can be reached at jackbaric@hotmail.com.

Come See & Touch the Future at PortTechEXPO

A solar concentrator dish that can burn through a one-inch thick solid steel block (at 2,650º F), create steam to run a turbine, or recycle wastewater for reuse; hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles; an electric semi truck; a remotely operated zero emission vehicle, on which can be mounted cameras and sensors for diverse purposes, such as railroad track safety or marine infrastructure inspections; a computer system that uses game theory to prevent security breaches… these and scores of other exciting clean energy, environmental, transportation and security technologies will be on display during the fourth annual PortTechEXPO. This year, for the first time, the public is invited for a free, action-packed afternoon seeing and touching these technologies of the future.

Produced by PortTechLA, the expo will take place on Wednesday, September 11, at Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles (110 E. 22nd Street; 22nd Street at Harbor Blvd.).

PortTechLA is a local public/private nonprofit with a global reach. It is dedicated to creating sustainable technology companies for ports and beyond by bringing together entrepreneurs, corporate partners and investors to accelerate innovation, advance clean technologies and help create economic opportunities. PortTech promotes and helps to develop technologies that enable enterprises to meet their environmental, energy, security, transportation and logistics goals. Attracting and growing these technology companies creates new jobs, protects current jobs by ensuring that our port remains competitive, and reduces negative environmental impacts on local communities.

PortTechEXPO kicks off with a morning session featuring Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Mario Cordero, a panel discussion focused on Clean Energy, and a luncheon with Keynote Speaker, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Tickets and table sponsorships for the morning session and luncheon are still available at www.PortTechLA.org. From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. exhibits open for the free public event: “CleanTech – Cool Tech.”

Much of the CleanTech – Cool Tech event is focused on education. The Port of Los Angeles TransPORTer, a mobile exhibit that features displays on the history, jobs, cargo, equipment, environmental programs and future of the port, will open for visitors. Southern California’s top research universities will be represented with displays and interactive exhibits on their latest research and development projects. And local high schools have been invited to bring displays on their STEM projects. Anyone considering a career in research, technology or the maritime industries, will surely find something of interest at the expo.

Clean Tech – Cool Tech will also feature a host of alternative fuel and electric vehicles for use on both land and water. If you are considering purchasing a hybrid or plug-in electric automobile, several vehicles will be available to look over, and experts certified to maintain them will be available to answer questions. Small, medium and full-size electric trucks will also be on display. And speaking of vehicles, unmanned, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are becoming more versatile for both land and sea applications, and both will be exhibited at the expo.

Electric lighting and ways of saving energy have been hot topics for years. We’ve progressed from incandescent, to fluorescent, to Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights in an effort to reduce energy and cost. Come see a demonstration of the next generation in lighting: Light Emitting Plasma (LEP).

Councilman Joe Buscaino will be the featured speaker during the Clean Tech – Cool Tech event. In addition, representatives from AltaSea, the marine research center planned for City Dock #1, will share their vision and plans for the iconic, world-class facility. Food trucks and entertainment round out the event. So, step into the future on September 11 at the fourth annual PortTechEXPO. For further info, see www.PortTechLA.org.spt

Herb Zimmer owns PriorityOne Printing in downtown San Pedro and serves as Board Chairman of PortTechLA.

Seeing San Pedro’s Future Through Its Past

Celebrating a 125 years of San Pedro, for me, begins with thoughts of my grandfather, Domenico Costa, emigrating from Ischia, Italy, back in 1920, and my father Tony in 1956.

Both of them came to San Pedro at drastically different times but at the same age of 18. My grandfather arrived when San Pedro was in its Golden Age, the years following World War I where the port was growing dramatically and surpassed all other west coast ports in handling of tonnage in 1923. Like many emigrants from Europe, he became a fisherman at a time when the Los Angeles Harbor was becoming a leader in the industry.

My father came to the United States at a time when life in Italy was still recovering from the effects of World War II and at a time when our fishing and canneries were beginning to thrive. His fascination with radio growing up in Ischia led him to attend a technical trade school in downtown Los Angeles in the evenings where he would learn to repair radio and televisions and operate his local business, Tony’s TV, for 40 years.

Today, many of our local jobs are based around the import and export of cargo and raw material, as well as local companies and small businesses that support the industry. The local, regional and national impact of the goods movement industry is tremendous. For example, it is forecasted that for every single waterfront-related job 10 more are created in the region and over 40% of the nation’s cargo passes through our port. The methods in which cargo is transported today has also changed dramatically over the years. The crate-by-crate approach of the 1950s to the containerization and technology tracking cargo of today are indications of where this may evolve to within the next 10 years.

San Pedro is in the middle of a new development era. A couple of years ago, there was no thought that we would have the USS Iowa as a floating museum on our waterfront or that we would see Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles established. Five years ago, no one predicted that Marymount College, now a four-year university under the new name Marymount California University, would have a San Pedro-based campus on 6th Street offering Bachelor and Masters Degrees. Finally, 10 years ago predicting that the Southern California Marine Institute would consider moving from Terminal Island to the San Pedro side of the channel was unheard of, but here we are in the middle of the Port of Los Angeles’ $500 million, 28-acre development effort of the AltaSea Marine Research Innovative Center, ironically situated just a stone’s throw away from where a vibrant fishing fleet once operated some 40 years ago.

All of the indicators point to San Pedro heading towards a technology-rich and higher-educated local workforce to support jobs and industries that are on our horizon. It’s this challenge of preparing the next generation’s workforce for these future jobs that we must collectively work together to achieve. As San Pedro transforms to a destination for high-tech jobs, we must continue to innovate and find ways in which to expose our youth to science, technology, engineering and math. Also, we must focus today’s work force to ensure that they are well prepared for the technology that will come to our port while we find ways to attract new jobs to our waterfront.

These new industries will need a safe environment to build upon, so we must address the crime that we read and hear about each day. It’s no secret that we are being pulled on by both ends of the spectrum as we battle for this transformation to take hold. We must be persistent because the future is upon us and we must secure it. While other cities are maintaining the towns of today, we must continue to build San Pedro as a technology hub for tomorrow while making it a global destination and crown jewel at the tip of Los Angeles. spt

Anthony Pirozzi can be contacted at apirozzi@yahoo.com.

San Pedro: Constantly Evolving, Yet Grounded in History

“Like the Pacific Ocean lapping at its shores, the community of San Pedro is ever-changing… the only constant is that its culture, economy and environment are, as always, tied to its port.” Those were the opening words of an article on San Pedro’s past and future that I wrote a few years back for a Chamber of Commerce publication. On the occasion of San Pedro’s 125th anniversary, it seems appropriate to revisit some of what I learned while researching that article.

Every community evolves based on changes in economic trends, demographics and technological developments. San Pedro is not unique in that respect. However, we are certainly unique in how those factors, in combination with our geographic location, have shaped the community that San Pedro is today and will become in the future.

Historically, our economy has evolved through multiple stages: ranching, trading in hides and lumber, military activities, fishing, canning, shipbuilding, and international trade. All have had their impact on the community, and each one, to a greater or lesser extent, has been dependent on the fact that we are located adjacent to one of the world’s great ports.

Each economic era brought new demographic elements to the community. Originally populated by Spanish and Mexican ranching families, the advent of military activities and large fishing and shipbuilding industries brought new immigrants from around the country and around the world. Today, San Pedro is truly an ethnic melting pot with many residents tracing their heritage to Spanish, Mexican, Italian, Slavic, Japanese, Norwegian Swedish and other immigrants. The blend of traditions, ideas and cultures that derives from that mix has given San Pedro a flavor all its own, and an energy and open-mindedness that’s seldom found in more homogenous communities.

Technological change has also had a major effect on San Pedro. Ships have gone from sail, to steam, to diesel power, and have grown from small schooners to megaships. That has enabled the pace of international trade and activity at our port to increase exponentially and, with the advent of containerization, automation has made it possible to handle enormous volumes of cargo. The downside has been that automation brought with it the negative effects of fewer local jobs and the added pollution produced by diesel-powered ships, trains, trucks and cargo handling equipment.

Looking to the future, San Pedro will continue to evolve economically, environmentally and socially. To become sustainable in all three areas will require the creation of a new, well-paid local job base and the elimination of the negative environmental effects produced by the large industrial port. Knowing that, port management and the community have come together on several sustainability initiatives primarily centered on diversification of port-related activity.

Current and future community development plans include a bridge-to-breakwater waterfront promenade and Red Car route, the USS Iowa, a new downtown harbor and plaza, a completely redeveloped Ports O’ Call Village, Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles and AltaSea (a world-class marine research institute). These waterfront venues are designed to create new jobs based on tourism, arts and culture, recreation, academics and marine research. PortTechLA, a public/private technology center and business incubator founded by the San Pedro business community in cooperation with the City and Port of Los Angeles, will develop and grow new technical, manufacturing and export jobs by attracting companies with technologies that help port tenants meet challenges with the environment, clean energy, logistics and homeland security.

This is a very dynamic and exciting time for our community. However, as our economy grows, we add new community assets, and become more environmentally sustainable, one thing is sure to remain constant… that unique sense of community that has marked our entire history. People make a community. And there is no better community in which to live, work and play than San Pedro. spt

Herb Zimmer owns PriorityOne Printing in downtown.

Party Like It’s 1988

Happy 125th Birthday, San Pedro! There’s no way to predict what the next 125 years will bring, but I strongly believe that in the next 25 years we will do much more than in the previous quarter century. And, contrary to some local critics, we’ve come a long way in that time.

Consider this: In 1988, when we celebrated San Pedro’s Centennial, anyone venturing into downtown at night would have found a virtual ghost town, which was considered too dangerous to visit after dark. The only place of note to eat and/or drink at night around this time was Papadakis Taverna.

Everything changed almost immediately after 1988 when Alan Johnson opened John T’s, which was later taken over and changed to the San Pedro Brewing Company by James Brown. Suddenly, young San Pedrans had a downtown place for drinks at night. The crowd soon invaded Tommy’s next door (now Crimsin) and the spark was lit for a downtown scene where one can now eat and drink at numerous locations.

The fact that downtown is a much better nighttime place to visit than it was 25 years ago flies into the face of the nostalgia you often hear from old-timers. True, retail isn’t nearly as strong as it was in the years prior to the opening of malls like Del Amo, but that’s the case in downtowns all across America. And the next 25 years will get better – much better.

Everything starts with the port. There are currently two major developments – AltaSea and Ports O’ Call – that will not only change the face of the waterfront, but all of San Pedro, especially downtown.

AltaSea will greatly expand the current Marine Research Institute by relocating at City Dock 1. The research center, which is a collaborative effort of eleven major universities, including USC and UCLA, will feature seawater labs, classrooms, lecture halls, an interpretive center, and an opportunity to develop the world’s largest seawater wave tank.

A world class research center will drive to San Pedro a large wave of academicians, vendors, businessmen, and professionals that will either work at AltaSea, service its operational requirements, or create business partnerships that leverage the research being done there. The most natural place for these newcomers to locate their offices will be in downtown. And more people in more offices will establish the environment for a better variety of places to eat and drink in downtown… and at Ports O’ Call.

Ports O’ Call will create a waterfront dining and shopping experience that will spark tourism, as has happened in other port towns such as Seattle, Sydney, and Barcelona. However, the key to making our area a regional attraction will be our ability to integrate for visitors a seamless experience where they can traverse between a great waterfront and a vibrant downtown scene.

The reason I was so inspired by the choice of the L.A. Waterfront Alliance as the Ports O’ Call developer is that the team includes Eric and Alan Johnson. The Johnsons own property throughout San Pedro and understand the importance of an integrated plan linking the waterfront and downtown. What other outside waterfront developer would have been such a strong advocate for downtown? Alan has a vision for downtown that includes one-way streets with better parking, enhanced public performance space, wider sidewalks that allow for sidewalk dining, and transforming alleys into pedestrian walkways – much like in Old Town Pasadena (I’d add bringing the Red Car up 6th Street to Centre).

In addition, Alan is on the board of Marymount University and is very active in helping the college establish a film school at the Klaus Center on 6th Street, which could assist in Mayor Garcetti’s idea for making San Pedro one of the city’s entertainment corridors.

It all adds up to a downtown on the upswing… it should be a great quarter century for our town!

Jack Baric can be reached at jackbaric@hotmail.com.