Path To Prosperity

Last month’s San Pedro Today article recalling the slaughter of the innocent and devout Eva Tice in downtown San Pedro made my blood boil once again. For it is the byproduct of a deepening (by the decades) of poverty, and the drug addiction, crime and violence that has become our harbor side reality.

This was not always our identity. In the first two-thirds of the last century, our waterline was our key to prosperity, for it offered a diversity of industrial and commercial economic opportunity from the Bridge to the Breakwater and beyond. We were busy working.

However, by offering no vision for the type of public use that creates the commercial growth that would ensure a bright future, the City of Los Angeles (who holds the reins) instead created a social service and industrial dumping ground in its own southern section and seaside soul. So, for well over half a century we have suffered with a well-earned dangerous and dead end image that headlines continue to shout.

Look in on all other west coast ports to observe commercial seaside commerce and abundant economic activity – regional prosperity. The cry in the Harbor Area must be for economic justice that overcomes the anomaly of our seaside poverty.

The surest path to community safety and the seaside promise of prosperity is the full development and complete transformation of the Los Angeles waterfront. Our prominent institutions: the hospitals, schools, Boys & Girls Clubs, Marymount College, and other such institutions, must be promoted and economically nurtured in strength in order to safeguard and serve our social wellness and welfare. The development of the waterfront, which started as the Bridge to the Breakwater Grande Promenade Plan fourteen years ago, is the key to the economic health of the entire Harbor Area.

Our main street areas have degenerated into swap meets. The few waterfront commercial businesses that currently exist only serve weekend crowds, and those crowds represent a limited demographic that does not circulate into downtown or spend a dime elsewhere. All of the businesses that do not cater to that limited demographic have died (Simon’s Banquet Center is a recent example), thus the emptiness throughout the area.

Shouldn’t the waterfront serve and benefit all? Shouldn’t it be open and connect to all? Aren’t we good enough to attract people from all over the world? As a great people attraction that included visits by presidents, celebrities, astronauts, generals, admirals and heads of state, the Papadakis Taverna, which started in an empty building on a very rough corner of downtown in the early 1970s, did. And it did it for nearly four decades. That is how Sixth St. between Centre and Mesa came alive with people places. Why can’t our waterfront become an infectious welcome beacon for everyone?

The waterline must serve as a doorstep to all. Our port becoming a statewide seaside destination will engender the commercial growth that has escaped us for decades. For it will attract the great diversity of people that comprise what we call Southern Californians – not to mention the millions of folks who visit annually, as tourism is L.A.’s biggest business. Finally, it will create a locally based business community with the blessing of a diversified and bona fide job market.

Our history is our waterline. Simply put, the path to prosperity begins at our waterline. The rocky, bloody path to poverty begins there as well, as we have observed. What we make of it now, and whom we make it for, will determine our future.

There are those who will deny what I have expressed here and fought for all these years. You will have to take a good look at them and ask yourself why. I looked through and past them long ago.

Here’s to a new year, a new urban waterfront mecca, a bustling, busy international city by the blue Pacific, and economic justice to the long-suffering people of the southern portion of Los Angeles. spt

John Papadakis was the owner of Papadakis Taverna and is founder of the Bridge to the Breakwater Plan.

Killer on the Loose

Eva Tice

Los Angeles Police Detective David Alvarez calls it the kind of crime that keeps him up at night: A tiny woman with the mind of a child viciously stabbed multiple times early Christmas Eve as she walked home from an evening church service in San Pedro.

Eva Tice, 60, who walked with a limp after a hip replacement and captured many hearts at her church with her sheer simplicity, was left to die alone on a stone cold sidewalk on Pacific Avenue. Her broken, bleeding body was discovered between 11th and 12th streets, near the old Ramona’s Bakery and across from June’s Bar, which was crowded that night. All she had with her was her Bible. Eva died a short time later at the hospital. No one has come forward as a witness.

She was attacked at about 7:15 p.m. as she was walking home, just three blocks from her apartment. Few leads have panned out. More than a year later, the case remains “disturbing,” Alvarez says. Not to mention unsolved. In essence, say those who knew Eva, it was like murdering a child.

“We need closure,” says Alvarez, who has been working the case with his partner, Patty Batts. “There are lots of people who loved her. Nobody expects this on Christmas Eve. People tend to be home with their families, even gang members. It’s just bizarre and very weird being attacked like that.”

Detective David Alvarez asks the public for help once again. “We haven’t solved it. He’s still out there and could do it again,” he says.

The church’s congregants remain dismayed, disheartened and haunted that someone would kill a woman who could get excited by childlike things. Her favorite possessions were a duck ornament and a Bible she couldn’t read. She turned down several offers of a ride home after the service, says Becky Aldape, an assistant administrator at the church. Eva was too anxious to race home to draw in some new coloring books and to see her Christmas tree with the duck ornament, which a sponsor had donated to her and her disabled roommate.

“She was such a sweetheart,” says Aldape, who wears a pin that says “Justice for Eva.” “She was so harmless. Why would someone do something like that to her? She was so innocent, so naive. I was angry, real angry.” Aldape turned her anger into making Justice for Eva buttons and worked with other congregants to blanket the neighborhood with posters seeking answers. But the answers didn’t come.

Detectives are frustrated, too, and disturbed over the death of “an innocent.” It’s a case that continues to mystify them. No one has been caught, despite the hundreds of hours Alvarez and his partner have poured into their investigation. Investigators have gone door to door, conducted more than 100 interviews, and received 30 tips. The city of Los Angeles put up a $50,000 reward, all to no avail. At first, detectives believed it was possibly a robbery, but all Eva owned of any value was costume jewelry. The intensity of the attack also is puzzling. If it were a robbery, there was no reason for the excessive brutality. She was stabbed “multiple, multiple times,” the detective says, in particular in the upper right chest.

Investigators are asking the public to come forward with anything they might have seen or heard – even the barest thread of a rumor. Something small might lead to a break in the case. But for now, the question remains: Who would want to kill a 4-foot-11 woman with a mind that varied in maturity from the age of six to a young teen? Eva already had lived a tough life and didn’t deserve this, her friends say. Her parents died in a car crash when she was a child and she was raised by social workers and foster care. She later married a similarly disabled man, who also died.

After that, Eva was given the chance to live in her own apartment with a roommate instead of in a group home or other institutional setting. A social worker looked in on the women at their apartment on 12th Street, police say. But it was at the church where Eva really seemed to live. People there didn’t mind sharing her youthful jubilance despite her age. In fact, they liked it. Today, these friends remain stunned, angry and haunted.

Eva was known for being helpful, says one of them, Joseph Baroni. She came each Saturday to help him with the church’s yard sales – something she loved to do. He recalls that, on that Christmas Eve, he was pulling out of the parking lot when he waved goodbye to her as she left. “She was my friend,” he says, the pain still in his voice. “She loved God. She loved everybody.” She was physically incapable of warding off any attack, Baroni says, and he can’t stand to think of Eva’s shock that “someone was stabbing her to death.”

Because blood would have been splashed on the killer, Baroni believes “someone knows something” and has yet to come forward. Investigators say a man was spotted running away after the attack, but it’s unclear whether he was the killer or was running out of fear.

Because Eva was so innocent, she didn’t understand relationships – sexual or otherwise – or have any idea that anyone would want to hurt her. That kind of trust may have led her to have a pool of street friends. Hope Chapel allowed Eva’s homeless friends to attend the packed memorial service, because she respected them as human beings – a lesson she taught others who knew her giving, caring soul. Once when a man fell and hit his head at the church’s yard sale, people milling about ignored him. Eva came racing back to church officials to ask them to help the bleeding man. They did and were impressed by how much she cared.

The night Eva was killed, congregant Susie Mendez planned to give Eva a ride but had to leave the service early when she was notified that a car had hit her grandson. She was devastated when she heard the news and says she continues to think of Eva every day. “It just makes me sick,” says Mendez, who received a text message about the murder in the middle of the night. “It breaks my heart. That night, she was so full of life and so peppy, like a little kid in a grown woman’s body.”

Eva couldn’t wait to get home that Christmas Eve. She had several gifts under the tree – gifts she would never have the chance to open. spt

Anyone with information should contact investigators Alvarez or Batts from 7:30 to 5:30 p.m. Mon-Fri at (310) 726-7881. On weekends or holidays, contact the Detective Information Desk at 877-LAPD-24-7. Anonymous web-tips can also be left at www.lapdonline.org (click on anonymous web tips).

2012: A Year in Review (December 2012 Cover Story)

Photo by John Mattera

It was a year of incredible change and transformation for San Pedro.

A year of gains, losses and continued tradition. The waters brought us a new resident, a home for artisans was built, and a new councilman was chosen to lead us. We faced the challenge of the land sliding beneath us, out of control skateboarders, and the constant threat of crime. We saw a lighthouse and a church reborn, milestones surpassed, and parking meters meeting their maker. Even through the good and the bad, when 2013 rolls around, history will look back on 2012 as the year it all started coming together for San Pedro.

The previous year did not end well. We were still reeling from the Paseo del Mar landslide that happened in November 2011. At the time, no one had any answers as to why the land toppled into the sea and we were still getting used to having a neighborhood divided by the ocean cliffs. And then things got worse.

Eva Tice

San Pedrans were stunned and saddened by the killing of Eva Tice, a 60-year-old mentally disabled woman who was stabbed walking home on Pacific Ave. from a Christmas Eve church service. Police would later announce a $50,000 reward for information leading to her killer, who fled the scene and still has yet to be found.

Photo by John Mattera

The good news arrived, when, after months of campaigning and a special run-off election against Assemblyman Warren Furutani, former LAPD Harbor Division Senior Lead Officer Joe Buscaino was sworn in as councilman of the city’s 15th District on January 31, replacing Janice Hahn, who won a seat on Congress the previous year.

Residents also freaked out for a bit when false rumors of a serial killer in the Harbor Area spread on Facebook. It turned out to be the end result of a game of telephone after a young woman was found slain in Wilmington.

Later in January, talks began about a proposed a skatepark in Peck Park. After months of planning, the project got a monetary boost from the Tony Hawk Foundation in October. Construction bids should go out this month. Supporters hope the project will be completed before overpass construction will temporarily close the existing Channel Street Skatepark later next year.

Speaking of skating, the increasingly familiar sight of packs of un-helmeted skaters “bombing” hills at high speeds in traffic around town became a forefront issue this year when Caleb Daniel Simpson, a 15-year-old from Palmdale, became the second teen to die engaging in the activity in San Pedro. A few months earlier, 14-year-old Michael Borojevich died after he crashed skating near 25th St. and Western Ave. The deaths gained widespread media attention and prompted officials to eventually ban bombing throughout the city in August.

In February, the Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities announced its new home at the Warner Grand Theatre. In November, the theatre company announced an indefinite suspension, pulling out of the Warner Grand and leaving existing subscribers in the dark.

Photo courtesy of Boys & Girls Club

Students at San Pedro High School and the Boys & Girls Club got a visit from ballerina and alumnus Misty Copeland, a soloist in the American Ballet Theatre. Copeland returned to her hometown in February to share her experiences getting her start at the Boys & Girls Club and rising to the top of the ballet world, where she is ABT’s first African-American female soloist in decades.

After months of restoration work, St. Peter’s Church, San Pedro’s oldest place of worship, reopened its doors on Easter Sunday at its new home at Green Hills Memorial Park. Originally built in 1884, the church was moved to Green Hills in 2011, where it underwent badly needed repairs.

A much-improved Angels Gate Lighthouse was unveiled in April after a six-month restoration project spearheaded by the Cabrillo Beach Boosters, who fixed the lighthouse’s rusting exterior. Steel reinforcements, a new paint job and zinc coating were just some of the repairs made to help protect the lighthouse from erosion for another 25 years. The Boosters also hope to restore the crumbling interior in time for the lighthouse’s centennial next year.

Point Fermin Lighthouse also made headlines this year when in May, the federal government declared it to be surplus property, basically putting it up for grabs for new ownership. A handful of groups and nonprofits have applied, including the L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks and the Point Fermin Lighthouse Society. We’re still waiting to see who will be chosen to run one of San Pedro’s iconic landmarks.

Arguably, the biggest story of the year for San Pedro was May’s arrival of the historic battleship USS Iowa in the Port of Los Angeles. Only two years ago, the Port had rejected a proposal to berth the ship as a floating museum and tourist attraction. Robert Kent, who founded the nonprofit that spearheaded the effort, got the community to rally around the project, eventually getting the Port to come around. With funding in place and the Port’s blessing, the Pacific Battleship Center made a bid for the ship, and was later granted it by the Navy. Repairs were made in Northern California before the ship was towed to Los Angeles.

On June 9, the ship made its final journey down the main channel to its permanent berth as thousands of spectators on shore lined Harbor Blvd. The ship hosted a Veteran’s reunion and opened for public tours in July.

On the heels of the Iowa’s arrival, the Historic Waterfront Business Improvement District (commonly known as the PBID) put on a Swingin’ Salute Block Party in downtown San Pedro. Residents decked out in their 1940’s best came out for free swing music and dance lessons under new decorative lights crisscrossing over 6th St. The San Pedro Bay Historical Society also put together a series of historical window exhibits displayed in shops downtown.

Also in June, nonprofit Harbor Interfaith Services opened a new, three-story facility on 9th Street, where it relocated its headquarters and expanded services supporting struggling families.

Seven months after a 600-ft. stretch of Paseo del Mar slid into the ocean after a rainstorm, the City released a geotechnical report assessing the causes of the landslide and future of the site. Both natural and manmade factors like irrigation and wave erosion played a role in the slide, but no further ground movement was detected. The City later secured funds to stabilize and grade the area and install drains. Whether or not the road will be re-routed is to be determined with the input of a new 50-member community advisory committee appointed by Councilman Buscaino.

Photo by John Mattera

Another major story of the year happened in late June, when the first of two WWII-era warehouses near 22nd Street Park re-opened as Crafted, an indoor craft marketplace dreamt up by the same developer as Santa Monica’s successful Bergamot Station. With a 35-year lease, dozens of vendors and far-reaching media coverage, Crafted has already proven to be a one-of-a-kind regional draw. After gripes about its $5 parking fee, Crafted gave away free one-year parking passes to local residents and later offered free parking on Fridays.

After planning this year’s Taste in San Pedro festival for Ports O’ Call Village, the Chamber of Commerce announced its cancellation in July. It would be the first summer without one in more than a decade. The Taste wasn’t the only foodie event cancelled this year. Weeks later, organizers of the Ćevapčići Festival announced its cancellation due to lack of funds. It was especially a bummer since the Balkan sausage fest had some big press lined up. The Port’s annual Lobster Festival went on as usual, drawing thousands of sea foodies to the waterfront.

In early August, an 18-year-old former Mary Star of the Sea High School running back confessed to stealing cash registers from several businesses on Western Ave and Gaffey St. He ran into a slight problem when his dad recognized him on the surveillance video that made the media rounds and convinced his son to turn himself in.

More than 600 parking meters were axed in downtown San Pedro and Wilmington this summer, a move by Councilman Buscaino’s office after a study concluded they did more harm than good. Rates on remaining meters also went down. Business owners had long complained that the overabundance of meters and rate hikes discouraged consumers from shopping downtown. The issue was a talking point in the special election to replace former Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

This year’s Navy Days went much smoother than last, drawing 5,000 people over the course of two days (2011’s event was longer and larger, causing a traffic nightmare and long lines). Tour goers got an inside look at the USS Wayne E. Meyer destroyer and the Coast Guard Cutter George Cobb.

The same weekend, reports came pouring in of a man spotted jumping off the Vincent Thomas Bridge shortly after 12:30 p.m. on August 19. A few hours later, Port police announced they had recovered the body of Top Gun director Tony Scott, whose car was found on top of the bridge with a note left inside. His suicide drew national media attention. A coroner’s report later confirmed that contrary to reports, he was not battling cancer at the time of his death.

Photo by John Mattera

Thousands of young San Pedrans went back to school weeks earlier than usual this year, part of an early start schedule adopted by the L.A. Unified School District that’ll have them out for summer in early June (they were originally slated to get out by the end of May, but Prop. 30 changed that). This was also the first year for the new John M. and Muriel Olguin Campus of San Pedro High School, an environmentally innovative annex campus built to relieve overcrowding at SPHS. Shortly after school started, there was a bit of a traffic controversy in the surrounding neighborhood.

Also in August, San Pedro native and LAPD Deputy Chief Patrick Gannon announced his retirement after 34 years on the force. A few months later, he took a new job as Chief of Airport Police at LAX.

Seventeen-year-old Monica Bender, a senior at Mary Star of the Sea High School, made headlines when she swam the 20-mile Catalina Channel the last week of August.

After a string of residential burglaries over the summer had residents on edge, eight new police officers were assigned to LAPD Harbor Division to help curb property crime. Police eventually arrested an 18-year-old San Pedro man linked to one of the crime scenes.

Astronaut and first-mom-in-space Anna Fisher returned to her hometown in September for the fundraiser opening of Harbor Day Preschool. She also took time to speak with students at several high schools. In other San Pedro space news, the ashes of Allyson Diana Genest, an avid Star Trek fan from San Pedro who died in 1999, were sent to outer space with Space X’s Dragon launch in May. It was her dying wish.

Who could forget the refinery burn-off freakout on September 15? When a power outage set off a controlled burn-off at the ConocoPhillips Refinery in Wilmington, shooting flames and smoke high into the air, many residents wondered if there was a raging blaze to worry about. Some later filed complaints about pollution emitted during the burn-off.

On a related note, the Rancho LPG facility on North Gaffey Street – those two big gas tanks across from the Home Depot – got in trouble with air quality officials after neighboring residents reported smelling what turned out to be a gas leak in October. The facility has been subject to criticism and protest from neighboring residents for decades. Councilman Buscaino held a hearing addressing their concerns earlier this year.

Also in October, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor and Point Fermin Elementary School celebrated milestone birthdays, turning 75 and 100, respectively.

On Columbus Day, eight new inductees were honored at the annual San Pedro Sportswalk to the Waterfront. Later that the day, hundreds gathered outside the Italian-American Club for the councilman’s first Buscaino Block Party and Spaghetti Dinner.

After the Port put out a call over the summer for commercial developers to fix up Ports O’ Call Village, it announced in October that eight had taken interest. A decision on a developer should arrive early next year.

The San Pedro International Film Festival made its debut in October, screening dozens of films and hosting workshops.

On October 10, San Pedro Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, Betsy Cheek, announced her resignation after not having her contract renewed by the Chamber Board of Directors. The Chamber will begin the search for a new president/CEO early next year.

Many San Pedrans were bummed when organizers of the Railroad Revival Tour announced its cancellation weeks before it was set to roll through town (2011’s sold-out Mumford and Sons performance drew thousands to the waterfront). Willie Nelson, Band of Horses, Jamey Johnson, and John Reilly and Friends were set to perform at Ports O’ Call Village on October 27. Band of Horses still wanted to play however, putting on a show at the Warner Grand Theatre the same night instead.

Congresswoman Janice Hahn defeated Congresswoman Laura Richardson in early November in the race to represent California’s newly drawn 44th Congressional District.

Yet another version of the proposed housing development for the long-abandoned Navy housing property along Western Ave. surfaced in early November. The new Ponte Vista is more scaled back than previous incarnations and includes additional lanes to address traffic concerns that have shot down the project in the past.

This month, of course, marks two San Pedro holiday traditions, the 32nd Annual Spirit of San Pedro Christmas Parade, and the 50th L.A. Harbor Holiday Afloat Parade.

We know we missed a few items of note from the past year, but we couldn’t fit everything in. Needless to say, it’s been a year of intense change and challenges. Let’s hope 2013 is just as exciting and full of positive, forward thinking progress as we continue to push San Pedro towards a more prosperous future.

They Shall Be Missed

Sadly, we also lost a number of notable San Pedrans this year. Here’s a list of noteworthy deaths:

Steve Saggiani, longshoreman
Rudy Svorinich Sr., community leader and father of former Councilman Rudy Svorinich, Jr.
“Cheerful” Al Kaye, owner, Union War Surplus
Dr. H. Michael Weitzman, optometrist and philanthropist
Tom Phillips, painter of iconic San Pedro scenes and landscapes
Joseph M. Mardesich III, entrepreneur
Stancil Jones, longtime fire captain
Joe Caccavalla, Tri-Art Festival founder
Ray Patricio, community leader and nature preservationist
Dr. Jerry Blaskovich, dermatologist
Tony Perkov, owner, Ante’s Restaurant
Geoff Agisim, sea chantey singer
John Greenwood, school board member, community leader
Cindy Rutherford, owner, Century Motorcycles
(apologies to those we may have omitted by accident)