The Eighth Terminal

Last month, I had the honor of being appointed a Los Angeles Harbor Commissioner by Mayor Eric Garcetti and confirmed by the L.A. City Council. The purpose of the Harbor Commission is to oversea the management and operation of the Port of Los Angeles. The confirmation hearing actually took place on my birthday and was a great way to start off what turned out to be an extraordinary day and awesome experience for family, my friends and me.

Becoming a Harbor Commissioner provides me the opportunity to do what I love and that is representing San Pedro on an even broader scale. For those who have followed my columns over the past three years you have become accustomed to my passion for this town and where I believe we need to focus in order to secure our economic future for generations to come.

When my grandfather Domenic Costa came here in 1920, and my father in 1956, they both saw a waterfront at very different stages of development and transition, so being given the opportunity to help frame the waterfront for future generations to come is a responsibility I don’t take lightly. In fact, I welcome the challenges in front of my fellow colleagues and me on the Harbor Commission.

My appointment finalized Mayor Garcetti’s commitment of appointing three of the five Harbor Commissioners from San Pedro. The other two local commissioners are David Arian, the commissions Vice-President, who was appointed back in 2010, and newly appointed commissioner, Patricia Castellanos. Commissioner Arian, a former ILWU International President, has been a fixture on the waterfront as a union worker and labor leader. In addition to Commissioner Castellanos’ role as commissioner, she serves as deputy director of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), a leading policy, advocacy non-profit, where she oversees the organization’s efforts to advance economic development strategies that lead to better jobs and an improved environment.

As I prepared after my appointment hearing at City Hall, I began reviewing the capability, capacity, and strategic objectives of the Port of Los Angeles. The Port consists of seven terminals that import and export over 40% of the world’s cargo into the nation. For every one job the port creates an estimated 10 jobs are created regionally. So, staying competitive in the global economy is critical to our economic future. That means we must find ways to increase our efficiency and continue to build the required infrastructure that differentiates us from other ports across the country.

Another key element is the opportunity to redevelop Port’s O’ Call and the extended waterfront to the outer harbor where the Lane Victory sits today. In order to do so, we must think about this segment of the waterfront as the Eighth Terminal. If we prioritize this development as we do all the other terminal developments, then we will develop a world-class waterfront in our lifetime, not in a generation, but today.

The question is will we collectively embrace change? Will we embrace new out-of-the-box ideas or will we stubbornly hold on to nostalgia for the way things were rather than what they can be? My focus and hope is that we will all have an open mind and raise our expectations on what “can be” not “what was.” This does not mean we should eliminate our historic past, but rather integrate it with something new.

And we should think big. San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, Seattle’s Pike Place Market and the Baltimore Harbor are great examples of what dreaming and thinking big looks like. We in San Pedro need to start thinking as big – if not bigger – than they did because we represent the waterfront for Los Angeles, one of the greatest cities in the world.

Finally, I would like to thank my wife Carolyn for her love and support, Councilman Joe Buscaino for his advocacy and finally our new Mayor Eric Garcetti for giving a Pedro Boy the opportunity to represent his hometown on the Harbor Commission and work to influence generations to come. This is our opportunity to build a world-class waterfront together for a new generation. As the expression goes, it’s time to go big or go home, San Pedro. spt

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

A Victory For Waterfront Development

On a Tuesday evening in September of 2009, I had the honor of spending a long evening together with many hundreds of San Pedrans, all passionate about the future of a town we love. We all crowded into a meeting room at Liberty Hill Plaza and stayed well past midnight for a Harbor Commission meeting on adopting a proposed development plan for our waterfront.

The 400-acre project was designed to give the community better access to the water – and it included a promenade that ran alongside the water’s edge, water cuts and downtown-adjacent boating slips, various pocket parks, fountains and plazas, an extended Red Car line, and several other public features that would create a great waterfront experience for locals and visitors alike. The plan passed unanimously.

This was not just a plan to beautify the area, but to aid regional economic development through the introduction of various new shopping, dining and convention facilities that would give Los Angeles a waterfront that could compare to places such as Baltimore, Seattle, and San Francisco. At its core, the plan created a pathway for the Port of Los Angeles to redevelop Ports O’ Call Village with 300,000 square feet now zoned for shops, restaurants, a convention hall and other establishments that would make our waterfront a regional attraction.

It was great, except for one glaring problem. We were smack dab in the middle of a recession and there were very few development projects being launched anywhere. I recall a sobering dinner during this period with a friend on the real estate board at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management who told me that he saw no chance of Ports O’ Call being redeveloped.

However, as the economy slowly started to rebound, the Port finally felt optimistic enough to put out a request for real estate groups to submit their qualifications to be chosen to negotiate the right to redevelop Ports O’ Call. Although the Port was optimistic, it was a cautious optimism – as one Port source told me, they realistically hoped for two or three groups to submit. However, much to their delight, the Port received eight bids.

Among the seven bids they reviewed (one group dropped out); the Port chose a group dubbed the Los Angeles Waterfront Alliance to earn the right of negotiating a development deal with them. In my opinion, it was a great choice.

The lead member of the group is real estate developer Wayne Ratkovich. I first became familiar with Ratkovich when I noticed his name on the Wiltern Center in the Mid-Wilshire neighborhood where I lived in the late ‘80s. I became interested because I automatically assumed that with his “ich” last name, he must share my Croatian heritage, but I later found out he was actually Serbian (can’t win them all).

Our ethnic differences aside, I experienced firsthand the positive effect of Ratkovich’s redevelopment of the Wiltern. It created a great place in my neighborhood to see a concert in a grand music venue, or eat dinner and have drinks in hip restaurant establishments. It became a must-visit destination for me and tons of my friends that lived and worked throughout Los Angeles and Hollywood.

I later learned that Ratkovich has a great reputation for redeveloping places that had seen better days, but doing so without losing the authenticity of what made those places special in the first place. I’m excited and can’t wait to see how he and his team will make Ports O’ Call new again while giving a nod to the heritage of our waterfront and community.

Ratkovich’s local partners on the project, the Johnson brothers, Eric and Alan, are also fantastic choices. Their company, Jerico Development owns several properties in downtown San Pedro that both retain historical authenticity and are well kept. Ask the business owners that occupy their buildings and you will learn that these are great guys that deeply care about our town and do their part to contribute to the shared success of the downtown community. For example, Alan’s wife, Liz, runs Grand Vision, the non-profit that played the lead role in the restoration and administration of the Warner Grand Theatre.

Congratulations to the Port and to the Los Angeles Waterfront Alliance. I, and all of San Pedro, can’t wait to see you make Ports O’ Call great again. spt

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