Westmont Drive Fiasco Proves It: Stupid Is As Stupid Does

It’s a good thing I take blood pressure medication because I nearly popped a vein when I read what happened to Westmont Drive. And that was before I read the response from our councilman and his spokesman.

We live in the age of stupidity, so what happened on Westmont shouldn’t have surprised me. After all, look what Washington, D.C., has given us now that policy is determined not by “will it work” but on “will it feel good?” That kind of thinking in Sacramento has given us a pair of transportation boondoggles known as the bullet train and Complete Streets Act (“Well, it looked good on paper”). LAUSD wants my wife to supervise breakfast for 24 kindergartners in the classroom (visualize crayons in syrup). And somewhere in an ivory tower cubicle in Downtown L.A., someone who’s probably never even driven on Westmont read the Complete Streets Act and decided that what one of the worst traffic areas in San Pedro needed was the elimination of a car lane to provide room for bicyclists. Something about the street being “underutilized.”

There are so many things wrong with this that I hardly know where to begin. Councilman Joe Buscaino said he’d ask the Department of Transportation to provide an update on the impact of one less car lane. Too bad no one thought of doing that before the changes were made. How about the city send just one employee to stand on the corner of Westmont and Western between 7:30 and 8 a.m. any weekday? Anyone ever try exiting from Coco’s or Rite Aid onto Westmont at any time of day? As the debate continues over adding 830 housing units at Ponte Vista, the “Nightmare on Western Avenue” not only hasn’t been helped, it’s been made worse.

It’s bad enough that it was done literally while no one was looking. That it’s just another ham-fisted effort by the nanny state we now live in to get people out of their cars and onto bikes is pretty obvious from the comments by Buscaino spokesman Branimir Kvartuc. He said that the change wasn’t made “to accommodate (existing) bicyclists but to encourage (new) bicyclists.” Buscaino then doubled down by saying, “This is to encourage people to get out of their cars and use their bikes. To those who say San Pedro doesn’t use bikes, I say, ‘Let’s start. Why not?’”

Why not? Well, have you tried to get all those parents to stop driving their kids to Dodson and Mary Star? Maybe that’s the plan: Make the drive so miserable they’ll stop. Good luck with that. Or ask your longshore buddies to bike to work. Oh, that’s right, there isn’t a bicycle lane on the Vincent Thomas Bridge. Can’t see a lot of families bicycling to Field of Dreams. And it might be hard to pick up lumber or plants at Home Depot using a bike. I guess you could haul paving stones in a backpack two at a time. Perhaps you can encourage my 84-year-old mother who lives near Dodson to hop on a bicycle to make her hair appointment. The only accomplishment of eliminating that car lane right now is making sure she and dozens of other drivers sit in their cars an extra 10 or 15 minutes waiting at the intersection of Western and Delasonde.

That’s why not, Joe.

This must be what happens when a politician runs for re-election without any opposition.

Time for a reality check, councilman: This isn’t Asia or Europe. This isn’t even Santa Monica. This is San Pedro. I would have expected a comment like Joe’s from someone who lives on the Westside or a beach city, but not from a native of San Pedro who should know better. I took issue with Janice Hahn over her planting stop signs and speed humps all over town, but at least she had the pulse of San Pedro when it came to Ponte Vista. That’s what we need now, a councilman who will stick up for his constituency – the vast majority of which rely on cars and trucks.

Maybe Joe’s just spent too much time around people like that downtown San Pedro art gallery owner who had the gall to say, “People in vehicles think they own the road…We need to eliminate our reliance on four-wheeled transportation.”

Sorry, but people who drive DO own the road, in a matter of speaking. We pay 71-cents a gallon in taxes every time we stop at a gasoline station, and most of that money goes to transportation projects. Those people in their bright Spandex and shiny helmets who cruise the peninsula every weekend should thank the gas-guzzlers instead of metaphorically flipping them off. I say this as someone who road his bike to work for most of the `80s, way before it became de rigueur. And, yes, I looked ridiculous in Spandex.

This column is appearing a month after the bicycle lane went in. Here’s hoping that by now Joe has come to his senses and is doing all he can to get the Westmont car lane restored. Traffic officials realized the error of their ways last year when they messed with the turning lanes from Weymouth onto Western and quickly changed it back. Like the general in charge of the Hurricane Katrina cleanup said, “Don’t get stuck on stupid.” spt

Ace In The Hole

Terry Katnic (center) surrounded by his Ace Hardware staff. (photo by John Mattera)

Since the introduction of big box, do-it-yourself stores, such as Lowe’s and The Home Depot, the landscape of the American hardware store has changed.

Although independently operated hardware stores and pure hardware chains continue to find a healthy niche, the big do-it-yourself stores have dominated revenues. That didn’t stop or deter Terry Katnic from coming out of retirement and following his dream.

Katnic, in August of 2011, opened one of San Pedro’s newest, most dynamic small businesses, and he opened it under a name that everyone could recognize — Ace Hardware.

Located at 2515 S. Western Avenue, previous home of Hollywood Video, South Shores Ace Hardware is a business Katnic said he couldn’t be “prouder of.”

“The first year was hard, it was a daily struggle,” he says. “But now we are established, people, the community know we are here — and things lately have been going right.”

Katnic celebrated Ace Hardware’s one-year anniversary on August 23. He says in a community like San Pedro, “anything is possible.”

“We are getting a lot of support from the community,” he says. “People come in and say, ‘We are so happy you’re here!’ This is the key to opening a successful small business, it is all about the community you are serving.”

It’s also about location.

In this area of town, Katnic says, there hasn’t been a hardware store for years.

“There was a hardware store on this side of town for 25 years, but the economy took its toll and they had to close their doors,” he says. “It left a hole, and it was something that not only I, but the community noticed.”

When Hollywood Video closed its doors, Katnic knew it was now or never.

“I literally watched the ‘Closed’ signed go up at Hollywood Video and I knew it was my opportunity to put in a hardware store,” he says. “This is a great location, an amazing building and it couldn’t have been a better opportunity.”

A second generation San Pedran, Katnic knows exactly what goes into the opening and success of a small business. Previously in the auto parts distribution industry, Katnic spent 30 years working across the Los Angeles area serving six stores. He sold his interest in the business in 1998, and his professional career took a turn.

Katnic, who wanted a change, obtained a license to sell both life and health insurance. He says it was a great choice, as it made “life easier, and was not as demanding as my previous line of work.” It was a career Katnic says he was proud of, but the entrepreneur in him wasn’t done.

Ace Hardware, Katnic says, has been another life change. He works on average 80 hours a week, and that’s at the ripe age of 60.

“People asked me all the time if I was out of my mind,” he says. “But I love it, I am a hard worker, and I am always up for a challenge.”

Katnic says he is a part of a franchise that he is proud of – he is 100 percent owner. The company, Ace Hardware, operates as a co-op.

He says from the beginning he has been impressed with Ace Hardware – and as his business has turned one, he is an even bigger fan of the company.

“The J.D. Power award for Highest in Customer Satisfaction has been won by Ace Hardware for the last six years,” he says. “We really cater to people, to our customers. My employees don’t just disappear and hide, they work with the customers.”

He continues, “In addition, the logistics are amazing, the company employs 900 people. There are 4,400 stores in America, all independently owned. They give us the plan, but we are all entrepreneurs.”

But he says starting a business takes time and patience.

“It’s a learning curve, an undertaking, starting a new business,” he says. “It’s a commitment to sign a lease, but I never had doubt or fear – I never doubted that this would be a successful business and that is the mindset you have to have.”

Although very happy with his decision, and the success his store has had in the first year, Katnic knows that he needs the continued support of his community to make his store ever lasting.

“Sometimes people forget that in this hard economic time, I took a huge chance,” he says. “The end result is that I employ 10 people. I opened this convenience hardware store for myself and for the neighborhood. I believe in Ace Hardware and I want the community to believe in me.”

At the same time, Katnic recognizes and is overwhelmed with the support he has received.

“This community has been tremendously supportive, and without that support this store isn’t open,” he says. spt

South Shores Ace Hardware is located at 2515 S. Western Ave., Ste. 101. For more info, call (310) 833-1223 or visit www.southshoresace.com.