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.

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.