Reconnect And Restore Paseo Del Mar

A cruise along a contiguous Paseo Del Mar was one of the best attributes of living in San Pedro and has left so many memories for each of us. For me personally, the vivid memories transcend my lifetime.

For example, as a kid my parents would take us for Sunday afternoon drives around the hill to stop for ice cream and on our way home would conclude the drive along Paseo. As a young adult, I would back my 4×4 Toyota truck against the rail just above Royal Palms, drop the tail gate to enjoy a pizza, chips and a beverage with my buddies late into the evening while we bantered back and forth on just about any topic with the sound of waves crashing the shoreline. It was also the place where I asked my best friend if I could kiss her for the first time while sitting in her uncle’s old white Dodge pickup truck.

This October, my best friend and I will be celebrating our 20th year of marriage. As parents, we would pack our three boys in the Suburban and enjoy various stops along Paseo. You’ve heard the phrase “staycation,” but a trip along Paseo was our “daycation.” If we entered Paseo from Western Avenue, we’d first stop at the swings and jungle gym adjacent to Fromhold Field and after an hour or so we might head further down Paseo to the park and walk down to the beach.

Our favorite stop, though, is at The Corner Store to get some old school candy and try a different root beer from the last time we were there. Our daycation would end at the Korean Bell to enjoy the beautiful ocean view and fly a kite. If we entered from Gaffey, we might stop at Point Fermin Park or the Korean Bell first and do the rest in reverse order. It is these types of stories that we all share in some way or another and the reason that we must stop nothing short of restoring Paseo Del Mar back to its original state.

Paseo Del Mar is just a small portion of California’s scenic coastline and was one of the best-kept secrets in Los Angeles until November 20, 2011 when 600 feet of the hillside spanning some 120 feet slid into the Pacific Ocean. The landslide made the news and brought to light what we all knew regarding the instability of our local coastline. Our immediate knowledge and experience of this has been the Portuguese Bend landslide. For decades, the land along Portuguese Bend has been sliding into the ocean and for years the road has had to be maintained and repaired. The degradation is so severe that today a clear view of the Portuguese Bend Beach Club can be seen while driving over the sliding roadway when just 10 to 20 years ago it was not. If not done correctly, this could be the future and experience while driving along Paseo Del Mar.

There appears to be three options being considered to repair the Paseo landslide, ranging in cost from $6.7 to $51.3 million dollars. The cheapest solution is a graded sloping of the hill that would require constant maintenance throughout the year and for decades to come. In other words, this would be the Portuguese Landslide model for Paseo Del Mar. The most expensive option, which I support, is to shore up the hillside and build a bridge to reconnect Paseo Del Mar. This option would ensure a safe and accessible roadway for generations to come.

In today’s economy, it’s easy to state that the bridge option is too expensive to restore the roadway back to its original state and entice us to select the cheapest route. As the last palm tree stands proud on the remaining bluff of Paseo, it’s a symbolic gesture that we too must do the same and work diligently to reconnect and restore Paseo Del Mar to its original glory.

Just as Paseo has connected us for generations, we must connect it for future generations to come. We owe it to ourselves to restore this historic scenic roadway that in many ways defines who we are as San Pedrans. spt

I Love San Pedro, But…

If you’re anything like me, you probably share the same love/hate relationship that I have with this peculiar little port town of ours. I know, “hate” is a strong word, but using an antonym other than hate would sound ridiculous, so just go with me here.

Being that this month includes the much-lauded day for St. Valentine, the topic of love and how it pertains to San Pedro is a tricky subject to maneuver. Rarely does a day go by when I don’t hear from a family member, friend or acquaintance, the phrase, “I love San Pedro, but…” The “but” is usually followed by some issue that’s currently plaguing our town that hasn’t been dealt with yet, if ever.

Most of you know what I’m what I’m referring to. “I love San Pedro, but I’m getting really sick of the gang/graffiti problem.” “I love San Pedro, but people drive like [plural expletive] here.” “I love San Pedro, but they really need to do something with [insert Ports O’ Call, Paseo del Mar, downtown San Pedro, potholes, Rancho San Pedro Housing Project, all the sober living homes, traffic on Western, etc.].” You get the picture.

San Pedrans love to love San Pedro and we wear that love like a badge of honor, and usually on our clothing. It’s funny, actually. We are the first people to profess our love for this town, yet we’re also the first people to rip it apart when something is bugging us about it. But if we ever hear someone from out of town criticize San Pedro, we jump in and defend it like it’s one of our children. Or a drunken uncle. Either scenario works.

One of the universal loves of this town, though, is our love for our local family-owned restaurants. And lucky for us, there are plenty to choose from. If you haven’t already noticed who’s on our cover this month, we’re featuring a member of one of this town’s legendary culinary families, Dustin Trani.

Trani first appeared on the cover of the August 2003 issue of the original San Pedro Magazine, along with all the Jims – brother Jim, father Jim and grandfather Jim. That story focused on their family legacy, starting with Trani’s great grandfather Filippo and the beginnings of the Trani family business in 1925. This issue, we look forward, rather than backward, and focus on Trani’s career as he splits time between J. Trani’s Ristorante on 9th St. and his new gig at Doma in Beverly Hills.

Trani’s story is nothing short of incredible. At six-years-old, he’s prepping parsley, by 11 he’s working banquets, by 18 he’s working with Contessa Premium Foods and traveling around the world with CEO John Blazevich. At 22, he’s training at the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. And now, at the ripe old age of 28, he’s working double time as the executive chef at both J. Trani’s and Doma. When people ask who are the future leaders of San Pedro, as one columnist does this month, Dustin Trani is certainly on that list. I hope you enjoy his story as much as I did writing it.

Four Years and Counting…
This issue marks the magazine’s four-year anniversary. I would say that it sounds like a short time, and in reality it is, but having a deadline every month the past four years (eight if you count my tenure with the original San Pedro Magazine) sure does make it feel like quite the long haul.

While I’m incredibly proud with how this magazine has operated and been received in our community, there is still plenty of room for improvement. We’re currently working on a few behind-the-scenes projects that we’ll be debuting as the year progresses that I’m incredibly excited about. As San Pedro continues its path towards redevelopment, so to will this publication.

Finally, we’re also hard at work on a very special edition of San Pedro Today celebrating our town’s 125th anniversary. We were originally shooting to publish it next month to coincide with the town’s actual “birthday” on March 1, but we’ve decided to push it to the summer in time for all the celebratory 125th anniversary events various organizations have planned. It just seemed like a better fit.

Thanks to all our readers, advertisers, Facebook fans and Twitter followers for continuing to shower us with support. Here’s to another four years and beyond.

Until next month…

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)