Friday, July 25, 2008

Pondering About Downtown San Pedro

First, I acknowledge that I have been extremely remiss in not creating a post about things concerning downtown San Pedro and the many great folks who live in that area.

I was reminded about my omission in a reply to an Email I sent someone.

That person's reply was very thought provoking, so without naming that person, I will include some of the reply below.

The person who wrote the following lives in the downtown area and has a much more well-defined set of comments than I could create.

Here are some of the comments:

"My concerns emanate from the neighborhood in which i live and radiate out to include the entire community. As all politics is local, so are my concerns. If this is seen as parochial or short sighted on your part, maybe I can elucidate further in an attempt clarify my position.

It seems to me that the interests of those who live below Gaffey are different than those who live elsewhere in town. It also is apparent to me that the most vocal and organized groups do not live below Gaffey. While some have the luxury of opposing a school, store, condos, housing or cruise terminals and devoting their time such opposition loudly and repeatedly those of us below the line are concerned with more immediate issues.

Crime is ever present in my neighborhood. Graffiti is widespread and continual. Burglaries are commonplace. Drivebys happen with regularity. Gangs are present throughout lower San Pedro. Stabbings and shootings are not epidemic but they do occur occasionally. Are these things found with such frequency in other parts of town?

Pacific Avenue has deteriorated markedly in the last twenty years. The streets and sidewalks are filthy.

There is an extreme lack of parks and open space below Gaffey. The citizens are desperate for these as evidenced by the use of the poorly planned and executed small green area and bike path along Crescent Drive.

Another indignity experienced in my neighborhood is the weekly ritual of moving vehicles for street sweeping that takes place maybe only twice a month.

On top of all this there is the construction on many many lofts and condos in lower Pedro. Where was the vocal minority when these constructions were proposed? They were cheering them on saying that this was a great thing for Pedro and would revitalize the city. The loud and almost hysterical opposition to the traffic and overcrowding that has been heard about Ponte Vista and the condos proposed at 20th and Walker was silent regarding this massive influx in lower San Pedro. Given the problems of completing and selling these projects the very real possibility that the could end up being rentals looms. If that should happen will the promised revitalization of downtown still occur?

This list of concerns does not mean I have given up on Pedro. I remain convinced that San Pedro was and can still be a great place to live. I simply can not believe that compromise and understanding is in such short supply here. Change has come to Pedro and has not been for the better, in my opinion, to this point. It seems to me we should embrace change and seek new ways to look at the future. Constant vehement opposition without being willing to compromise is wearying."

Even though the comments had many negative points, the last paragraph demonstrated that there is at least one dedicated, caring, and thoughtful individual who will not give up on San Pedro and I am quite sure that person is not alone, by a long shot.

I also wish to include a set of comments that were written on my Ponte Vista blog.

The anonymous author also dealt with some negatives about downtown, but I think they also bring forth other points to ponder:

"I went into Williams bookstore the other day, because I like to patronize local shops. I've never seen such a sad selection in a retail book shop in my life. So, how about doing something about that? A place to buy office/school supplies in town would be nice, too. As would another Ralph's or TJ's in the downtown area. I love Sacred Grounds for the atmosphere and the coffee, but I've never failed to get stale pastry there. They really need to do something about that. A big problem in downtown is the fact that on an average afternoon, most of those shops are closed.
I've seen that cute gift shop next to the Whale open during the day exactly twice in the last year. I'm sure it's open more than that but why should I have to check constantly and stop by in the hope it's open? How can I shop if you aren't open reliable hours?"

I am sure we can have a long laundry list of things that are wrong in the downtown area, but don't you think it is time for us 'regular folks' to speak up with what is right about downtown San Pedro and how WE should be more involved in helping to improve the area?

Maybe the 'authorities' don't want kids cooling themselves off during the hot summer months at the new fountain. How about posting a sign stating that no agency is responsible if anyone get hurt in the fountain, then not watch too closely as some kids just try and keep cool in the summer?

I have written on several blogs that there will be more folks moving into the lofts/condos/apartments that may be finished sometime this decade.

I also wrote that these new residents, along with the good people that already live in the downtown area are going to really need a new supermarket somewhere closer to the real downtown area than just at 12Th and Gaffey. (Von's)

What, exactly, do WE want downtown San Pedro to become?

Will it become 'gentrified' by the new lofts and condos and the folks who can afford to buy/lease them?

What might happen to many of the downtown shops once Target opens and has more goods at lower prices that many of our downtown shops can offer?

Will the downtown shops become like so many of them have become along Pacific Avenue, catering to those underprivileged folks who need to shop there?

The downtown area also has a population of those who are recovering from things or are homeless, or have mental problems.

How should we help them help themselves?

We are not longer the town we were for so many years.

My first wife worked at the Kress store on Pacific Avenue. It has been gone for a few decades now.

The old fishing fleet is gone, as are the canneries. There is still a sport fishing industry in San Pedro and pleasure craft are much more dominant than fishing vessels.

The Navy has been long gone from Terminal Island, so those members of the military and their families are not in great abundance in San Pedro, other than those in the U.S.A.F.

So many of the first generation immigrants from Komiza and Ishcia have passed on, but their first born U.S. generation still is fairly strong in San Pedro. How might that impact where the downtown area goes from here.

We have lost so many of the businesses we grew up with, downtown, and we haven't seen a back fill of businesses that can really accommodate our wants in downtown San Pedro.

We have some very great restaurants in downtown San Pedro, even if one of the most famous of them may close down soon.

Who should determine what is going to happen to downtown San Pedro?

I don't think developers necessarily have the best interests of downtown residents when they come into the area with their grand plans.

I am sorry to have to write that the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council has not done a very good job supporting downtown San Pedro IN THE PAST.

I am happy to report that Central is starting back onto better dealing with issues and with an October election of new officers, I am very hopeful that Central will become central in helping to decide what happens with downtown San Pedro.

After all, Central is made up of folks who live in the area. Those that live in the area have the most to gain and the most to lose, in any redevelopment of the area.

There is a gentleman who has an idea for placing a new type of shopping, dining, and entertainment experience along 6Th Street, east of Pacific Avenue.

Dick Pawlowski's 6Th Street Creek concept is just one idea.

Maybe the Chamber of Commerce might remove their head from a location that is not where a head should ever be and really start dealing positively with those folks who live in the area, concerning how everyone can work together to ponder and eventually solve the problems many people are concerned with in downtown San Pedro.

I really like the idea that a park is very much needed east of Gaffey, and especially east of Pacific, somewhere in downtown San Pedro.

When I was little, there was a park kids could play in at the Anderson Memorial. When that site became a senior citizens' center, the neat stuff at the park went away, for kids to play on.

But children need open spaces to play, just like seniors need an open area to enjoy, meet, and recreate.

There is going to be a new park at 22nd and Miner, but is that really in downtown San Pedro?

I would consider a new park and a new supermarket to be two positive changes that can help the area.

It may be useful to try and ponder just what the downtown area could become.

With new housing very slowly coming on line, might the downtown area become more 'artsy' and open to those who would prefer that kind of area?

What about the waterfront development plans? How might they impact what happens in downtown San Pedro.

There has been talk of building a 75,000 square foot convention center type structure down by Ports O' Call.

How might a new meeting center affect downtown?

What about a Costco? I have no idea where it could be built in downtown, except I considered that it could be built by Ports O' Call.

Many people have been kicking around about ideas on how to change downtown San Pedro for years now.

Isn't is about time that the people who actually live in the area get more of a say in what happens in that area?

I understand that folks living in the downtown area may have the feeling that they are being left out of the many issues going on in OUR community.

We do have issues all around downtown that seem to be taking more of our time and energy to deal with.

With Ponte Vista, waterfront redevelopment, South Region High School #15, issues dealing with Angel's Gate, a possible new cruise ship terminal at Kaiser Point, the Clearwater Program, and the redevelopment of the Cabrillo Beach area, it does seem like things are moving all around downtown, but not really in downtown San Pedro.

But downtown San Pedro really is part of all of the issues mentioned above, I think.

Ponte Vista needs a vibrant downtown so that residents living there can spend their money within the city of L.A. and within five miles of the site.

Downtown San Pedro could become a destination for folks on cruises, instead of a way point in their vacation.

Waterfront redevelopment needs a strong background of a healthy downtown to help attract visitors and folks who bring dollars into the area.

South Region High School #15 might be better placed in downtown, or closer to downtown, to serve students who live downtown and on the north side of San Pedro.

Workers for the Clearwater Program will need places to each lunch, buy goods, and downtown may provide a good place to visit when those workers end their workday.

There are so very many issues to ponder. But ponder we must.

And after pondering, we need to get our hands dirty redeveloping the downtown area, and the rest of OUR community.

So many of us have received so much from growing up in, or living for some time in San Pedro.

Some of us are trying to give back to a community and a population that supported us, even though they didn't know they were doing it.

So let's ponder about downtown San Pedro.

It is O.K. to list all the bad stuff you wish to list.

It is O.K. to write about what you remember about downtown San Pedro.

It is O.K. to give your ideas a chance to shine.

It is O.K. to rant.

But I hope it is O.K. for you to wish and work for a better downtown San Pedro.


km said...

A toy store downtown might be nice, too.

M Richards said...

Thanks km!

While on extended disability, I made HO scale model buildings.

A fair number of them I donated to JD's Hobbies as they moved to their new location and the buildings are used in the current layout.

I doubt if a new toy store would last long in downtown San Pedro, especially after October 12, 2008 when our own Target opens its doors.

A downtown toy store and many other clothing or shoe stores might not last long against the lower prices that will almost certainly be found at Target.

It is going to take some real pondering to find businesses willing to open up in downtown San Pedro, if a Target is so close by, I imagine.

Heck, we may find a downtown full of professional businesses or creative businesses, someday.