Changes are in store for the city’s harbor area, but will boaters come out ahead?
LOS ANGELES — The March 2017 primary election came and went with little to no fanfare for Los Angeles’s NIMBYs. Those city residents who believed Los Angeles was biting off more than it could chew when it came redeveloping major swaths of communities and neighborhoods were unsuccessful in getting local voters to back Measure S, an anti-development ballot initiative aiming to severely restrict building in the nation’s second largest municipality.
We’ll never know whether Measure S, if passed and enacted into law, would have hindered plans to revitalize the only boating-themed waterfront managed by the city of Los Angeles. As of right now, however – and in the wake of Measure S’s defeat – plans to revitalize the L.A. Harbor area are still moving forward, albeit at a snail’s pace.
It’s no secret the city of Los Angeles wants to activate the San Pedro and Wilmington area to become a visitor-serving destination much in the same way tourists flock to Santa Monica Pier or San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. To this end city officials are betting $1 billion in public and private money to redevelop and transform the San Pedro and Wilmington waterfronts.
Boaters will have their own set of questions, including whether a revitalized L.A. Waterfront would affect their access to and enjoyment of the water. Will boaters have fewer parking spaces available to them, giving up their spots to visitor-serving uses? Could the influx of visitors result in novice kayakers and standup paddleboard users taking to the water, potentially interfering with commercial and recreational vessel traffic? What benefits would be made available to boaters once the L.A. Waterfront project is fully realized?
A feasibility analysis commissioned by city officials for the L.A. Waterfront project stated the area’s development initiatives “are expected to result in major public and private investments totaling [more than] $1 billion.”
One-third of the expected $1 billion investment has already been spent, according to the city’s feasibility study.
“About $330 million of public and private investment in infrastructure, capital facilities, public amenities, and private development have occurred on the LA Waterfront since 2003,” authors of the city’s feasibility study stated. “These improvements have paved the way for an additional $700 million in planned investments, notably including the transformative AltaSea project—a maritime innovation center and think tank—and the San Pedro Public Market—a major commercial development with retail and tourism-related uses. As well as bringing new investment to the L.A. Waterfront, these two projects are expected to draw millions of new visitors and establish a new employment center.”
We don’t quite know how the L.A. Waterfront project would affect boaters, although the pricey redevelopment project already resulted in boaters being evicted from Ports O’ Call Marina and the space soon to be replaced by a public marketplace.
City officials are also in the dark when it comes to predicting future success of the planned L.A. Waterfront development.
“The overall catalytic impacts of these projects will not be fully known until they are built but are expected to be substantial,” authors of the feasibility analysis stated.
Such unpredictability could be moderated, according to the feasibility study, by fostering residential real estate development and allowing for hotels and office space to be built in Downtown San Pedro and along the waterfront.
“Depending on site acreage and zoning parameters, the downtown opportunity sites could potentially support a range of medium- and high-density residential and residential mixed-use projects,” authors of the feasibility study stated. “New hotel and office development are longer-term opportunities that will depend on establishing a more robust tourist and employment node in the LA Waterfront area. Recovery of the cruise business, construction of the San Pedro Public Market, and/or construction of AltaSea in the next 5 to 15 years are likely pre conditions to unsubsidized development of these areas.”
A hotel and creative office space could be built in the Cabrillo Way Parking Lot, for example. Creative office spaces could also be the dominant theme of new uses at parking lots along the Wilmington waterfront. Lots in Downtown San Pedro, which is adjacent to where Ports O’ Call Marina used to be, might soon be home to residential and mixed-use projects.
Naturally these project ideas would bring about a fair share of opponents and skeptics questioning the project’s traffic and environmental impacts.
The future of L.A. Waterfront’s revitalization will rely, in huge part, on stakeholder input. Local boaters should take an active role in the public process and inform local policymakers of what they would like to see once San Pedro and Wilmington are upgraded.
Revitalization plans have already resulted in the loss of one marina. The area immediately surrounding the L.A. Harbor would likely realize an influx of new residences and visitors if the city’s plans and ambitions come to fruition – all of which could come at a high cost to boaters.
(Parimal M. Rohit photo)