SAN PEDRO, CA—Today, the long awaited L.A. Downtown Harbor officially opens in downtown San Pedro. Part of the larger and ongoing L.A. Waterfront development from the Port of Los Angeles, the harbor project unveiled today features new public open spaces and a boat-docking harbor along with proposed entitlements for vertical commercial real estate development that will help to improve the overall infrastructure of the San Pedro market. Construction on the project began in March 2012 and cost a total of $32 million, $4 million under the originally proposed budget. The project is particularly interesting because land was removed from the waterfront to bring the waterline closer to the downtown area. To get a more in depth look at the project we sat down with Vaughan Davies, AECOM‘s urban planning director who worked on this project and has worked on the L.A. Waterfront project for more than a decade.
GlobeSt.com: Tell me about the L.A. Downtown Harbor and how it fits in with the larger L.A. Waterfront project.
Vaughan Davies: The effort to revitalize the waterfront in San Pedro began about 10 years ago with the development of a master plan, the community and the Port. That plan has been approved and entitled for about a seven-mile stretch on the San Pedro side from the Vincent Thomas bridge all the way out to the federal breakwater. There will be proposed new improvements for infrastructure and proposed new entitlements for new buildings for commercial uses. A water cut removed land to bring the water closer to the city and create a harbor that will allow the public to bring their vessels, cruisers or yachts, up the channel and dock in downtown to get out and go to restaurants or shop. This will be the bookend for the revitalization of the Ports O’ Call, which is entitled for 375,000-square feet of vertical new development. So, currently, there isn’t any new vertical development. It is all public open spaces, the docks and the town square. Seven-miles of waterfront in any city is a major asset, and this could really be L.A.’s great moment. If we get it right and do it well, this could be a legacy project for all Angelenos.
GlobeSt.com: What is your involvement with the project?
Davies: My personal involvement was to develop the master plan of the community. In subsequent years our firm has been doing a lot of the infrastructure improvements and setting the stage for what the next phases will be in real estate development along the waterfront. The downtown harbor is the third or fourth infrastructure project to really enhance the waterfront and provide greater access to the waterfront.
GlobeSt.com: How will this project help build infrastructure in San Pedro, and why is infrastructure needed in San Pedro?
Davies: I am working with the development company that was selected to negotiate the development agreement with the port. They are the Los Angeles Water Front Group, which is a consortium of Jerico and Wayne Ratkovich. That is the team that has been selected to work with the port. My personal take on the waterfront is that this is been an opportunity waiting to happen. Fifteen to 20 years ago Disney was looking at the Long Beach waterfronts and did a lot of market studies that really supported the opportunity in Long Beach. For whatever reason, they decided not to move to Long Beach, but it was clear then that there is a market to draw on in the region and whichever of the waterfronts gets to the opportunity first, there is a huge benefit in it for them.
GlobeSt.com: What is the benefit for the Port?
Davies: The Ports, and essentially the City, is the owner of the land. Right now, the Port is underutilized; it is land that no longer has value for large cargo boats because of its close proximity to the residents. They are going to benefit by finding other active uses that make them be a good neighbor and also allows them to continue their core business in the robust fashion that it grows across the channels. Any large port needs to think about being a good neighbor if it is going to continue to grow, and I think that is the real benefit to the port.