Thursday, September 15, 2005

Meeting The Opposition, Head On

Tonight's opening round (well, not quite opening, but opening in the EIR process, sorta) in what will surely be a continuing saga of intra-San Pedro fighting went down with less of a bang and more of a whimper. That's not to say the meeting wasn't well attended, but the crowd was surprisingly well behaved - as well as well coordinated in its ill-informed opposition to Bridge to Breakwater.

In the grand tradition of public hearings, the strongest and best represented faction pushed an agenda I'll refer to as the "Opponents for Open Space." I inferred from many of their comments that these opponents haven't really lived in San Pedro that long. For them, preserving the status quo is key. That's fine - except they fail to realize those of us in favor of development are also aiming to preserve the status quo. Just an earlier one. San Pedro used to be everything they seem to be against: a destination with retail, restaurants, and attractions that made it one of the places you took out-of-towners - something to show off in Los Angeles.

(Yeah, Ports O'Call - no really, I feel you raising your eyebrows. Ask someone who's lived here 30 years or longer - they get it.)

Those opposing the plans presented at tonight's meeting, hammered on their constant plea for "more open space." More trees. More of a return to nature.

Which, they might be interested to learn, in our chapparal biome, doesn't really include trees. Or green grass parks. But no matter . . . .

And speaking of science:

The highlight of the meeting came from the mouth of a man claiming to be a biologist - a professor who teaches at 5 colleges (I'll have to find his name when the transcript is published, I didn't get it down). His complaint was the proposals failure to include input from Fish and Game people - that the Army Corps of Engineers is filled with bad scientists or non-scientists, or some form of scientist not as scientisty as he is.

His scientific contribution: People in Monterrey don't go to visit Cannery Row and the shops there, they go for the otters at the aquarium (they are cute, I went to see them, I can't argue). And in San Francisco, they visit Pier 39 for the seals there. So why can't we bring the otters and seals to San Pedro? And why haven't we talked about what to do with the mud on the channel floor? If the floor is covered with clams the otters (or did he say seals?) will come to eat them. And if you build a large concrete bald eagle - one bigger than the normal male eagle, the female eagles will be attracted to it. And then because it's not a real male, and now there's all these females around, the real males will come for the females and soon our sky will be filled with our great American symbol.

You think I'm making this up, don't you. I'll link to the transcript once it's available. But because I learned about pinnipeds working down at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, and because I paid attention during California history lessons, I cannot help but respond to his absurd ideas with a few quick facts. We used to have otters. We hunted them out (Spanairds, pelts, read Island of the Blue Dolphins). And at Pier 39, we have SEA LIONS. Not seals. Sea Lions have external ear flaps and a host of other characteristics that make them very, very easily distinguishable.

And this guy is a biologist who teaches at colleges? Five of them?

There were several people who were mostly for the project with a few concerns. Most were against the project. Two people were enthusiastically for the project: an older gentleman who said "build something already."

And me. Natch.

The woman who spoke before me said that we didn't need shops here in San Pedro because people don't need to come here to shop, they can shop where they are. My point exactly. They can shop where they are. And I can shop where they are. And she can shop where they are. But I can't shop here. I can't give my tax dollars to our economy. I can't conserve gas and save our roads and mitigate traffic by shopping local. When I have a family, my kids won't be able to work in San Pedro where I make my home. I won't be able to work where I live. I'll get to sit in traffic with all the other Angelenos to get to the office. Or to the shopping. Or to the restaurants.

One of the first speakers said the tagline for the waterfront development should be "Building a San Pedro for San Pedrans" not for tourists. The proposed San Pedro waterfront development is for San Pedrans. It's for us now and for our kids. Because the town will die as it is. It's already starting to. The kids - that'd be me - haven't a reason to stay or to come home. Why bother, the residents don't seem to want me or anyone else around. They want a park that, in 10 years, won't be watered because California will be bone dry. They want a park that gives little back to the community because the community will be shopping in Torrance or waiting for a table at an exciting restaurant in Santa Monica and then the community will be stuck in traffic trying to get home to San Pedro.

This is just the beginning of the process. If you're in favor of jobs, economic security, and yes, absolutely yes, park lands - acres and acres of park lands and open space - then speak up. Let the Port of Los Angeles know you want a better San Pedro.

All public comment for this round must be received by October 28. To comment:
  1. Attend the next Public Scoping Meeting on October 11, from 6:00 - 8:00pm at the LA Harbor Hotel, 601 S. Palos Verdes Street, San Pedro, CA 90731
  2. Mail your written statement to
    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Regulatory Branch and the Los Angeles Harbor Department c/o Dr. Joshua Burnam and Dr. Ralph G. Appy
    915 Wilshire Blvd.
    Los Angeles, CA 90017-3401
  3. Email both cequacomments at portla dot org AND joshua.l.burnham at usace.army.mil

More project information can be found here, here, and here.

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