Saturday, April 26, 2008

Coastal Council Votes to Oppose New High School at Angels Gate

The Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council voted 15-1 against building a high school on LAUSD property at Angels Gate.

The proposed school has met with opposition from nearby residents concerned about noise, traffic and other potential effects on the neighborhood.

The standing-room-only crowd, numbering approximately 150, was nearly unanimous in opposing the school. Dozens of individuals and the grassroots group Neighbors Organized and Involved to Support Education (NOISE) testified against the project at the April 21 meeting.

NOISE leader Yvonne Schueller narrated a PowerPoint presentation setting forth reasons to not build the school and referring to the school board’s authority to certify its own environmental impact reports as the “fox guarding the henhouse.”

No one in the audience offered support for the school.

(However, one San Pedran is publically expressing support in a unique way. Re-purposing opponents’ lawnsigns, this message is displayed in the 4000 block of So. Pacific Avenue.)

Representatives of school board member Richard Vladovic were also present. Chief of staff David Kooper offered assurances that Vladovic is paying attention to community opinion.

LAUSD administrators answered questions about the environmental process and the need for another high school in San Pedro.

Responding to a question about the number of San Pedro HS students who live outside San Pedro, Local District 8 High School Director Rita Davis told the crowd there are only four non-resident students at San Pedro HS.

The magnet programs have considerably more out-of-town students, but total less than 200 out of a student body of about 3,500.

Following the action to oppose the school at Angels Gate, the Coastal board recommended that officials conduct more intense study of traffic, light, noise and pollution during the environmental analysis phase.

These recommendations constitute the council’s official response to the district’s initial study or notice of preparation regarding the project.

LAUSD expects to the release the draft environmental impact report in late summer.

The topic will be a central point of discussion at the Palisades Residents Association annual meeting on May 13.

Police, Community Raise Funds for American Cancer Society

Dozens of police officers swarmed the Copper Room restaurant this week, charges were filed and tickets were issued.

There was no yellow tape, but it was an action-packed scene nonetheless.

The occasion was a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

LAPD Harbor Division officers volunteered their time to wait tables.

Diners were guilty of possessing compassion and their citations were duly served.

Tickets looked a lot like dinner checks. Bail was a generous tip, 100% of which was donated to Relay for Life.

So went “tip-a-cop” on Tuesday night, which raised $2,200 from tips and an extra donation by the Copper Room.

San Pedro resident Sheri Hadjis organized the fundraiser, borrowing the idea from her family’s El Monte restaurant, which has sponsored tip-a-cop events for the past three years.

“People said they had a good time,” said Hadjis, owner of Miraleste Catering. “It was successful and fun.”

Hadjis had help from her friend Debbie Heath of San Pedro, whose husband, Bob Phelps, was a captain in the Los Angeles Fire Department when he died of cancer 15 years ago.

“Everyone has been touched by someone who has had cancer,” said Heath. “I was privileged to be part of this and support an important organization.”

LAPD senior leader officer Joe Buscaino recruited officers to don aprons and wait tables.

After posing for the flyer photo, every member of the bike patrol enlisted for the cause. They were joined by other officers who answered the call to protect (appetites) and serve (charity).

Relay for Life is a tribute to cancer victims and survivors in which participants walk or run laps to raise funds and awareness to fight cancer.

San Pedro teams will walk and run at San Pedro High School on May 17, under the coordination of event chair Mary Hamlin.

Now in its eighth year, San Pedro’s goal is to involve 40 teams and raise $200,000, said Hamlin, a board member of the Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council.

Tom Meneshian, owner of the Copper Room, enthusiastically agreed when Hadjis asked him to host the event.

“This was an incredible show of compassion in tough economic times,” said Meneshian. “People tipped very generously.”

The Copper Room, located at 9th Street and Grand Avenue, is a three-year-old restaurant and lounge with international cuisine and live entertainment.

It has just launched a Last Thursday music series and plans a number of special summer events on its outdoor patio, described in the story below.

May I take your order?

And for you, ladies?

Good clean fun.

Officer Joe Buscaino, bartender in training.

Copper: Hue of Cool Comfort

The Copper Room may be off the beaten path, but cool cats are making themselves at home in this sultry restaurant and lounge that’s part and parcel of San Pedro’s urban renaissance.

Hitting its stride three years after converting the former Olson’s restaurant, the Copper Room is gaining wide appeal.

The comfortably chic bar and global-fusion dining room are attracting professionals, blue-collar San Pedrans, young couples and old timers from the Harbor Area and beyond.

Owner Tom Meneshian set out to create a welcoming place and is pleased to draw a diverse clientele.

“My menu reflects the diversity of the community and so do my customers,” said Meneshian, who moved to San Pedro when he opened the business in 2005.

Among his secret assets is a back patio. The recently remodeled patio features a fountain with running water, creating what Meneshian calls an “oasis-like hideaway.”

The patio will be the site of special summer events, including a beer garden, a cigar and spirits pairing and live music.

The Copper Room is now featuring live music on Last Thursdays, its new series to spotlight dining and the arts at a different time and place than the First Thursday downtown artwalk.

Meneshian was inspired by the response to the Relay for Life fundraiser he recently hosted. (See preceding article).

“I fell in love with San Pedro when I visited looking for place to open my business,” he said. “I can’t see myself ever leaving. I love it here and look forward to doing more projects with the community.”

Socializing in the Copper Room bar and lounge.

Mara, left, and Ante Novaselic, right, are acoustic musicians who performed in the dining room on April 24. The duo will return on May 29 for the Copper Room’s monthly Last Thursday celebration.

Friends of the musicians and other cool cats enjoyed the easygoing, smooth tunes.

Grassroots Messages

Political lawnsigns commonly spring up around election time and now is no exception.

With the June 3 statewide primary election approaching, candidates are eager to place their names in public view.

In San Pedro, grassroots politics is always in season. At least four people-powered campaigns are visible around San Pedro today.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union is seeking public support for its contract negotiations now underway.

Opponents of the Ponte Vista development on Western Ave. favor single-family homes or R-1 zoning.

A referendum on the proposed high school at Angels Gate Cultural Center.

Neighbors express their views on proposed residential development at the McCowan’s market site.

Businesses Huddle to Improve Downtown Safety

San Pedro business owners are coming together in an effort to curb after-hours crime in the downtown area.

Recent incidents ranging from public drunkness and street fights to broken windows and a car through a storefront have alarmed local business owners, who are pushing for solutions to stop such crimes before they escalate.

Business owners will meet on Tuesday, April 29 at 6 p.m. at the Port of Los Angeles High School, 250 W. Fifth St. The meeting is open to the public.

Reception to Raise Profile of SP Artists, Fund ‘Taste in SP’ Booth

Spectrum Blue by Norm Zareski ($220).

A new gallery is campaigning to increase the visibility of San Pedro artists and establish an artistic presence at the annual Taste in San Pedro food festival.

D & D Gallery is holding a reception on Wednesday, April 30 to raise funds for an “artists pavilion,” a large booth to showcase local artists at this year’s 20th annual Taste.

The 5-7 p.m. reception will feature a preview of the gallery’s new photographic exhibit of San Pedro and South Bay images. Tickets are $15.

Guests will view the Shuttered Images exhibit a day before its formal First Thursday opening, while tasting Italian and California wines from Off the Vine Wines and appetizers from the San Pedro Brewing Company.

The exhibit will illustrate scenes “iconic to San Pedro but with an artist’s perspective,” said D & D co-owner David Buchanan.

Artwork will be available for purchase, with 10% of proceeds going towards the Taste booth fundraiser.

D & D Gallery is dedicated to highlighting local artists and pricing works affordably.

“We opened with the express business mission statement to showcase local artists in the San Pedro area,” said Buchanan, whose co-owner, Diane Strack, represents the other D. “A logical extension of our mission is to promote local artists through San Pedro’s major annual event, the Taste.”

Europa by Norm Zareski ($220).

First Thursday This Week

The First Thursday monthly artwalk is set for May 1 from 5 p.m.-?? in downtown San Pedro.

If you were intrigued by the avant-garde Balanced Lifestyles shop, stop by the 7 p.m. ribbon cutting at Hollywood Dolls salon, 617 S. Mesa St., (310) 832-3655. Catering to modern women with youthful sensibilities, this retro-chic beauty parlor is yet another symbol of downtown’s dramatic transformation.

Print this one-page First Thursday map or take a closer look using the new interactive maps of galleries, restaurants and shops.

Magical Fundraiser for Port HS

San Pedro’s high-tech public charter high school is staging a magic show fundraiser on Friday, May 2.

Grand Illusions takes place at 8 p.m. at the Warner Grand Theatre. Tickets are $25 or $15 for students and seniors.

Proceeds will benefit the three-year-old Port of Los Angeles High School, which offers a college preparatory curriculum with an emphasis on international trade and maritime studies.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Union Workers Rally for Contracts

Organized labor rallied on the waterfront Thursday, capping a three-day march from “Hollywood to the Docks” to draw attention to widespread contract negotiations taking place this year.

The negotiations affect more than 350,000 workers in 30 unions, marking the largest number of L.A. workers at the bargaining table in a single year.

More than 80 workers walked 28 miles from Hollywood to San Pedro, beginning with a kickoff rally Tuesday at the La Brea Tar Pits, featuring actor Esai Morales and Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti.

Harbor Area dockworkers in the International Longshore and Warehouse Union are among those up for negotiations. Approximately 20 participated in the march, forming the largest single union contingent.

ILWU vice president Joe Radisich of San Pedro told the rallying workers that the union’s contract campaign would center around three broad principles: “good jobs, safer ports and cleaner air.”

The ILWU’s six-year contract expires on July 1.

The local illustration of solidarity included workers as diverse as janitors, actors, hotel workers and probation officers.

Internationally, Australian maritime workers delivered videotaped messages of support.

Councilwoman Janice Hahn, at podium, and California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, third from left, wearing traditional longshore caps to underscore their pro-worker messages.

California State Assembly Speaker-elect Karen Bass addressed the rally. Assemblyman Warren Furutani is pictured at left, with Assemblywoman Julia Brownley and State Senator Alan Lowenthal at right.

LA labor leader Maria Elena Durazo, at podium, rallied the rank and file.

At center, a janitor used her mop as a prop while workers cheered the speaker.

The fire boat put on a show.

Plans Developing for High-rise Condos

A developer is circulating a proposal for a high-rise residential and commercial building in downtown San Pedro.

The concept is a 23-story condominium and retail complex at 5th Street and Harbor Boulevard, where the Grinder restaurant is now located.

A tall, thin structure, the development would include 158 residential units and 3,000-5,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

The development company, Galaxy Commercial, is the same one that’s currently constructing the Vue, just northeast of the new project.

Temporarily dubbed “G8,” the new project is the brainchild of developer Raffi Cohen.

This month, Cohen and his staff have made presentations to the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council and the Pacific Corridor Community Advisory Committee.

The project is in the early conceptual and design stages and no timeline for construction has been announced.

The Central council’s planning committee will hear a presentation on G8 at its meeting Wednesday, April 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Croatian Cultural Center, 510 W 7th St. The meeting is open to the public and community members are encouraged to attend.

For more information about the project, the public may contact Butterfield Communications at (310) 732-1112.

Proposed School at Angels Gate Will Be Separate Facility

A Los Angeles Unified School District official has unequivocally stated the district’s intentions for the proposed South Region High School 15 at Angels Gate Cultural Center.

LAUSD Local District 8 Superintendent Linda Del Cueto told a group of community leaders Monday that the school will be a separate facility and not an annex for San Pedro High School.

“We are building a school for San Pedro residents,” she said. “It will not be for bused-in kids or magnets.”

Despite suggestions that the Angels Gate facility be used as a transitional school for ninth graders or become the home of the marine science and police magnets currently at San Pedro High, LAUSD intends to establish a new high school.

The plan is to construct a cafeteria, gymnasium, library and administrative offices to accommodate 1,215 students, although only two classroom buildings (for 810 students) would be built. A third building for another 405 students could be added later if needed.

San Pedro High’s current enrollment stands at about 3,600 and is expected to remain steady for the next few years. A list of completed, in-progress and planned development projects in San Pedro was read as proof that additional classrooms will be needed.

It is likely a San Pedro “attendance zone” will be created, allowing parents to choose which school their children would attend.

Del Cueto said there is some concern that most parents in San Pedro will prefer San Pedro High and there may be difficulty in finding enough students to attend school at Angels Gate.

Community leaders questioned the superintendent about traffic, parking and the ways a new, separate school might affect San Pedro High’s staff and students.

Del Cueto told the group there is a desire to “maintain the integrity of the current school [San Pedro High]” and not “cherry-pick the best students” for Angels Gate.

The school would field its own basketball and soccer teams, but not football. Responding to a question about whether students attending school at Angels Gate could play on San Pedro High teams, Del Cueto said rules governing athletic competition prohibit it.

LAUSD facilities official Rod Hamilton said the draft environmental report will probably be released in July, with LAUSD board action in the fall.

The plan is for construction to begin at the end of 2009, with project completion in mid-2012.

Ninth and 10th grade would start there in the fall of 2012, with additional grades added in the following year. According to Del Cueto, this is standard procedure for LAUSD.

Hamilton said the district is already doing engineering work to determine costs involved in reconfiguring a road at the north end of Angels Gate Park that could provide access to the school from Gaffey Street.

Residents in the vicinity of Alma and 30th Street are opposed to use of Alma because it is narrow and winding and lacks sidewalks south of the school site.

For more information about the proposed high school at Angels Gate, see the district's official notice of the project.

Coastal Council Meeting Monday

The Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council meets at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, April 21.

The agenda includes discussion on the proposed high school at Angels Gate and a possible vote to oppose building the facility.

The council will also vote to fund and/or sponsor programs such as the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, Music by the Sea, more benches for the Cabrillo Beach fishing pier, a pancake breakfast, and a candidates forum for the June primary election.

Dignitaries Join SP Little Leaguers at Peck Park

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a longtime Dodger Stadium peanut vendor joined young ballplayers and their parents to celebrate refurbished fields at Peck Park.

The San Pedro Youth Sports Association organized the April 12 ceremony, which drew hundreds of Little League players from San Pedro teams.

The group originated in the 1980s and was recently re-activated. Its purpose is to advocate for improvements to public ballfields and to raise funds to sponsor players, said president John Delgado.

The association is collaborating with the Department of Recreation and Parks and the park advisory boards.

Mayor Villaraigosa addressed the cheering crowd, signed autographs, posed for pictures and threw peanuts alongside longtime Dodgers peanut man Morton Rose.

Thea Yodice, 10, sang the national anthem.

Mayor Villaraigosa and peanut man Morton Rose delivered the goods.

Villaraigosa received a certificate from president John Delgado. Dolores Canizales, center, represented Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

All eyes on First Pitcher Villaraigosa.

Spring Cleaning for You and Mother Earth

Tuesday is Earth Day, but community groups are celebrating today at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and elsewhere across LA and the planet.

Henry’s Market on Western Avenue is continuing the celebration into next week with opportunities to care for yourself and your environment.

The store will distribute special reusable grocery bags on Monday and Tuesday, April 21 and 22. Henry’s was allocated 1,000 bags to distribute to customers in honor of Earth Month.

The bags were specially designed by the California Grocers Association and the LA city Department of Public Works.

LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and industry representatives will hold a City Hall press conference Monday to announce the reusable bag campaign.

Clean your environment on the inside, too, at a free lecture on “spring nutritional cleansing.” The lecture takes place at Henry’s at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 23 and will discuss foods, supplements and practices to keep your body internally clean. For more information, call (310) 831-7836.

Volunteers to Upgrade Disabled Woman’s Home

A non-profit group that aids senior and disabled homeowners will make improvements to a San Pedro woman’s home next Saturday.

The South Bay chapter of Rebuilding Together will upgrade Tana Jackson’s home in the 300 block of West 14th Street so that the 90-year-old woman can maneuver her wheelchair through the house.

“This is really terrific,” said Jackson. “I really want to be able to live here while I can and this will allow me to do just that. The thought of going to live in a senior facility, even if it is nice, just does not appeal to me and I am very comfortable living here because everything is so familiar.”

Tana Jackson. Photo by John R. Stinson.

Volunteers will modify the San Pedro home as part of National Rebuilding Day on April 26.

“On this national day of community service, Rebuilding Together volunteers and sponsors enjoy the satisfaction of producing hands-on tangible results for those in need,” said Catherine Balcom, executive director of Rebuilding Together South Bay.

The group does minor repairs to qualifying homes year around and just launched a program serving low-income, injured and disabled military personnel returning home.

For more information or to volunteer, call (310) 999-5050 or email

Artfully Speaking

Two community-wide arts events are taking place next weekend:

  • A birthday celebration in memory of artist Violet Parkhurst is scheduled for Saturday, April 26. The reception takes place from 4 to 8 p.m. at Parkhurst Art Galleries, 439 W 6th St. Cao Yong, official artist of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, will be present to honor Parkhurst from 6 to 8 p.m. (Here’s the background about Parkhurst’s unique recognition from China). The free event will also feature never-before-seen artwork released by the Parkhurst private collection and estate.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Event to Honor Murder Victims; Families Asked to Testify

Organizers of an event honoring San Pedro homicide victims are asking victims’ families to share their stories.

The San Pedro Safety Collaborative, a group of law enforcement, school and community organizations, is holding a peace vigil at San Pedro High School on May 15.

Relatives who would like to include victims’ stories should contact Gabriela Medina at the YWCA, (310) 547-0831. Volunteers are also needed for the event. Call Alice Castellanos at the YWCA to lend a hand.

Editor’s note: Former More San Pedro columnist Diana Chapman is among the organizers of this event. When she stopped writing for More, Chapman moved her commentary to a blog entitled the Underdog for Kids. She has written in more detail about the peace vigil and other San Pedro current events.

Earth Day Celebration Next Saturday at Cabrillo Aquarium

The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is holding an Earth Day celebration on April 19.

The free event begins with an 8 a.m. beach cleanup and continues through the afternoon with special presentations, informational booths, games, music, food and more.

View the event flyer for additional details.

Northwest Council Meeting Monday

The Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council is meeting Monday at 6:30 p.m. in the Peck Park auditorium, 560 N Western Ave.

The council’s June 12 board election is a key item on the agenda. Prospective candidates can learn how to run for the board and voters new to a neighborhood council election can learn about the election procedure.

Grassroots Message

Lawn signs opposing a high school at Angels Gate Cultural Center have appeared along Alma Street and other areas surrounding the proposed school site.

The signs were printed by Neighbors Organized and Involved to Support Education (NOISE), a new community organization with ties to the Palisades Residents Association. PRA has voted to oppose the school.

The Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council will take a position at its April 21 meeting.

7-11 Here?

The Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council has learned of a proposal to construct a 7-11 on South Pacific Avenue. According to the council’s planning committee, the proposed location is the vacant lot at 19th Street. The council board and community members can expect additional information at the council’s April 21 meeting.

None Voted Out, 1 Voted In at Central Council

Controversial motions to remove sitting board members were pulled from the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council agenda, on advice of the LA city attorney.

As a result, the council did not vote Tuesday on whether to retain or unseat president Joe Gatlin and five other board members.

However, following unorthodox maneuvers, Joe Donato was elected to the vacant position of communications officer.

Donato and Phil Trigas were competing for the office. When voting opened, board members opted for Trigas, 7-6.

Having not voted in the first round, Gatlin then threw his support behind Donato, creating a 7-7 tie. Then Gatlin kept the voting rolls open until an absent board member returned to his seat and sided with Donato, whom Gatlin declared the winner.

Minding Western’s Business: Shops Come and Go

New businesses are opening on Western Avenue and long-time establishments are closing their doors. Here are some recent developments:

Tobacco Leaf smoke shop has opened near the Starbucks at 25th Street.

Work continues to redevelop Granny’s Donuts at Summerland Avenue. Signs just went up for the two neighboring businesses, a check cashing house and a beauty and gift shop.

Granny and her new neighbors

Artista’s Nutrition has closed. The business was located in the Park Plaza center near Peck Park, down from Henry’s.

A “for lease” sign is posted outside Marie Callender’s. Still open for business on Western, the restaurant is in negotiations to move to downtown San Pedro.

Hillside Florist has relocated from the Taxco plaza to the WorldPort Business Center on North Gaffey Street.

Peninsula Golf has opened in the Taxco plaza, in the space Curves gym previously occupied. (Curves moved down the road near Albertson’s and Rite Aid in the Garden Village center.) The shop moved to Western Avenue from Rolling Hills Estates.

Joanne’s Closet, a fashionable women’s clothing and accessories boutique, is moving from the Taxco plaza to downtown Sixth Street. According to owner Joanne Eide, the boutique will move into its new and bigger location near Niko’s Pizzeria by next month’s First Thursday, if not sooner.

Planet Kids is closing. A clearance sale is underway now in the 15-year-old shop.

Planet Kids

The Terraces, home to the new Marshalls, has been repainted in sandy earthtones.

Spring Election Calendar

Here’s a look at upcoming elections this spring.

May 25: Election forum for June 3 statewide election, sponsored by the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council. Hear from the candidates, campaigns and issues on the ballot. The forum will take place in the morning/afternoon at the Warner Grand Theatre. Save the date and watch for more information in an upcoming issue of San Pedro News.

June 3: Election Day. San Pedro voters will choose candidates for Congress, state Senate, state Assembly, LA County supervisor, LA County district attorney and Superior Court judges, as well as two state ballot initiatives, Propositions 98 and 99.

June 12: Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council election. The council is the people’s voice on issues such as traffic and redevelopment along Western Avenue and North Gaffey Street. Learn more about the board election at the council’s Monday meeting. See article above for details.

And into the fall …

September: Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council election.

October: Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council election.

November: General election for U.S. president, among other offices.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Downtown Projects Pass Milestones: Vue Tops Out, Bank Lofts Set to Open

Two residential developments in downtown San Pedro have recently passed milestones.

The Vue, a 16-story glass high-rise on 5th Street, poured the concrete on its top floor. The 195-foot building will contain 318 condominiums and will be completed in late 2008.

The Vue offers panoramic 360° views of the harbor, Palos Verdes Peninsula and the metropolis at large. On a clear day, the downtown LA skyline and Hollywood sign are visible.

A crane lowers materials onto the top floor of the Vue, pictured above and below.

The Bank Lofts, two dark red buildings at 8th and Mesa Streets, is preparing to open models and welcome its first homeowners this month.

The Bank Lofts, as seen from the top of the Vue.

The models and almost-completed units are in the building on the east side of Mesa Street.

The 89-unit development is named for the 1920s-era Bank of San Pedro, the façade of which has been preserved, retrofitted and integrated into the current development.

Models are expected to open in mid-April and the first residents will move in at the end of the month.

OPINION: Showdown Tuesday at Central San Pedro Council

By Doug Epperhart

It’ll be high noon at the Not-So-OK Corral come Tuesday when Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council president Joe Gatlin seeks to eliminate five board members.

At the executive committee meeting two weeks ago, Gatlin, Vice President Mayra Perez and Secretary Pamela Newsom voted to put board members Sue Castillo, Kara McLeod, Dan Pasley, Bill Roberson and Carrie Scoville square in their sights.

Gatlin also placed himself on the chopping block, apparently in an attempt to force board members to make a choice between current leadership and the “accountability” bloc which questions whether the council is sufficiently responsive to community concerns.

At last month’s meeting, several board members allied with Gatlin left as a vote to amend the council’s bylaws was taking place. It seemed obvious the walkout was intended to remove a quorum and stop the proceedings.

Under the council’s existing rules, amending the bylaws requires a two-thirds affirmative vote of those stakeholders present at the meeting.

Stakeholders are individuals who live, work, or own property in the area. It also includes those who have some other tangible connection, such as membership in an organization based in Central’s territory.

Because the vote was already underway when the quorum was lost, the 52-4 result in favor of amending the bylaws is valid. The amended bylaws will take effect when they are approved by the LA city Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.

Among the changes wrought by the amended bylaws are selection of officers by the board (instead of direct election by stakeholders) and allowing any board member to vote on whether items will be placed on the council’s agenda.

Clearly, these changes diminish the power now held by the five executive officers, especially Gatlin. Connecting the dots suggests that his move to oust the five targeted board members is payback for their efforts to turn out a crowd supporting the bylaws amendments.

At the executive meeting, though, Gatlin said he didn’t care about the bylaws vote. If that’s true, then why pick on Castillo, McLeod, Pasley, Roberson and Scoville? They’re not asking for Gatlin’s removal or even resignation.

On Tuesday, perhaps Gatlin will provide some rationale for this irrational act. Maybe he will offer some real evidence why any of these individuals should be removed.

Or is it that he just doesn’t like these people and wants to get rid of them?

It’s unlikely that board members will vote to remove anyone.

So, rather than subject everyone to a pointless exercise, Gatlin should pull these items from the agenda and start working to build trust among board members.

The Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council meets on April 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Port of Los Angeles High School, 250 West Fifth Street.

Doug Epperhart is a member of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council governing board. He can be reached at

Friday, April 4, 2008

You Never Know Who You’re Going to Run Into…

By Doug Epperhart

Queen Elizabeth 2, the last great ocean liner, made its final call at the Port of Los Angeles on March 30.

Onboard for a luncheon hosted by the Steamship Historical Society, I spied Stephanie Mardesich, who was there representing Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

Stephanie is the founder/director of the Los Angeles Harbor International Film Festival. This year’s offerings are scheduled for April 24-27 at the Warner Grand.

Stephanie presented a certificate from the City of Los Angeles commemorating the ship’s impending retirement to the ship’s captain, David Perkins. The 963-foot vessel has sailed the seven seas since 1969. Almost every year since 1975, the QE2 has called at L.A. during her round-the-world cruises.

Stephanie Mardesich presents the certificate honoring the Queen Elizabeth 2 to Capt. David Perkins.

The ship succeeded the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, which crossed the Atlantic on a regular basis, transporting the rich and famous between Europe and America during the decades from the 1930s through the 1960s.

Now that the larger and much newer Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria have entered service, the QE2 will retire to Dubai, where a $270-million remodeling will turn the ship into a hotel.

The Downtowner: Everything’s New at Sixth Street Bistro

From the menu to the flooring and décor, Sixth Street Bistro has gotten a total makeover.

New chef/manager Andy Najpauer is the architect of the bistro’s new menu. Najpauer has introduced dozens of Continental and Asian-inspired dishes to the lunch and dinner menus. His signature dinner entrees include a bone-in ribeye and pan-roasted salmon.

The 2002 Mary Star of the Sea High School graduate studied at the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, earning a Le Cordon Bleu degree in 2004. He worked at 555 Steakhouse in Long Beach and the Water Grill in downtown LA before coming to Sixth Street Bistro in early February.

“My style is international,” said Najpauer. “I pay careful attention to the details to best prepare and present my dishes. I want to serve a very visual plate.”

Chef Andy’s seared ahi appetizer, with Thai chili sauce on sesame rice.

The menu still offers chef Ricardo Leon’s most popular dishes, including the fire shrimp and egg roll appetizers, lobster ravioli, spicy grilled chicken, seafood paella and lamb shank.

In the dining room, slate tiles have replaced the dark carpeting and mirrors now hang on the side wall, re-painted in deep mustard. Local artists are invited to display and consign their work in the bistro.

The patio will be remodeled in time for summer outdoor dining.

The new owners are Victor Gutierrez and Nick Jurun, with other partners. Gutierrez and Jurun are lifelong San Pedro residents and 1970s San Pedro High School graduates who bought the bistro to give Najpauer an opportunity to advance his skills and build his own enterprise.

New Coffeehouse Opens on So. Pacific Avenue

Fulfilling her long-time dream, a San Pedro woman and her husband have opened a coffeehouse on Pacific Avenue in coastal San Pedro.

Located just south of 22nd Street, Dro City Coffee serves espresso drinks, tea and pastries. It has a few sidewalk tables and an intimate patio where poetry readings will be held on summer nights.

“I’m Italian and I grew up drinking coffee,” said owner Margaret Becnel. “I always said that one day I’m going to have a coffeehouse.”

Becnel and her husband, Arnulfo Arochi, are lifelong San Pedrans and 1989 San Pedro High School graduates. They leased the property in late 2006 and recruited their many friends to help remodel it.

Coffeehouse owners Margaret Becnel and Arnulfo Arochi with their daughter Brianna, 10.

Feeling “happy and nervous,” Becnel is leaving her job as a surgical technician to work full-time at the coffeehouse.

Becnel says customers can expect friendly, fast service and a familiar coffee taste every visit. After extensive sampling, Becnel chose a brand of premium Italian coffee and plans to re-order the same blend to maintain a consistent flavor of coffee.

An economical, independent alternative to chain coffee houses, Dro City’s specialty espresso drinks are no more than $1.95 for a small and $2.95 for a large. A large brewed coffee is $2.

The name Dro is short for Pedro, short for San Pedro.

Dro City Coffee, 2210 S Pacific Ave., (310) 833-3122. Open daily 6 a.m.-sundown.