Friday, February 27, 2009

All the News that’s Fit to Post

Pt. Fermin street closures and fireworks Saturday: A group affiliated with USC is staging a triathlon Saturday morning. Paseo del Mar and surrounding streets are closed. The Palisades Residents Association has posted the list of street closures. The Ft. MacArthur Museum is holding its annual L.A. Air Raid commemoration from 3-8 p.m. Saturday, including a fireworks show.

The parking meters downtown are reprogrammed to the new, 300% higher rates, as detailed in the Daily Breeze.

Tuesday is Election Day. The Daily Breeze and Los Angeles Times have candidate and initiative information on their election pages.

“Janice Hahn eyes funds to keep Knoll Hill fields,” but the councilwoman’s idea isn’t universally cheered, according to the Daily Breeze report.

It’s First Thursday this week. Take a stroll downtown on March 5 for your monthly dose of culture, cuisine and camaraderie.

The Vue downtown condominium building is having a community grand opening on March 7 from 1-5 p.m.

A Ponte Vista community meeting has been confirmed for March 12 from 4-8 p.m. at Peck Park. The public will be invited to comment on new proposals the developer will unveil.

My Votes on Tuesday

By Doug Epperhart

I don’t think I’ve ever missed an election in the years since I turned 18. I’ll be there Tuesday and here are my picks:

Mayor: NONE OF THE ABOVE. But, if somebody held a gun to my head, I’d vote for Walter Moore – or maybe David Hernandez. I vote for candidates who make a positive argument for why they want the job and are qualified to do it. I don’t vote for a candidate just because he’s not the other guy. None of the nine challengers has convinced me to vote for them. Neither has Villaraigosa.

City Attorney: NOEL WEISS. I know Noel and like him. His heart’s in the right place and he’s not a city hall insider. That said, any of the other candidates – Carmen Trutanich, David Berger or Michael Amerian – would do a fine job. This is a tough pick because they’re all good candidates. Just don’t vote for JACK Weiss. He’s a Villaraigosa puppet.

City Controller: NICK PATSAOURAS. His main opponent, Wendy Greuel, is too closely aligned with Villaraigosa and too much the insider at city hall. Nick is independent and capable of shining a light on the dark corners of city government.

Councilmember: JANICE HAHN. I’m sure her opponent, Chris Salabaj, is a nice guy, but the city is at a critical juncture and I don’t think we can wait for him to complete on-the-job training. I’ve disagreed in print with Hahn more than once. I’ve agreed with her a lot more often. If nothing else, she’s a known quantity.

Measure A: YES
Measure C: YES
Measure D: YES
These proposed charter amendments have to do with technical matters involving the fire department and the police and fire pension plans. They provide additional oversight and flexibility.

Measure B: NO. This is the much-discussed solar power initiative. It was cooked up by the electrical workers’ union as a way to monopolize work at the expense of taxpayers. The city council rushed it to the ballot with little public scrutiny and no good estimate of how much it will cost. Five harbor area neighborhood councils oppose this measure. It’s so bad, other unions are against it.

Measure E: NO. Vaguely-worded amendment allowing the city to give “incentives” to lure business to L.A. Our mayor has spent a lot of time flying in corporate planes. Do you think this might be his way of helping the fat cats pay for jet fuel?

Doug Epperhart is a San Pedro resident, business owner and Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council board member.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Break the Piggy Bank: Parking Meters Rising This Week

The department is coming, the department is coming!

That would be the city department of transportation and their mission will be costly.

After months of bureaucratic delay, technicians will be adjusting downtown San Pedro parking meters this week to reflect the citywide rate increase enacted last summer.

Rates will go up to $1 an hour or $4 for 10 hours in the long-term lots.

Individual street meters will now run an extra two hours, until 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

In the long-term lots, the new hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, including Sunday, with one exception. The meters are not in effect Sundays in the lot at Ninth Street and Pacific Avenue, behind Kragen Auto Parts and the 99¢ Only store.

Civic Calendar: Meetings This Week

Coastal Council
The Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council meets Monday, Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Cabrillo Marina Community Building, Cabrillo Plaza, Berth 28. The agenda was not posted online at presstime. For more information, call (310) 290-0049.

Measure B
The Department of Water and Power is hosting a public meeting Wednesday to report on the solar-power initiative, Measure B, on the March 3 ballot. Officials will give a presentation, followed by audience questions and answers. The meeting takes place on Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. at Banning’s Landing, 100 E. Water St., Wilmington. See the current issue of Random Lengths News for grassroots perspectives on the subject.

Angels Gate High School
Here come the bulldozers. The L.A. school district is holding a briefing Thursday to explain the demolition schedule for construction of a public high school at Angels Gate. The meeting takes place on Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. in the Dana Middle School auditorium, 1501 S. Cabrillo Ave. For more information, call (800) 704-1267.

Crowne Plaza Restaurant and Bar Gets New via ‘Blu’

The new Blu bar and lounge, a mix of metallic and neutral decor.

Romeo and Juliette have faded into the history books at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown San Pedro.

Blu is the new name of the restaurant and bar, replacing the Shakespearean age with a new, modern moniker.

After months of renovation, the restaurant and bar are now fully open.

The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily in a setting that’s “bright, elegant and cozy,” in the words of Food and Beverage Manager Pietro Malinverni.

Lunchtime offers a choice of the regular menu or a themed buffet that may be Italian, Latin American, Asian or other global flavors.

Crown of the Orient chicken salad.

Potato-wrapped sea bass.

One eye-catching dish is the Crown of the Orient chicken salad (pictured), made with sesame marinated chicken, crispy wontons and rice noodles, oranges and an orange-sesame dressing.

The dinner menu includes diverse dishes for all tastes. The potato-wrapped sea bass (pictured) is baked with a thin layer of delicately crusty potato, stuffed with crab and served with a lobster cream sauce.

The Malaysian cuisine is a novel feature, added to accommodate the hotel’s regular guests from Malaysia Airlines.

“We serve excellent international cuisine below fine-dining prices,” said Malinverni.

Under Malinverni’s direction, the restaurant participates in First Thursday and the Taste in San Pedro food festival.

The new bar was carved out of the restaurant’s northern edge along Sixth Street.

Silver leather couches and icy metallics set a sultry, contemporary tone as guests enter the scene. Fire pits and new outdoor furniture will be added to the patio to create an inviting space to socialize. Happy Hour is held weekdays from 4 to 7 p.m.

Crowne Plaza Hotel, 601 S. Palos Verdes St., (310) 519-8200.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Some Politics This Week: Campaigns and Elections

The L.A. municipal election is about two weeks away and campaigns are revving up as the March 3 balloting approaches. The offices of mayor, city attorney, city controller, city council member and community college trustee are up for election, along with the hotly debated Measure B and four other city initiatives.

Voter Registration Deadline Tuesday
Feb. 17 is the last day to register to vote in the March election. Visit the city clerk election page for details.

Voter Forum Thursday
Harbor Area neighborhood councils and chambers of commerce are sponsoring a candidates forum Thursday covering the offices and measures on the upcoming ballot.

The forum will take place on Feb. 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the Rolling Hills Preparatory School community room, 1500 Palos Verdes Dr. North, San Pedro.

As of Friday, the following candidates had confirmed their attendance:

City Council, 15th District:
Janice Hahn (Hahn is expected to attend towards the end of the event)
Chris Salabaj

City Attorney:
Michael Amerian
David Berger
Carmen Trutanich
Noel Weiss

Suzy Evans
Nick Patsaouras

Representatives for and against the solar-power initiative, Measure B, are also confirmed.

For more information, contact or (310) 344-0023.

High-Tech Campaigning: Websites and Videos
Councilwoman Hahn has launched a campaign website at

New this election, the city clerk has posted video statements by the candidates and initiative supporters and opponents.

Some More Politics This Week: Development

Ponte Vista
A Ponte Vista consultant interviewed community leaders to find out whether and how the project can be revived, as reported in Tuesday’s Daily Breeze.

One of those interviewed, Doug Epperhart, analyzes the situation in a commentary below.

Restaurateur John Papadakis argues it’s “time to open L.A.’s ‘door to the sea’” in a Daily Breeze commentary about waterfront development.

Special Planning Workshop Tuesday
The city planning department is holding a workshop Tuesday to discuss development in hilly areas of L.A.

At issue are proposals to revise regulations governing single-family housing development in hillside neighborhoods. Officials will make a presentation then take questions and comments from participants.

The meeting takes place from 5-8 p.m. on Feb. 17 at Peck Park, 560 N. Western Ave.

For more information, contact (213) 978-1243 or

Even More Politics: Late February Meetings

Measure B
The Department of Water and Power is hosting a public meeting on Feb. 25 to report on the solar-power initiative, Measure B, on the March 3 ballot.

Officials will give a presentation, followed by audience questions and answers.

The meeting takes place at 7 p.m. at Banning’s Landing, 100 E. Water St., Wilmington.

Angels Gate High School
Here come the bulldozers.

The L.A. school district is holding a briefing on Feb. 26 to explain the demolition schedule for construction of a public high school at Angels Gate.

The meeting takes place at 6 p.m. in the Dana Middle School auditorium, 1501 S. Cabrillo Ave. For more information, call (800) 704-1267.

Coastal Council
The Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council meets on Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Cabrillo Marina Community Building, Cabrillo Plaza, Berth 28. The meeting is one week later than normal due to the Presidents’ Day holiday.

OPINION: Time to Start Over at Ponte Vista

By Doug Epperhart

After three years, what can anyone possibly say about Ponte Vista that hasn’t already been said?

At least I had a new audience when I sat down to rehash the proposed development and its history with Jim Oswald, a consultant hired by Ponte Vista to help them figure out if the project can be salvaged.

By now, everyone’s aware that Robert Bisno, a developer based in Century City, bought the old Navy housing site on Western Ave. His project originally called for 2,300 condos. Eventually, he dropped it to 1,950.

Opposition by the Northwest San Pedro, Harbor City, and Coastal San Pedro neighborhood councils and residents associations led to the formation of RNeighborhoodsAre1, a group established to preserve the property’s single-family zoning.

On the other side were Bisno, his “outreach” team and several dozen “advisory board” members representing the pro-development stance.

Councilwoman Janice Hahn appointed a 13-member advisory committee to consider the project and make recommendations. After nine months of back and forth, the group voted in favor of single-family (R-1) zoning. Many attribute this to Bisno’s unwillingness to bend on the subject of density at Ponte Vista.

As the two sides worked to win the hearts and minds of San Pedro, the city planning department held hearings and received thousands of pro and con letters, postcards, emails and petitions. Finally, late last year, the official word was “no” to Ponte Vista. The planners recommended that Bisno’s application to build his project be denied. They suggested that the planning commission tell the developer to start over.

In December, Robert Bisno stepped aside and his lender, Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB), took over. Subsequently, they got the city planning commission to delay their hearing until April.

In the meanwhile, they’re trying to let us know they’re not Bisno.

To that end, they hired Oswald, whose job is to talk to community leaders and report back to CSFB. They want to know if the current condo project can be revised to the point where San Pedro and its neighbors would support it.

I don’t know who was or will be interviewed. I know their comments will run the gamut from “Hell, no!” to “Hell, yes!” to “I don’t care” to “I don’t know.” Assuming Oswald can make some sense of it all, there will be a public meeting in March to present some ideas for a more acceptable project.

What did I tell Oswald? First, I don’t think the current plan can be saved. CSFB should withdraw its application for Ponte Vista and start over. I also don’t think any 60 of us “community leaders” can speak for anyone else. Over the past three years, I’ve heard dozens of ideas about what could be built at Ponte Vista. I suspect most everyone’s first choice for this site is “nothing.”

We’ve never been given the opportunity to talk about what the community will accept. Instead, Bisno subjected us to a sales campaign where our choices could only be yes or no. If CSFB is serious, they will start over and engage with the people of San Pedro and its environs.

It’s time for us to work together, but that can only be done if we have the time and trust needed to create a project that will benefit the community and developer.
Doug Epperhart is a member of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council governing board. He can be reached at

Friday, February 6, 2009

Greening the Land

Knoll Hill Sketches Unveiled

Officials presented draft plans of possible recreational uses for Knoll Hill at a community meeting Tuesday.

The designs include a mix of play areas, ballfields, trails, community gathering spaces, lookout points, picnic tables and other elements. (Click on the images to enlarge).

The public is invited to submit comments to Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative, answering these questions:

1. Do you have a strong preference for one of the conceptual alternatives over the others? Which one and why?

2. Indicate the program elements you would support having in the final Knoll Hill conceptual alternative. (You may indicate as many as you like with a *.)

Tot Lot – age 2-5
Play Equipment – age 7-12
Nature Play / Discovery Areas
Water Play Areas
Playground Games
Game Tables
Baseball Fields
Multi-Purpose Open Fields
Interpretive Signage (Learning & Education)

Pedestrian Trails and Paths
Fitness Equipment at Stations
Bike Paths
Perimeter Sidewalk (Improvements on Front St.)
Security Fencing

Informal Gathering Space
Civic/Community Event Space
Outdoor Classroom

Native Planting Communities
Hillside Native Vegetation
Demonstration Gardens

Lighting (for aesthetics and safety)
Rest Room Facilities
Drinking Fountains
Doggie Drinking Fountains
Shade (structure, trees)
Gateway Elements (signage, structures, lighting)
Emergency Call Box
Bike Racks
Open Lawn Areas

Education/Information Vista Points
Water Feature (e.g. fountain)
Restore “Knoll Hill” lettering on side of hill
Landmark Visual Feature - complementing bridge
Individual Picnic
Group Picnic

3. Which program elements would you not support having in the final Knoll Hill alternative?

4. Are there any program elements that you feel are missing from the concepts?

Send answers to Norma Fernandez at Contact Fernandez by email or phone (213-627-1822 ext. 13) to join the mailing list for notices of upcoming Knoll Hill meetings.

New Trees for Downtown’s Vinegar Hill

A crowd gathered on Palos Verdes Street near Ninth Street on Jan. 31 to mark the planting of 89 ornamental pear trees in the area around the Vinegar Hill historic preservation district.

The city’s environmental affairs department provided funds for the trees as part of a project to plant 1,000 trees throughout Los Angeles. The department also paid for cutting holes in sidewalks to accommodate the trees.

The inspiration for this project was an old picture of San Pedro that Vinegar Hill resident Kara McLeod saw at a local restaurant. The photo showed the area covered with trees. She wondered why her neighborhood didn’t look like that anymore and decided to do something about it.

From left: Phillip West, an unidentified Vinegar Hill resident, John Mattson, Kara McLeod, Councilwoman Janice Hahn and other volunteers planted trees in the historic district last week.

She enlisted her husband, John Mattson, and a neighbor, Phillip West, in the effort.

West canvassed area residents to see if they would support the idea of adding trees along their streets. He talked about a growing sense of excitement as people got a sense of how the trees could enhance their neighborhood.

Mattson, a member of the city’s community redevelopment agency San Pedro advisory committee, said, “This shows that grassroots efforts can work. It started with a few people, and with the help of the environmental affairs department, we got it done.”

When mature, the Bradford flowering pear tree should reach a height of about 30-35 feet. It has snow white flowers in the spring, green leaves in the summer, and turns red-orange in the fall. Area residents chose this variety of tree for its colorful foliage.

Celebrating the Sea(son)

Fans of Queen Mary 2 Plan Afternoon Tea, Lunch and Sail for Ship’s Visit Tuesday

The new Maritime Research Center in downtown San Pedro and its neighbor, Mishi’s Strudel, are hosting a number of special events to celebrate Valentine’s Day and the arrival of the Queen Mary 2. The luxury liner will be in Berth 92 at the world cruise center until 5 p.m. Tuesday, when it will embark westbound on a transoceanic cruise.

Valentine’s Tea

Learn about European romantic traditions during afternoon tea at Mishi’s Strudel on Feb. 8. The 2 p.m. tea includes sandwiches, pastries and fruit, plus door prizes and a silent auction. Cost is $28.50 per person. Ladies are encouraged to wear hats and gloves for a truly in-character experience. Mishi’s is located at 309 W. Seventh St. View the flyer for details or call (310) 521-0175 for reservations.

Ocean Liner Fans’ Lunch

The Maritime Research Center invites ship enthusiasts to lunch Tuesday with like-minded people and products. The 2 p.m. lunch takes place in the nautical shop, located at 301 W. Seventh St. at the corner of Centre Street. Cost is $20 per person. View the flyer or call (310) 521-0175 for reservations.

Set Sail

The Maritime Research Center is taking to the seas to admire the QM2 from the water. The group will set sail aboard the Pacific Spirit from Berth 74 in Ports O’ Call at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday. Cost is $45 ($42.50 for Maritime Research Center members.) View the flyer or call (310) 521-0175 for reservations.

Ponte Vista Update

The L.A. City Planning Commission hearing on Ponte Vista previously set for Feb. 12 has been rescheduled to April 9.

Grassroots opponents in R Neighborhoods Are 1 have released a new action bulletin, urging the public to write letters against the proposed development and in favor of holding the April hearing in San Pedro instead of downtown L.A.

The official Ponte Vista website has not been updated.

Black History Month Celebration Sunday

Political leaders and performing artists will be among the dignitaries taking part in a Black History Month celebration Sunday at the Warner Grand Theatre.

The Feb. 8 program begins at 2 p.m. and includes remarks and performances by lawmakers, musicians, actors, community leaders and others paying tribute to the social contributions of African Americans.

The Warner Grand Theatre is located at 478 W. Sixth St. in downtown San Pedro.

The free event is organized by the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council, in partnership with the San Pedro Democratic Club, Peninsula Harbor Republican Club, The Relevant Stage Theatre Company, Random Lengths News and the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

For more information, call Dan Pasley at ( 310) 801-4315.

Neighborhood Council Meetings Next Week

The Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council meets Monday, Feb. 9 at 6:30 p.m. at Peck Park, 560 N. Western Ave. The agenda was not posted at presstime. Visit or call (310) 732-4522 for more information.

The Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council meets Tuesday, Feb. 10 at the Port of Los Angeles High School, 250 W. Fifth St. Refreshments are served at 6 p.m. and the meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. View the agenda, visit or call (310) 918-8650 for more information.

Harbor Area Election Forum Feb. 19

Neighborhood councils and chambers of commerce are sponsoring a candidates forum on Feb. 19 covering the offices and measures in the March 3 city election.

The forum will take place at 6:30 p.m. at Rolling Hills Preparatory School, 1500 Palos Verdes Drive North, San Pedro.

Candidates for Los Angeles City Council, City Attorney and City Controller have been invited. The forum will also feature the controversial Measure B solar-power initiative.

Save the date and watch for more information next week.