Developer Bob Sonnenblick at Ports O’Call Village in San Pedro.

Developer Bob Sonnenblick at Ports O’Call Village in San Pedro. Photo by Thomas Wasper

To the thousands who flock to Ports O’Call Village in San Pedro every weekend, the waterfront stretch of shops and restaurants is a great place for fresh fish and cold beer.

But developers who want to tear it down and rebuild on the site say it could be much more – a shopping, dining and entertainment complex with high-end retailers; a fancy ethnic food market; and even a roller coaster and Ferris wheel.

Eight developers, including big names such as Majestic Realty Co. in the City of Industry and Ratkovich Co. in downtown Los Angeles, last month told the Port of Los Angeles, which owns Ports O’Call, that they want to transform the 30-acre site into a destination to rival Santa Monica and other waterfront locales.

For the port, it’s an opportunity to draw tourists – and money – to the commercial side of the harbor. For developers, it’s a chance to build on 30 acres of oceanfront property.

“There’s only so much waterfront property available to be developed,” said Bob Sonnenblick, a principal at Sonnenblick Development LLC in Pacific Palisades, one of the developers proposing to redo Ports O’Call. “Anytime you can get 30 acres on the water with a huge amount of frontage, you can’t go too far wrong.”

Ports O’Call was built 50 years ago and hasn’t been upgraded much since. Now it’s seen by developers, port officials and even many local business leaders as a run-down relic of the 1960s. Ports O’Call is busy on weekends, but doesn’t draw many customers during the week. Much of its retail and restaurant space is vacant.

While developers are optimistic that the right kind of development can bring more visitors and money to San Pedro, some of the factors that have led to the village’s troubles might not be so easily fixed.

Larry Kosmont, chief executive of L.A. development services firm Kosmont Cos., said San Pedro doesn’t have the kind of major attractions that draw visitors to other destinations, such as the beach in Santa Monica.

“It doesn’t strike me as there being a consistent external driver that supports the real estate investment,” Kosmont said. “Given the location, I think there’s no slam-dunk project that jumps out at you.”

Oceanfront property

The eight companies that responded to the port’s request for qualifications are Majestic; Sonnenblick; McArthurGlen Group of London; Rising Realty Partners and Cal Coast Inc., both of Los Angeles; Battaglia Inc. and Strata Properties, both of Newport Beach; and L.A. Waterfront Alliance, a group that includes Ratkovich and San Pedro firm Victory Group.

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