When Herb Zimmer opened a print shop in San Pedro in 1979, the area still had a bustling economy, despite a decline in the local fishing industry.

Since then, the blue-collar community has lost many of its local businesses and the jobs that came with them the effects of which Zimmer has seen in his PriorityOne Printing, Copying & Graphics shop.

"I'm a small printing business and small businesses are my bread and butter. Whenever small businesses have a slump I slump with them," lamented Zimmer. "Small businesses have been struggling to stay alive."

Zimmer is far from the only local businessman in his predicament.

Over the past several decades, through a combination of neglect and globalization which allows L.A. restaurants to serve fresh seafood from half a world away San Pedro's local economy has been ravaged. The rundown buildings that dot the city landscape serve as reminders of the economic decline.

But even amid the decline, as San Pedro has seen residents lured away by the growing, upscale communities on Palos Verdes Peninsula, the area has retained a tight-knit core of residents and businesses who have striven to rebuild it.

That effort has been assisted by the long housing boom that drove up land values and new residential construction in even blue collar communities such as San Pedro.

"This community is growing," said Camilla Townsend, president and chief executive of the San Pedro Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. "We're going through a major renaissance right now."

Indeed, Beverly Hills-based developer Raffi Cohen in August demolished the old, ugly and long vacant Pacific Trade Center building, to clear the way for construction to begin on Vue, a $175-million, ultra-modern high-rise condo tower.

And more recently the Port of Los Angeles released a draft plan for a major waterfront revitalization project, which many locals say holds the potential to rejuvenate the community.

The December proposal, intended to encompass the first few years of development, focuses on expanding existing open space, building parks and improving waterfront access. But there is a fear by local businesses that it gives short shrift to economic development.

That prompted the San Pedro chamber to push an alternative development plan that would push immediate economic development, including 1 million square feet of construction. Townsend said the port's proposal should only serve "as a starting point something local business owners agree on.

"We need to start building the economic infrastructure as soon as possible. We don't want to wait five to seven years," Zimmer said.


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