The Port of Los Angeles has worked in partnership since the year 2000 with community stakeholders to establish the key principles that will guide successful waterfront development in San Pedro. These principles focus on bringing the community to the water's edge, retaining San Pedro's signature "port town" character, balancing development and open space, and revitalizing local business and employment opportunities.

In 2004, the port implemented the Waterfront Gateway Project, providing nearly a mile of public promenade, and a signature water feature at the Port's entrance. The Waterfront Gateway Project was followed by the San Pedro Waterfront Enhancements Project, approved in 2006, with $44 million worth of community-supported initiatives now being implemented.

The enhancements include a 16-acre public park, extension of the promenade, creation of a downtown plaza, public art features and community-to-waterfront pedestrian linkages.

A 36-year master development plan concept created in partnership with the community in 2005 fostered significant debate over the level of potential development 10 to 30 years into the future. Stakeholders wanted a range of master plan alternatives, co-equally assessed on either side of a primary plan that had a 50/50 balance of open space and development.

Instead of pursuing a long and potentially contentious master development plan assessment, the port chose to proceed with separable elements of the plan in order to keep the renovation of the waterfront moving forward while still preserving the opportunity for community debate over future hotel and commercial-retail development.

This third set of projects will move forward as part of the proposed San Pedro Waterfront Project, which includes the creation of three downtown-adjacent harbors that will showcase our waterfront museums and provide tie-up docks for visiting boaters and tall ships.

The proposed project would complete 8.7 miles of promenade along the water's edge, build a "green" outer harbor cruise facility and park, and study a number of parking and transportation alternatives including the expansion of the existing waterfront Red Car electric trolley line. The project also proposes a framework of open space, parks and community-to-waterfront linkage points. Attractive public art and water features will also be included in the project area.

Cruise questions

In addition, the San Pedro Waterfront Project proposes a 25-percent increase in commercial space and 40,000 square feet of commercial-retail improvements in the Ports O' Call area. In the longer term, the future waterfront will be re-assessed to determine how to attract and accommodate an optimal diversity of maritime and visitor-serving businesses that facilitate jobs at every level. The waterfront also should be a home base for ocean-dependent academic and research institutions.

We believe that the present and proposed waterfront initiatives will not only help attract these businesses and institutions, but also the investors and developers who can build first-class facilities for them. We recognize the need for a waterfront with self-sustaining economic vitality. To that end, we remain open-minded, valuing feedback and ongoing dialogue with the San Pedro Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and other stakeholders who have concerns about what the San Pedro Waterfront Project scope includes or does not include.

In terms of other economic drivers, right now Los Angeles is the No. 1 West Coast cruise port in the United States. But the newer cruise ships are larger and need more space to navigate in the port. An environmentally friendly outer harbor cruise facility proposed in the San Pedro Waterfront Project is L.A.'s best opportunity to remain the leading West Coast cruise port in the future.

When cruise travelers arrive in San Pedro, our waterfront should entice them to stay an extra day or two in town. The right mix of waterfront and upland development will create the amenities that cruise travelers and other vacationers want. These offerings will be served up against a backdrop of ships, cranes and large-scale maritime operations. This "theater of a working port" is an experience that no other waterfront in the world can showcase as well as San Pedro.

The port's three installments of waterfront improvements, combined with the Cabrillo Marina Phase II project under way, represent an investment of more than $600 million all from non-taxpayer-funded port revenue. It's a strong start; but the ultimate vision for a successful "L.A. Waterfront" in San Pedro hinges on public-private development that carefully blends together attractive infrastructure and inviting open space with distinctive architectural design and compelling commercial offerings. The end result will be a California destination on par with the world's premiere port cities. That's a tall order in a city with a downtown 20 miles inland.

However, I am confident that the public access, infrastructure and area enhancements that the Port of Los Angeles has committed to making will attract the attention of seasoned developers people with the talent, mettle and capital to help us realize the full potential of a world-class L.A. Waterfront.

Geraldine Knatz is the executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.

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