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Ports O'Call: A Port on the Brink

Spaces for People

San Pedro’s Ports O’Call is a place for people all ages. It is unique. It may not last long.
A few months ago the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners unanimously approved an “Exclusive Negotiating Agreement” with a group of developers for the redevelopment of a 30-acre waterfront which includes Ports O’Call. Hopefully, its replacement will be able to combine a not-nostalgic / not “pseudo-something” sustainable design, and at the same time create an adequate “space for people,” without triggering gentrification. Not easy, but possible.

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“As is,” Ports O’Call is not architecture of any design value. Built in 1963 as a pseudo New England village, it is narrowly sandwiched between the waterfront and an ocean of asphalt. Yet, although it is linked to Los Angeles’ core by a narrow umbilical cord, it attracts a significant segment of the city’s Latino population. Families and friends come in large groups, ranging in age from a few months to the late 80’s. Round tables for eight or long ones for many people invite socialization.
The place touches all senses: sound, smell, taste…The views are dynamic. With a background defined by the suspended Vincent Thomas Bridge, thousands of piled containers and protruding cranes, ships pass by, seagulls overfly and the water waves splash against the docks
It is a place to enjoy and learn from. Architects, designers, planners and decision-makers in politics and investment financing can absorb a few things from Ports O’Call on how a right combination of setting and affordable commerce can touch people’s emotional needs. Good design could make the difference between “nice” and “great!”

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