• Polarizing Polar Bears

    • 02/12/2018
    • Paul Rosenberg
    • News
    • Comments are off

    Unmasking a proxy war strategy by online climate change denialists

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    In early December, a video of a dying, emaciated polar bear, foraging for food on an iceless portion of the Arctic, went viral on social media. The video garnered millions of views on Facebook and YouTube. For most, it was a vivid signal of the future in store for us all due to human-caused (anthropogenic) global warming — rising temperatures due to increased carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases. For those who deny or minimize the existence of anthropogenic global warming it wasn’t a polar bear, but a red herring (“Propaganda,” one YouTube viewer called it) — no one knows why it was dying, much less if it can be connected to global warming.

    That’s true, but also a bit beside the point.

    .

    The problem is that an ever-warmer future means polar bears will have less and less access to their seal prey, so the rate at which bears die from malnutrition/starvation will increase,” said Dr. Steven Amstrup, chief scientist for the nonprofit Polar Bears International. “So, regardless of the proximate cause of this bear’s condition, this heart-wrenching footage provides us with a warning about the future.

    Just days before the video went viral, a paper Amstrup co-authored presented the polar bear as something else as well: a “keystone domino,” a proxy used to attack global warming. The paper stated that:

    Because this evidence [for global warming] is so overwhelming, it would be virtually impossible to debunk; the main strategy of denier blogs is therefore to focus on topics that are showy and in which it is therefore easy to generate public interest. These topics are used as “proxies” for [anthropogenic global warming] in general; in other words, they represent keystone dominoes that are strategically placed in front of many hun­dreds of others, each representing a separate line of evidence for anthropogenic global warming. By appearing to knock over the keystone domino, audiences targeted by the communication may assume all other dominoes are toppled in a form of “dismissal by associ­ation.

    The paper, Internet Blogs, Polar Bears, and Climate-Change Denial by Proxy, by Jeffrey Harvey, a senior scientist at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology, and 13 co-authors, looked at 90 blogs and 92 peer reviewed papers. They analyzed them in terms of what they said about sea ice (declining rapidly or not, or varying unpredictably over the long run) and polar bears (threatened with extinction or not, or capable of adapting to threats).

    Another co-author, Bart Verheggen, a climate scientists at Amsterdam University College, starkly described their findings:

    There is a clear separation amongst blogs, where approximately half of the 90 blogs investigated agree with the majority of the scientific literature, whereas other blogs took a position that is diametrically opposed to the scientific conclusions. Most of the blogs in the latter group

    based their opinions on one and the same source: Susan Crockford.

    Crockford is an unpaid adjunct professor at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.

    There were a few contested papers — ones that drew critical comments after publication — that fell outside the consensus, but they all fell between the two groups of blogs.

    “Our paper was clearly a direct hit because the response from the denial blogs was immediate,” Harvey told Random Lengths. “As is their modus operandi, they studiously avoid the core messages, which are that they use a tiny set of topics (proxies) to dismiss anthropogenic global warming… in attacking the evidence that [anthropogenic global warming] is driving a rapid reduction in seasonal arctic ice extent, [which] threatens polar bears, they almost completely avoid the published scientific literature.”

    It’s worth noting that two of Harvey’s co-authors, Amstrup and Ian Stirling, co-authored more than 20 of the 92 papers in that literature, an indication of their depth of knowledge that denialists actually held against them.

    The paper also concluded with an unusual call to action:

    We believe that it is imperative for more scientists to venture beyond the confines of their labs and lecture halls to directly engage with the public and policymakers, as well as more strongly confronting and resisting the well-funded and organized network of [anthropogenic global warming] denial.

    But global warming denialism is so pervasive it can now be considered a contributing factor to global warming itself — something to be studied and mitigated. This paper is just the latest in the growing field of scientific studies of global warming science and denialist response that’s increasingly causing denialists to squirm.

    Studying Climate Denialism: A Growing Subfield

    This began in 2004, when science historian Naomi Oreskes, a professor of the history of science and affiliated professor of earth and planetary sciences at Harvard, produced the first of several studies establishing the existence of a solid 97 percent consensus of scientists that humans are responsible for ongoing global warming. It’s also been shown that increasing awareness of this consensus increases public acceptance. In 2015, Norwegian climate scientist Rasmus Benestad pioneered the study of patterns of mistakes across dissenting papers in the remaining 3 percent. These were discovered by trying to replicate their results.

    In 2012, Stephan Lewandowsky, a cognitive scientist at the University of Bristol, in the United Kingdom, another of Harvey’s co-authors, initiated another line of research. He explored patterns of reasoning in the public at large. He first discovered that belief in a cluster of conspiracy theories was associated with global warming denial. Then he studied the online response of denialists to that study in a paper called “Recursive Fury,” in which he reported that many denialists exhibited at least one of six previously identified characteristics of conspiracist ideation.

    The denialists reacted furiously again and the journal that published the paper withdrew it, not because there was anything scientifically wrong with it, but for fear of being sued. This was widely condemned for encouraging scientifically unfounded attacks. Crockford also tried to get Harvey’s paper withdrawn and others tried to get Harvey condemned by his employer, but both were firmly rebuffed.

    Finally, in 2016, Yale sociologist Justin Farrell initiated another line of research, using network science and text analysis to investigate the overall structure and organizational power of the contrarian network, including the role of elite corporate benefactors.

    Thus, the first two lines of research establish why there’s no credible scientific support for rejecting global warming, while the next two broadly explain the consensus gap between scientists and the public in terms of a combination of individual psychology and socio-political influence, with a strong financial component. Harvey’s paper provides a much sharper focus for that broad explanation, leaving little wiggle room for a denialist response short of throwing up their hands in surrender.

    “They clearly did not want to respond through the peer reviewed literature, but instead resorted to three main tactics,” Harvey said. “The first was to accuse us of ganging up on Susan Crockford, even though she does not appear until page three of the article and is not the primary focus.”

    Indeed, Crockford is not even indirectly mentioned in the paper’s abstract.

    “They also launched all out attacks on the two most prominent authors, Mike Mann and Stephan Lewandowsky, finally coming around to me after some days,” Harvey said.

    Mann was principally responsible for the “hockey stick” graph, the first widely-accepted reconstruction of the past 1,000 years of northern hemisphere temperatures, showing dramatic temperature increases in the past few decades, which has made him a prime target for denialist attacks. “Recursive Fury” in particular made Lewandowsky a prime target. Finally, “They have tried to discredit the paper by criticizing the statistical analyses,” Harvey concluded.

    This was an effort spearheaded by economist Richard Tol, who floundered badly in a similar 2014 attempt to discredit the existence of the 97 percent consensus on global warming.

    On the last point, Lewandowsky, highlighted what he called, The “Monty-Pythonesque” angle of them trying frantically to invalidate their data.

    “The only way to achieve that would be if their blogs didn’t make the claims they clearly insist on making — namely that the Arctic isn’t melting and polar bears are just fine,” Lewandowsky said.

    A New Proxy Fight:  Crockford Cries ‘Rape!’

    But what they lacked in substance, they made up for in sound and fury, with Crockford herself leading the way. After pointing out the denier blogs’ heavy reliance on her, the paper read:

    “Notably, as of this writing, Crockford has neither conducted any original research nor published any articles in the peer-reviewed literature on polar bears.”

    Crockford, a zoologist who’s been secretly paid by the denialist Heartland Institute, seemingly proved their point by responding with a series of heated blog posts, rather than a comment letter to the journal. One post claimed the paper was a conspiratorial response getting back at her for a non-peer-reviewed paper she’d published on the web.

    On one blog post, she stated that:

    Bioscience article is academic rape: an assertion of power and intimidation…. Characterizing a professional, respected scientist as an unqualified vengeful opinion writer is the same kind of power attack as rape. It’s meant to humiliate and intimidate.

    Other denialist blogs echoed her theme, characterizing the paper’s authors as “climate bullies” and harassers.

    “Crockford’s claim of academic rape is, in my opinion, really appalling,” Harvey said. “Four of my co-authors are women, including two in their 20s.”

    So, was Crockford accusing them of rape, too? Or simply erasing their existence?

    “Our team has no agenda against a specific blogger,” said Meena Balgopal, associate professor of biology at Colorado State University — another co-author. “We simply found that the majority (80 percent) of the blogs that were identified as ‘climate denying’ referenced Crockford’s blog. Our goal was to use objective methods to better understand how blogs that describe climate change and polar bears present and frame information. Discussions of  ‘#MeToo’ or ‘rape’ are, therefore, irrelevant to our study.”

    Competing Conspiracy Theories

    There’s a second element in Crockford’s persecution narrative: Her entry into the half-baked conspiracy theories about the origins of Harvey’s story.

    “It’s interesting to see the different conspiracy theories being touted about our paper [on different denialist blogs],” Verheggen said.

    Verheggen said that all of them are wildly wrong. The following are a few of the claims he refutes:

    Mann and Lewandowsky are behind it all, and they dragged others in with them (WUWT [a blog], others)

    Amstrup and Stirling wanted to get back at Crockford who criticized them and got others to help them (Tom Fuller at cliscep and elsewhere)

    A clique around Bart Verheggen and Amsterdam Academia got others to join them in their crusade against “skeptics,” (the Dutch deniosphere at climategate.nl)

    WUWT — What’s Up With That? — is the most viewed denialist website worldwide. It actually promoted both of the first two conspiracies. Conspiracy theorists often embrace multiple, different and even contradictory conspiracy narratives. This is one of the six characteristics of conspiracist thought mentioned above, known as “must be wrong,” a pervasive belief that a conspiracy exists despite specific disproofs. Another corollary of this conspiracy thought characteristic is the belief in mutually-contradictory theories.  The conspiracies listed above aren’t mutually exclusive, but they do illustrate another characteristic of conspiracist thought, “persecution-victimization,” the tendency to see themselves as persecuted victims of the conspiracy, as well as potential heroes. Thus, Crockford and her fans prefer the conspiracy theory revolving around her and the Dutch denialists prefer the conspiracy centered on Dutch soil.

    A Peek Into Peer Review Confusions

    “Amstrup is pissed off because I criticized his work,” Crockford wrote in a comment on WUWT. “He and Stirling are not used to being challenged.”

    She touted her theory of the paper’s origins and purpose, based on a paper she published online at PeerJ, which is not in a peer-reviewed journal.

    Ignoring that fact, she wrote, “Colleagues have read my paper and found it to be fully acceptable as a piece of academic scientific work. If that were not true, this desperately ridiculous Bioscience paper would never have been published.”

    But that’s not how science works. A paper generally has to be peer reviewed and published, before other scientists feel a need to respond.

    “It was peer-reviewed by several well-qualified colleagues before publication (and revised accordingly) [which is not what ‘peer-reviewed’ means] but was not peer-reviewed again by the PeerJ organization, as is their policy,” Crockford wrote.

    So, she knows full well it wasn’t peer reviewed, but wants to confuse her non-scientist readers. That was from a blog post containing her “letter to the editors of the journal Bioscience requesting retraction of the shoddy and malicious paper by Harvey, et al.”  The editors surely saw through this amateurish deception. Just like Donald Trump, she was playing to her base.

    That’s hardly her only deception. Elsewhere on her blog, Crockford let her real feelings about Bioscience show—feelings so strong they seemed to impair her basic math:

    BioScience is an interesting choice for this ‘Forum’ paper: I counted only 4 polar bear research papers in this journal since 2004  but 11 papers on “climate change denial” since 2010 (not including this one). In other words, few polar bear scientists would usually read this journal but many people interested in the “problem” of “climate change denial” would seek it out.

    Yet, it only takes a moment, clicking on the links Crockford provides in the text, to discover she’s totally wrong. There are actually 88 journal articles listed on polar bears, 72 classified as research articles. For ‘climate change denial’ the numbers are 19 and 16, respectively. So, she’s wrong both about the journal’s content, as well as what people read it for. It is not, as she pretends, a comfy conspiratorial den for her enemies, but a well-respected journal of bioscience.

    “This kind of harassment, intimidation and threats are typical in my opinion of climate change deniers when they are criticized,” Harvey concluded. “They rarely pursue the normal professional response of writing a rebuttal to a journal until all other options have been exhausted.”

    Back to the Science

    If the point of such proxy controversies is to distract, it’s good to refocus on what it’s being distracted from.

    “In addition to the badgering and nitpicking, we’ve been getting more conflation of the present and the future, more about how it has been warm in the past, and more suggestion polar bears will be fine on land,” Amstrup said.

    These are all topics well-settled in the scientific literature that are ripe for confusion in the context of a heated proxy fight. The paper explains these confusions, but denier blogs don’t pay attention to scientific literature. That’s the study’s main finding, remember? So Amstrup ticked off what was being obscured.

    “Deniers have criticized polar bear scientists because things we projected for later this century have not yet happened,” he said. That’s the main point of Crockford’s non-peer-reviewed paper. So, “there are no future threats.”

    This ignores the known long-term trends and the point Amstrup made about the dying bear video.

    “Lowered polar bear survival means more bears are starving to death, so regardless of what happened to cause this particular bear’s problems, we know a future with less ice means higher rates of this kind of event in the future — a future we can avoid by mitigating greenhouse gas rise,” Amstrup said.

    He also commented on past warm periods.

    “The best evidence suggests we will be far warmer by mid-century than any time in the polar bear’s evolutionary history,”  Amstrup said. “The current warming is occurring over the top of gradually declining insolation is caused by humans and is not at all analogous to past warming events.”

    As for polar bears surviving on land, studies show there just isn’t enough nutritious food for them to survive on without access to sea ice where they can hunt seals.  Sure, bears have been known to catch geese, for example, but, “there simply are not enough geese to feed all the polar bears if we ultimately let the ice disappear,” Amstrup said.

    Of course, the point of the paper is that all the above is well-known to scientists and is deliberately obscured on the denier blogs. The response to the paper helps to prove its point.

    A Last Hurrah — Or Harrumph

    One last response deserves special attention: that of economist Richard Tol, who has made slipshod scientific-sounding arguments before. In a 2014 paper he criticized one of several studies showing a 97 percent consensus on global warming, arguing it was “only” 91 percent instead.

    His paper was was rejected twice by one journal for flawed methodology, before it was published by another, still with some of the problems reviewers had flagged. A debunking of his claims, 24 Critical Errors in Tol (2014),  written by 10 co-authors was published at skepticalscience.com, which noted that in his most glaring mistake:

    “Tol effectively conjured approximately 300 papers rejecting or minimizing human-caused global warming out of thin air, with no evidence that those papers exist in reality.”

    This time outlooks strikingly similar. The data issues, once again, are illusory.

    “Simply put, there are no issues with the data and Tol doesn’t report any,” Lewandowsky said. “What Tol is doing instead is to throw various innuendos at our particular form of the data and listing the limitations of it. This is a never-ending game of ‘gotcha’ because every type of data has specific limitations, which are taken into account by the appropriate statistical analysis.”

    His conclusions are chimeral, too.

    “Harvey et al. (2017) thus really show that there are people who worry about sea-ice and polar bears, and those who do not and cite Dr. Crockford,” Tol wrote.

    “Tol’s description of ‘what we really show’ is a bit tricky,” Varteban said. “It’s written in a way that attempts to ridicule and downplay what we did, without being outright wrong.”

    “We do not only show there are people who worry and people [who] do not,” added Peter Roessingh, another co-author, an ecologist at the University of Amsterdam. “We show that all scientist are in one camp, with half of the blogs, and all other blogs are in the other camp. It is not a random mixture. By omitting the science position he distorts our conclusion.”

    Tol also complained that some of the paper’s co-authors had co-authored a good number of the papers on sea ice and polar bears, which made them biased. He layered multiple misleading arguments to make it seem quite underhanded and nefarious — questioning why only a small subset of papers on polar bears (in the Scopus database) were used, for example.

    “There may well be 278 papers on polar bears in Scopus,” Lewandowsky responded. “In fact, there are probably 10,000 papers in Scopus on bears. And a million on mammals. Holy cow, does this mean we ignored nearly a million relevant papers? Of course not! … He’d get the same number of papers [we did] if he actually used our search terms….. Tol is complaining that the Bioscience paper is co-authored by scientists with a high level of relevant expertise. I would call that a strong asset of our paper!”

    In short, Tol’s response comes off as the final flourish in a flood of responses, all of which add up to a resounding underscoring of Harvey’s results. As Lewandowsky said, it’s Monty-Python-esque.

    “Our paper is hardly surprising, but deniers are angry simply because they have been formally exposed,” Harvey summed up. “It is patently obvious that denier blogs are master cherry pickers of quite dubious sources. They know it too, but they just don’t want to admit it.”

    Which is why the paper’s call for scientists to become more engaged on social media is so crucial. The more of them there are, the harder it will be for the cherry pickers to win when the next viral video comes around.

     

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  • LA River Defender Honored

    • 02/09/2018
    • Andrea Serna
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer

    The Los Angeles River, infamously tamed and confined in concrete is coming back to life, one small step at a time. The improbable revitalization began thanks to poet, artist and crusader Lewis MacAdams.

    This month MacAdams’ extraordinary accomplishments were recognized with a 7-foot statue created by sculptor Eugene Daub titled, Poetry and Politics. On the monument are MacAdams’ words: “If it’s not impossible, I’m not interested.”

    The monument was installed in the Frogtown neighborhood of Los Angeles, officially known as Elysian Valley. The river runs through the small community bordered by 110 Freeway to the south, the 2 Freeway to the north, Interstate 5 to the west and the Los Angeles River to the east.

    MacAdams, the founder of the non-profit Friends of the LA River, also known as FoLAR, points to the frog as the symbol of the river. Frogtown’s name comes from the days when red-legged frogs used to climb out of the river to lay their eggs. On warm summer evenings croaking could be heard throughout the river valley. Red crawfish used to live in that river and the last steelhead trout was caught in 1948. MacAdams may never bring back the steelhead, but his goal is to repopulate the river with the sound of frogs.

    The genesis of MacAdam’s activism dates back to the 1980s when he moved here from San Francisco and stumbled across the concrete ribbon called the LA River. The poet was invited to participate in a performance festival at the Museum of Contemporary Art, called Angels Flight. As part of his performance he and two friends grabbed their wire cutters, cut a hole in the surrounding chain link fence that had defined the river as an inhospitable drainage ditch and performed something of a ceremonial unleashing of the river. He called his piece, Friends of the LA River, and a movement was born. The impossible task was to return one of the world’s most heavily industrialized rivers to nature.

    Honoring the campaign to free the river, Daub moved away from his traditional bronze medium and created a statue from concrete. This is the first time he worked with that material. The statue depicts MacAdams over a relief of river flora and fauna including frogs, herons and fish. Marsh Park, the location for the installation, was renamed MacAdams Park in his honor.

    The park itself is a triumph. The goal was always to ‘crack the concrete’ and return the river to the people, for recreation, environmental education and as a community space. In 2014, FoLAR built the first visitor center for the river. Affectionately referred to as the Frog Spot, it sits on the bank of the river overlooking heron’s resting on rocks and trees growing on the banks. Now, the park provides a verdant location for newlyweds to exchange vows, hipsters to knock back a beer while enjoying live music, as well as for families to take pleasure in a simple picnic. Each Saturday they host live music and recruit volunteers for their grassroots advocacy.

    In April 2018, FoLAR will organize the 29th annual Great LA River Cleanup/La Gran Limpieza. In 2017, 10,000 volunteers removed 100 tons of trash from the river banks.

    To be part of MacAdams visionary project and have an up-close experience with the river, volunteer at folar.org.

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  • Labor, Community, Environmentalists Unite for Health and Safety

    By Mark Friedman

    Across the country for years, the issue of health and safety versus jobs has been one that has unnecessarily divided labor organizations from their natural allies in the community and environmental movements — whether it be the chemical leaks at Love Canal, the nuclear meltdown at 3-Mile Island and marine protected areas versus commercial fishing, water contamination in Flint, Mich., or now the Torrance refinery explosion and potential toxic gas leaks.

    Regardless of whether we work for a refinery, on the docks, in an office, school, small business or are a community resident, we must take the moral high ground for health and safety. We cannot counterpose jobs to health and safety nor maintaining a healthy environment for humanity.  We must join together to force the refineries to institute whatever safety measures the community and union health and safety committees collectively decide are necessary to protect us all.

    We as workers, with or without a union, need safety committees to protect us on the job from the bosses’ shortcuts, which over the past several decades have significantly worsened conditions on the job, resulting in the spike of deaths and injuries.  No worker must die on the job!  Unions must take the lead in joining with community residents and environmental organizations such as the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance to ensure that no worker or community resident gets sick or dies from an explosion or accident at any of the refineries.  Management will try to coopt labor, saying that it is too costly for them to provide the necessary safety measures demanded by the community and environmentalists or that they will lose their job and livelihood.  This is a lie.

    Oil refineries and the corporations earn billions annually. They pay refinery workers higher wages due to union strength making them aristocrats within the labor movement. Safety committees on the job in refineries and other industries have been eliminated and weakened and often unable to institute protective measures for their own members.

    We working people recently won a victory in stopping the frame up of ranchers in Oregon and Nevada orchestrated by Democratic and Republican state and national politicians and the FBI.  However, we lost the battle over stopping the Dakota pipeline when victory was within reach.  Big money won out over the interests of indigenous peoples, residents, labor and environmentalists.  A broad coalition had been constructed, but was disbanded by the anti-Dakota pipeline “leaders” to pursue legal action instead.  The lesson of history is that the courts will never defend our rights without massive pressure on them. This is the history of the labor, civil rights, women’s, environmental, immigrants’ and gay rights movements.

    Time after time at the Torrance Air Quality Management District hearings, representatives of labor said that the companies could not pay for safety systems and the plant would be shut down or there would be job loss.  That argument, however, is the bosses’ argument and we cannot fall into their trap of thinking of ourselves as part of their “family.”  They do have the money to ensure safety of workers on the job. That is why we have union safety committees. The community must actively demand that.

    And it will be up to us, workers and safety committees to form an alliance with the community to enforce safety measures necessary to protect us all.  Management will always cut back on safety and seek shortcuts only we know the results.  The massive oil leak called New Horizon, the Exxon Valdez accident, etc. or they will consciously denigrate the environment such as what happened with the Montrose chemical plant and resulting cleanup settlement.

    Our demands need to be clear.  Safety on the job and safety for the community; no job loss, no layoffs; full pay for all workers at union wages during shutdown and conversion to the safest refining processes.  Unionize all refinery subcontractors to ensure compliance.  Health and jobs are not counterposed but are part of the fight to unify us, organize the unorganized and rebuild the labor movement.

    I urge all Random Lengths readers to join the rally and march to ban toxic modified hydrofluoric acid at 10 a.m. Feb. 17, at Columbia Park, 4045 190th St. (190th St. and Prairie), Torrance. DetailsTRAASouthBay.com.

    Mark Friedman, a veteran trade union and environmental activist is organizer of a Cuban marine science educators’ delegation coming to California.

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  • CARB Public Outreach Meeting

    The California Air Resources Board is hosting public outreach meeting to discuss concepts for minimizing community health impacts from seaports, railyards, warehouses and other freight hubs.
    Time: 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 13
    Details: https://tinyurl.com/CARBMeeting
    Venue: Long Beach Main Library, Downstairs Lobby, 101 Pacific Ave., Long Beach

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  • Garcetti Names LACERS GM

    • 02/09/2018
    • Reporters Desk
    • Briefs
    • Comments are off

    LOS ANGELESOn Feb. 7, Mayor Eric Garcetti confirmed the appointment of Neil Guglielmo as general manager of the Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System, known as LACERS.
    Guglielmo’s appointment is subject to the Los Angeles City Council confirmation.
    As general manager of LACERS, Guglielmo will lead the provision of retirement benefits to the Los Angeles civilian employees, representing three-fifths of the city’s workforce. LACERS provides services to 24,000 active employees and provides benefits to almost 17,500 retirees and their beneficiaries.
    Guglielmo has worked for Los Angeles for 27 years, most recently as chief financial officer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Previously, he served as the director of Budget, Rates and Financial Planning for LADWP, managing its budget, preparing financial forecasts and the design, outreach, and implementation of water and power rates.
    Prior to joining LADWP, Guglielmo worked as division manager for Financial Management, division manager for Citywide Recycling, and chief financial officer at the Bureau of Sanitation.  From 2011 to 2012, he served as deputy mayor and senior budget adviser to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Throughout his career, he has worked for a number of other city departments — including Recreation and Parks, Aging, and Housing, as well as the Office of the City Administrative Officer and the Office of Finance.

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  • Open Letter Response to CSUDH Will Not Bamboozle Carson Again

    Dear Mayor Robles:

    Generally, I make it a practice not to respond to divisive statements or call out errors of fact made by a public official. Recently, erroneous information regarding CSU Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) and the California State University (CSU) provided by you to Random Lengths News have been so egregious, I am compelled to respond (Attachment A). Carson Residents, City Council members, and the public at large should not continue to be misled by false statements and inaccurate information. Below are the erroneous assertions you have made regarding CSUDH and the factual corrections to these assertions:

    Assertion 1: CSUDH and the CSU System ignored numerous requests by the City to discuss our master plan and update

    Fact: This simply is not the case. CSUDH staff initiated numerous meetings with City officials and staff with the specific objective of consulting with the City regarding the University’s master plan. There has been no instance in which CSUDH or the CSU ignored a request by the City to meet. You and other City Council members personally attended one of several introductory briefings on October 2016 regarding our master plan development, for example, and no significant issues or concerns regarding the master plan development, including development of a University Village, were raised during these meetings. Your primary recommendation at that time was to reduce on-campus parking.

    In addition to meeting with City staff and officials, the University hosted several public meetings on our master plan, soliciting input from local residents and community members on development decisions. A summary of recent meetings with City staff and officials and public forums hosted by CSUDH on our master plan update is enclosed as Attachment B. My primary purpose in detailing these meetings and providing this information as an attachment is to ensure individuals copied on this letter have factual information.

    Assertion 2: CSUDH initiated the environmental review process required for the University master plan despite City objections.

    Fact: As previously stated and as evidenced in Attachment B, CSUDH engaged City staff and officials on multiple occasions regarding University development plans. At no point during these discussions did the City raise objections to the University initiating the EIR process was communicated by the City in a letter sent to the CSU Board of Trustees on August 10, 2017. The prior evening, in one of the meetings initiated by CSUDH, CSUDH staff met with the City manager and City staff to discuss University development plans, the EIR process and timeline, and University’s commitment to pay its fair share of potential mitigation measures. No objections to the University beginning the EIR Process were raised during this meeting and, in fact, University staff left the meeting understanding City staff supported the University’s plans.

    Rather than engage with the University to provide substantive feedback, the City elected to undertake letter writing, public campaigns, and legal action designed to stop the process and disparage the reputation of the University. At no point has the City provided substantive written feedback on the content of documents or plans presented by the University.

    Assertion 3: The CSUDH master plan includes a for-profit development, University Village, not for exclusively educational purposes.

    Fact: The University’s master plan development, including University Village, is for exclusively educational purposes. The University has no interest in pursuing activities that do not benefit or advance its educational mission. Faculty, staff, and students will reside in many of the market rate residential units. Retails and commercial space will serve the more than 20,000 faculty, staff and students the master plan is intended to support. Leases with business park tenants will provide internships for students and other direct linkages to our academic mission.

    Net revenue from the development will be used to hire additional faculty, renovate university facilities, and support CSUDH students and their success. State funding to the CSU has decline from 63 percent of our state operating fund to 49 percent. With students now paying 49 percent of educational costs compared to 31 percent in 2008/09 (other revenue made up two percent of the CSUDH state operating budget in both 2008/09 and in 2017/18). The University has an obligation to ensure our students receive an affordable, high quality education and must seek resources. This development will benefit the University and the entire community.

    Assertion 4: University Village will have a dramatic impact on Carson’s traffic, existing utilities, aesthetics and quality of life in the residential communities surrounding the campus. CSUDH is trying to run roughshod over Carson, failing to address the impacts of its development on our community.

    Fact: CSUDH has a vested interest in the well being of the residential communities surrounding the University. Our campus resides in Carson and we are part of the community. We have engaged Carson residents in providing input into our master plan update via public forums and have initiated meetings with Carson staff and officials to keep them informed of our master plan and EIR plans and ensure they are aware of our commitment to fulfilling our legal obligation to mitigate any significant impacts to the environment resulting from our master plan development.

    Additionally, CSUDH has engaged a highly qualified and well respected consulting firm to prepare an EIR for the University master plan as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The purpose of an EIR is inform decision-makers and the public general of the environmental effects of a project, possible ways to minimize significant effects, and reasonable alternatives to the project. The University will release a draft EIR for public comment in mid-February and has informed City staff of our desire to engage City staff in reviewing potential mitigation measures to lessen or avoid significant effects on the environment and our commitment to fulfill the University’s legal obligation to pay its fair share of nay costs associated with potential mitigation measures resulting from the University master plan.

    Since the draft EIR has not been released and CSUDH and the City have not discussed potential mitigation measures and CSUDH funding requirements, indicating CSUDH is trying to run roughshod over Carson, Failing to address the impacts of its development on our community is inaccurate and misleading.

    What is clear, however, is that the University Village and surrounding improvements will benefit the City. During a meeting with the city Manager and other City staff on October 25, 2017, CSUDH staff shared preliminary annual revenue projects to the City of Carson from the University Village development estimated by a real estate advisory firm hired by the University. This information is enclosed as Attachment C. As the University acknowledged during the October 25 meeting, the roughly $1.9 million in annual tax revenue the City is projected to receive from the university village Development requires further validation and refinement. CSUDH staff has been in regular contact with the director of Finance for the City to refine these projections. Thus far, it appears the $1.9 million in annual tax revenue projected for the City may be understated.

    Assertion 5: The Office of Planning and Research (OPR) rescinded the University’s position as lead agency for the environmental review process required for the University master plan.

    Fact: In response to a petition to be designated lead agency for the environmental review process for the University master plan sent by the City of Carson to the OPR, after considering information and arguments put forward by the respective attorneys for the CSU and the city of Carson, OPR assigned lead agency status to the CSU.

    The City of Carson subsequently filed a lawsuit against OPR, naming the CSU as a Real Party in Interest, challenging OPR’s determination. During a mandatory settlement meeting with OPR and the CSU, Carson offered to drop this lawsuit in exchange for OPR and the University agreeing OPR would provide an additional opportunity for CSU and the City to respond to inquiries and provide documentation supporting their respective position for led agency designation. Through their respective attorneys, on January 15, 2018, the University and the City of Carson each submitted responses to questions developed by OPR. OPR is expected to issue a new determination on lead agency designation on or about January 26, 2018.

    Assertion 6: The City has been forced to go to court to protect its interests.

    Fact: The University is legally obligated to engage the City during the environmental review process and to pay its fair share of costs associated with mitigation measures. A draft EIR for the University master plan has not yet been released. The City of Carson’s decision to spend City resources on attorneys in advance of the release of a draft EIR, and in light of actions by the University demonstrating good faith, is premature at best.

    The University is a community asset and provides numerous services and support to the City and its program, including but not limited to ongoing faculty, student and staff involvement, and support towards the Joseph B. Jr. and Mary Anne O’ Neal Stroke center, year round community enrichment programs such as the  City of Carson Women’s Conference, Cesar Chavez memorial celebrations, Martin Luther King Jr. memorial celebration, Sharefest’s Youth Development Academy, City of Carson Jazz Festival, campus host and supporter of the city of Carson Youth Swag Summit, usage of facilities for City of Carson theater and musical performances, and active members of a variety of city wide committees and commissions.

    This is only a fraction of the initiatives in which the University supports the City in helping build a stronger community. In fact, our University played a key role in the city’s All-American Award given by the National Civic League as one of the our community based educational enrichment programs. In 2014, the University also was awarded President Obama’s National Award for Outstanding Community Engagement.

    Assertion 7: The CSU and CSUDH ran roughshod over Carson, ignoring the concerns of City officials and failing to adequately address any impacts of what is now known as the StubHub Center on our community.

    Fact: The University undertook an extensive EIR process during planning for the StubHub Center. City officials and staff were engaged in this process and provided written feedback on the draft EIR incorporated into the final EIR certified by the CSU Board of Trustees. Almost 60 mitigation measures addressing impacts of the development of the StubHub Center were implemented by the University and the StubHub Center, including street improvements, traffic light changes, noise reduction measures, residential traffic and parking restrictions and other measures.

    Assertion 8: Today Carson gets absolutely no revenue from the stadium –no parking fee, no ticket tax, no city host fee, nothing, from any event, not even NFL Chargers games. Carson was bamboozled into bearing 100 percent of the inconvenience and burdens of the stadium complex, with zero percent of the financial rewards.

    Fact: In addition to millions of dollars in street improvements and other mitigation measures implemented in conjunction with the EIR process for the StubHub Center, the City has received ticket tax revenue from the StubHub Center in addition to administrative fees and licenses and donations to City organizations. The StubHub Cente also has made hundreds of in-kind donations in support of the Carson community.

    Additionally, a 2015 report on economic impacts commissioned by the StubHub Center shows several sectors of consumer goods spending reflected in taxable sales, increased significantly in the city of Carson between 2001 and 2012, despite the nationwide recession beginning in the fourth quarter of 2007  (Attachment D). The report notes that while not all of these increases can be directly attributed to the StubHub Center, some portion of this growth is a product of StubHub Center visitor and event attendee spending in the community before during and after events.

    As you are aware, the University engaged the City during negotiations with the AEG to expand the stadium by 3,000 seats for the Chargers. The University made it clear to both AEG and the City it would not support increased seating capacity unless AEG compensated both the City and CSUDH. Due to the manner in which the City handled these negotiations, AEG informed the University they no longer wanted to pursue an increase in seating capacity for the Chargers. As such, CSUDH removed this item from consideration by the CSU Board of Trustees (BOT) in July 2017. The City continued to negotiate with AEG and two days before the July trustees meeting, you met with me in an effort to persuade me to request this item be added back to the trustee agenda. I declined, indicating to you that when city actions closed the window on the July BOT meeting it could not be reopened without delaying approval of University projects that were next in line. While the city and AEG had reached agreement on financial terms benefiting the City, no further negations had occurred between AEG and the University. The City was unconcerned about the University’s interest and expected the University to make a special request to the CSU BOT to advance the City’s interests. Absent a financial benefit to the University, I was unwilling to make this request and instead you elected to attend the trustee meeting to make this request to the trustees directly during  public comment period. The trustees did not take action on this item since there was no benefit to the CSU or to CSUDH in doing so.

    In a letter to you dated August 17, 2017, I informed you increased seating capacity in the stadium could be included in the University’s master plan update and EIR process. This has occurred. Current action by the City challenging the University’s master plan update and EIR process as lead agency has the potential to jeopardize the timeline for approval of the University master plan, including the increase in seating capacity of the stadium. Should this occur, this will be the second time actions taken by you and City staff resulted in missed opportunities to secure additional revenue for the City.

    Let me conclude by saying I found the recent online article written by you in Random Lengths News and accompanying illustration, enclosed as Attachment A, more than a little troubling. The article uses provocative language to convey all of the above inaccurate assertions, along with several others, and defames CSUDH and the CSU. The illustration features an unclothed Black arm and hand representing CSUDH and a suited, White arm and hand representing the City of Carson. What message is this illustration intended to convey? I am not sure why such an illustration was even necessary. This was an illustration, which quite frankly, whether chosen by you or the newspaper, I found insensitive at best. Others may consider it racist.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Willie J. Hagan

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  • College President Engages in Politics of Distraction

    • 02/09/2018
    • Terelle Jerricks
    • Editorials
    • Comments are off

    Terelle Jerricks

    In the Jan. 11 edition of Random Lengths News we ran an op-ed by Carson Mayor Albert Robles regarding the development plans of California State University of Dominguez Hills and a re-calibration of the relationship between the university and the city of Carson. That same op-ed was also published on our website, but with an in-house illustration. Random Lengths News was surprised to learn that a graphic intended to illustrate the relationship between the city and the university overshadowed the worthy conversation about how to improve that relationship during the Jan. 23 council meeting.

    Through phone calls from concerned Carson stakeholders about a week after, Random Lengths News found that the image was interpreted as racist.  

    Soon after, Random Lengths News received an email from Cal State University Dominguez Hills President Willie Hagan, which featured an eight point rebuttal to the mayor’s Op-Ed, including a response to Robles’ assertions:

    That CSUDH and the CSU system ignored requests by the city to discuss the master plan update

    That the CSUDH initiated environmental review process required for the university master plan despite City objection

    That the CSUDH master plan includes a for-profit development that is not for exclusively educational purposes.

    At the end of his rebuttal, Haggan wrote:

    Let me conclude by saying I found the recent online article written by you in Random Lengths News and accompanying illustration, enclosed as Attachment A, more than a little troubling. The article uses provocative language to convey all of the above inaccurate assertions, along with several others, and defames CSUDH and the CSU. The illustration features an unclothed Black arm and hand representing CSUDH and a suited, White arm and hand representing the City of Carson. What message is this illustration intended to convey? I am not sure why such an illustration was even necessary. This was an illustration, which quite frankly, whether chosen by you or the newspaper, I found insensitive at best. Others may consider it racist.

    It was through the frank phone conversations with Carson constituents that Random Lengths News learned that copies of the op-ed posted on our website was printed in color and passed around during the council session and that constituents quizzed the mayor about the graphic and what role he played in choosing it. But it was Hagan’s letter that gave us a clue to how the conversation about recalibrating the relationship between the city of Carson and university got overshadowed by a false allegation of racism in the first place.

    This graphic was an unconsummated handshake superimposed over a rendering of the Stubhub Center in Carson The graphic featured two opposing hands poised to form a handshake. One hand was a cast iron statue representing the university as an institution, the other a flesh and blood represented the citizens of Carson.  The cast iron arm did not have the appearance of flesh nor did it have a sleeve from a shirt or suit jacket. The fingers on the hand didn’t even have cuticles or fingernails that were distinguishable from the arm and hand. There is even a line, likely a cut, made by the sculptor at the edge of the arm that should have been a clue that it wasn’t an arm of a person.

    There have been similar and legitimate controversies about racial imagery in the media such as the H&M ad campaign in which an African American child was featured wearing a shirt that read, “The coolest monkey in the jungle” and Dove ad campaign that ran months earlier, in which a black woman takes off a brown shirt to reveal a white woman as if to communicate the idea that white femininity is the most desirable standard of beauty. Dove has repeatedly denied that was the case but ad campaign rode on that legacy of racist imagery that goes back 200 years.

    The graphic ran by Random Lengths cannot credibly be tied to that legacy. Instead, what we see here is a cynical attempt by Hagan to distract Carson citizens with a false accusation of racism so that Carson residents don’t actively engage in a conversation about what the university owes Carson.

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  • Experience Love on a Brigantine

    • 02/09/2018
    • Terelle Jerricks
    • Cuisine
    • Comments are off

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    Witnessing a sunset with your significant other before a gourmet meal aboard a tall ship is not an everyday occurrence. The Los Angeles Maritime Institute will be offering that experience aboard the twin brigantines, the Exy and Irving Johnson.

    It’s part of its efforts to raise funds for the TopSail Youth program. The goal is to help at-risk and educationally-disadvantaged youth develop the problem-solving skills and attitudes difficult to teach in a classroom, yet necessary to stay in school and become healthy, productive adults.

    The Exy and Irving Johnson were designed by renowned German yacht designer Henry Gruberin the 1930s, but were not built until long after his death. Passengers who manage to snag a reservation will get to experience the twin brigantines rare elegance, nostalgic of an earlier era.  Passengers will get to board the Exy Johnson on Feb. 10 and the Irving Johnson on Feb. 11 for two sails around the harbor.

    The evening’s menu includes braised short ribs, baked potato and a side of broccoli. There’s also vegetarian option that substitutes the short ribs with vegetarian chili. Dinner will be topped off with a Prosecco sparkling wine toast and a special Valentine dessert.

    You may bring your own food and beverages on board (wine permitted), but pack light and be as environmentally friendly as possible.

    The tall ships are docked at Berth 78 in Ports O’ Call Village, next to the San Pedro Fish Market.  Take the walkway that runs along Candy Town at Ports O’ Call Village.  Wait outside our dock gate.

    It is recommended that you wear closed-toe, soft-soled shoes as well as layered clothing given that the wind tends to kick up on the water.

    Tickets are non-refundable and in the event you are unable to sail, your ticket will be considered a tax-deductible donation to the TopSail Youth Program.

    The Exy and Irving Johnson are non-smoking vessels.

    More Harbor Area Restaurants to Celebrate Love:

    Blu Restaurant and Lounge

    Upscale, yet casual, Blu Restaurant and Lounge at San Pedro’s Crowne Plaza Hotel is the spot for great food and live jazz.  Dress up, or not, a romantic moment is impossible to miss.
    Details: (310) 521-8080
    Venue: Crowne Plaza Los Angeles Harbor Hotel, 601 S. Palos Verdes St., San Pedro

    The Whale & Ale

    The Whale & Ale offers a choice of entrées from sautéed Alaskan sand dabs to prime rib and British specialties. Live entertainment is also part the experience at this venerated pub. Reservations a must.
    Details: (310) 832-0363
    Venue: Whale and Ale, 327 W. 7th St., San Pedro

    Jackson’s Place

    Jackson’s Place serves Southern classics and Louisiana favorites in a contemporary wine bar setting. For Valentine’s Day, Jackson’s Place is hosting a swing dance party with menu and drink specials, plus swing dance lessons. Before Valentine’s Day, Jackson’s Place is hosting a Mardi Gras party on Feb. 10.
    Details: (424) 477-5220
    Venue: Jackson’s Place, 335 W. 7th St., San Pedro

    Babouch Moroccan Restaurant

    Now under new ownership, dining at Babouch still creates an unforgettable romantic experience that transports you to Morocco for the evening. Belly dancing and tarot card readings complete the experience.
    Details: (310) 831-0246
    Venue: Babouch, 810 S. Gaffey St., San Pedro

    Baramee Thai Restaurant

    This quiet romantic gem of a restaurant in downtown San Pedro is cozy and intimate. It has great food at an affordable price. RSVP early. It’s a popular spot.
    Details: (310) 521-9400; www.barameethairestaurant.com
    Venue: Baramee Thai Restaurant, 354 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    Ports O’ Call Restaurant

    Dining on the waterfront at sunset is a special way to have a romantic four-course meal. Valentines specials will be served Feb. 14. There is a full bar and extensive wine list. Make reservations.
    Details: (310) 833-3553
    Venue: Ports O’ Call Restaurant, Berth 76 1200 Nagoya Way, San Pedro

    Think Prime

    Think Prime is the last great steakhouse in San Pedro. It’s the place to be — offering a traditional steakhouse menu — from every cut of beef you could want to seafood. Think Prime also has a piano bar.
    Details: (310) 221-0415
    Venue: Think Prime Steakhouse, 29601 Western Ave., Rancho Palos Verdes

    Terranea Resort

    Terranea offers many opportunities for intimate moments with your Valentine.
    Celebrate and reconnect with the romance package. Enjoy spacious, oceanfront guest rooms overlooking the Pacific Ocean for a romantic local getaway.
    This romantic vacation package includes:

    • Overnight accommodations
    • Sparkling wine and strawberries
    • Rose petal bath
    • Breakfast for two (up to a $60 value) at

    Details: www.terranea.com/packages/romance-package

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  • How to Make Love the Bonobo Way

    • 02/09/2018
    • Lyn Jensen
    • Culture
    • Comments are off

    By Lyn Jensen, Contributing Writer

    Couples should make love like apes — or more specifically, like bonobos. That’s what Los Angeles sex therapist Susan Block suggests in her latest book, The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace through Pleasure.

    Her thesis maintains that the way to improve human sexual relationships is to seek peace through pleasure, what she calls “the bonobo way.” She suggests we need to become more like sensitive bonobos and less like aggressive common chimps, our other close cousins in the tree of evolution.

    Think of The Bonobo Way as similar to the work of pioneering primatologist Jane Goodall but “after dark,” suggests Discovery TV producer Thomas Quinn, who is quoted on the book jacket.

    Block’s book is part scholarly evidence of ape behavior, sexual and otherwise and part sex manual. She discusses the physical and mental differences between bonobos and common chimps that began more than one million years ago, about the time humans were evolving, when the Congo River divided the great apes’ habitat. Today’s chimps were confined to the savannah, where food is scarce and there are many predators. Present-day bonobos were free to evolve in the rainforest, where life’s a peaceful endless salad bar.

    “Some primatologists place the bonobo IQ at the level of the average seven-year-old,” Block says. “But their EQ or EI (Emotional Intelligence) is much higher.”

    She discusses at length the considerable scientific evidence that bonobos show a higher degree of both sensitivity and intelligence than any of the other great apes, sometimes to a degree unexpected even in the average human.

    These sensitive and intelligent bonobos very often use sexual activity as a form of conflict resolution, in ways that might get humans arrested if we went ape and behaved similarly. Block describes a comparatively G-rated example:

    “Ouch! Time out! Let’s turn around and rub butts—quick before someone really gets hurt! …  Do you remember why we were so mad at each other before? Because I don’t! Now how about a kiss?”

    “Does this mean that when apes like us feel safe and have enough to eat, we’re not as apt to kill each other and more inclined to make love?” Block asks, rhetorically. “Yes.”

    When she turns to sex therapy, what she calls “The 12 Steps to Releasing Your Inner Bonobo,” her thesis rests on shakier ground. She delves into bisexuality, polyamory (emotionally non-monogamy) and group sex, all of which have long been fairly common in human sexual behavior, but don’t necessarily lead to peace through pleasure. At a time when non-consensual sexual activity is in the news cycle, and a world leader is bragging about the size of his nuclear button, Block’s book serves as a reminder of how far we humans have to evolve before we find peace through pleasure.

    Block’s 12-step “Bonobo Way” program is much more helpful on a very intimate, personal, individual level. Couples experiencing difficulty in the bedroom, or who’ve hit a rough crossroads in their relationship, may well find mutual peace and pleasure by going bonobo.

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  • POLA Blows Smoke on POC Redevelopment Process

    • 02/09/2018
    • Paul Rosenberg
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    The planned public presentation of the controversial Ports O’ Call redevelopment project has been postponed from January, as originally promised, to March 20.

    But on Jan. 25, the Port of Los Angeles devoted two hours of its board meeting to “clarify any confusion that may exist by members of the public” about the process, said Executive Director Gene Seroka, as he opened the discussion.

    That’s not what happened, from the community’s point of view. Rather, port staff presented — and the board echoed and embellished — a self-serving narrative that starkly illustrated the vast gulf between the port and the community.

    The port — first Seroka, then Michael Galvin, director of Waterfront and Commercial Real Estate — patiently explained how they’d done everything by the book: they’d never specifically promised anything to anyone. The public, which has been engaged in the development process more than a decade longer, responded by saying how upset they were at being blindsided, especially by the prospective closing of Ports O’ Call Restaurant.

    The port wanted to talk about its process, while the public wanted to talk about broken trust — the disconnect between that process and their lives.

    The port’s narrative jumped right over the most crucial part of the story: how the finalized lease agreement approved on May 19, 2016 differed dramatically from what the public expected based on years of previous promises. This was reiterated just 11 weeks earlier in a March 2 presentation at the Warner Grand Theatre, when the public was promised a phased development allowing minimal interruptions for existing tenants.

    “Current tenants who will remain in the project will be able to stay open throughout construction,” promised Alan Johnson, who was speaking for the developers that night. “We expect to complete this first phase by mid 2019. We are fortunate to have existing successful tenants who we are counting on to be the backbone of our pre-leasing activities.”

    June Smith, a long-time parliamentarian and then community co-chairwoman of the disbanded Port Community Advisory Committee, put her finger on crucial problem in a follow-up interview.

    “They’re not admitting that they changed the phases,” Smith said. “They’re not admitting that what they promised at the Warner Grand [on March 2, 2016] is not what they’re doing. The ports says, ‘Well because ‘we’ve given notice’ and this, that and the other thing, we can do this.’ No, because the community as a whole did not know that. You did not have another follow-up meeting at the Warner Grand to say, ‘You know, we have to change the phasing.’”

    Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council President Doug Epperhart has a similar sense from  his constituents.

    “The problem is you had this very big transparent meeting at which statements were made and then very quickly backed away from,” Epperhart said. “The backing away from the statements was not done in a transparent way.”

    This is the source of the port’s problems.

    “If you say something here, loudly and then you say something different over here, very quietly, then you’re going to pay a price,” Epperhart said.

    But it’s not just community representatives like Smith and Epperhart who are troubled about the disconnect.

    “Ports O’ Call Restaurant is one of the few places in San Pedro for us to come together,” County Supervisor Janice Hahn said in a statement read by staffer Erika Velazquez, calling for the restaurant to remain open. “Shuttering this restaurant for two years would mean cutting out part of the soul of San Pedro and cutting the ties and bonds that had been built there. You would lose the goodwill that you worked so hard to build up within the community for this project.”

    The common sense notion that public upset was prima facie evidence of a breakdown in process, as well as trust, never seemed to dawn on anyone from the port — either staff or commissioners. That’s perhaps the biggest problem of all. You can’t fix a problem you’re incapable of recognizing.

    The framework was first set by Seroka, then fleshed out in detail by Galvin.

    Seroka first referred to  “public comments … that the Harbor Department made past commitments … to maintain the Ports O’ Call Restaurant and shops … through the redevelopment process [and that] also alleged a lack of transparency, related to the redevelopment process in and of itself.”

    “These allegations are not consistent with the public record, which documents no such commitments, as well as a sustained public process about this development,” said Seroka, flatly.

    There’s a vast chasm between the port’s legalistic view of its past statements and what the overwhelming majority of the public understood of the port’s commitments.

    “The public record includes the statement by the developer in a highly attended meeting that Ports O’ Call Restaurant would be protected,” homeowner activist Kathleen Woodfield said. “Why has that statement, which is on tape been ignored in this legal presentation?”

    “It just is beyond me that a place that has been here so long and as such an important part of this community is going to be destroyed,” San Pedro resident Susan Tucker said. “When I have out-of-town guests, I always take them to Ports O’ Call Restaurant.”

    The Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council’s resolution calls, “ for the immediate halt of [all] Ports O’ Call tenant evictions due to the Port of Los Angeles failing to adequately disclose subsequent amendments to the 2009 approved Environmental Impact Report regarding Ports O’ Call redevelopment and keep[ing] the CeSPNC and the public informed. The POLA has also not revealed in advance how these amendments will fundamentally change the previous plans and commitments made publicly that will substantially alter the waterfront development”. They also called for the historic preservation of some buildings and the transfer of this matter to the board of referred powers of the LA City Council if the POLA doesn’t address these issues.

    “I felt disappointed and deceived,” said Shannon Ross, secretary of Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council, in her public comments. “I attended most of the redevelopment meetings. Just like most of the community members, I was led to believe that Ports O’ Call Restaurant would be included as an anchor tenant.”

    When she found out otherwise, she created a Facebook page and an online petition. She brought motions to her neighborhood council and her Democratic club.

    “Ports O’ Call Restaurant has sentimental value to many members going back [almost] 60 years,” she said. “More than that, Ports O’ Call Restaurant is an amazing community partner, allowing fundraisers at their restaurant, supporting some great organizations like Alex’s Lemonade Stand and … the Boys and Girls Club are just a couple of the organizations that they give their time, resources [and] their employees to support.”

    At a previous Harbor Commission meeting, on Dec. 14, Carrie Scoville, president of the San Pedro Democratic Club, called the restaurant “our mini-convention center here on the waterfront.”

    Ironically, one idea repeatedly advanced for redevelopment of the site was the addition of a mini-convention center — the de facto role the restaurant has already been playing for decades.

    “Ports O’ Call Restaurant is an iconic part of this community and is part of this community’s identity, which was yet another promise given to us in all presentations about the waterfront, which is that this community’s identity would be preserved,” Woodfield said.

    Indeed, one reason the Waterfront Alliance was so welcome as the development team was that both partners — Jericho Development and the Ratkovich Co. — were known for records of historical preservation. Jericho’s local projects include the Sixth Street Brown Brothers Building, where the majority of public waterfront planning meetings were hosted in 2003 and 2004, leading to the adoption of the original conceptual plan. Ratkovich has been involved in the renovation of eighteen nationally registered historic landmark buildings, including the Wiltern Theater.

    “Respecting history and having it be a part of our development is something that we attend to very carefully,” Wayne Ratkovitch told POLA’s board during the meeting.

    When the redevelopment planning process began, words like those were deeply reassuring to the community.

    Now, in effect, the port and the developers are asking the community: Who do you believe — me or your lying eyes?

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