By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor
SAN PEDRO — Nearly 10 years after it was first proposed, Community leaders joined iStar Financial, May 8, to broke ground on Ponte Vista housing development.
On March 4, the Los Angeles City Council approved the project at 26900 S. Western Ave. in San Pedro.
The previously Navy occupied 61.5 acres of land on which Ponte Vista sits was turned over for civilian use, which included giving 19.58 acres of the property to homeless advocacy group, Volunteers of America. In 1999, Los Angeles and its Planning Commission approved a plan to redevelop the land as a mixed-use project.
In 2005, Robert Bisno, of Bisno Development Co., purchased the remaining 41.95 acres of the land in auction for $88 million, and bought Volunteers of America’s 19.58 acres for $37 million. The proceeds were given to Harbor Interfaith in order to build on the new site.
In the mid-2000s, Bisno proposed a high-density, mixed-use development of more than 2,300 dwellings with on-site retail. In an uproar, the community organized against the Bisno project and the rezoning of the property from single-family homes to multi-unit homes, giving birth to the We R-1 movement in San Pedro.
In 2009, the Los Angeles Planning Commission rejected the plan. iStar Financial took control of Ponte Vista in 2010.
“We have worked on this project for four years; I personally have worked on this project for four years,” iStar Financial Executive Vice President Steve Magee said. “We’ve seen it come from a very contentious, negative design and zoning case to something that now I think the whole community starting to embrace. So to us the significance is that this is the culmination a lot of hard work by a lot of people.”
Though some concerns about the project linger, community members seem to be more open about the project.
“The Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council worked with iStar but we were against the volume of homes, even where they are at 700,” said Laurie Jacobs, vice president of the NWSPNC. “We still have concerns about the traffic, environmental issues as they are tearing things down, what it’s going to do to the neighborhood. There is quite a few issues. So, at this point we are very glad we got it from the 2,035 down to 700 but we still do have concerns. But, we are going to embrace. We are going to support it. We just want to follow it closely, make sure that they’re covering all environmental issues, that it’s not affecting the neighbors. And, we would have liked to see a little more green space, a little more park space for the community.”
Jacobs vowed that her group will continue to keep everyone informed in community and maintain communications with the developer and the District 15 council office.
Ponte Vista will encompass 676 residences, of which, 208 will be single-family homes, 140 will be townhomes, 140 will be single and multi-level condominiums and 188 will be stacked condominium flats. Floor plans vary from studio flats, two- and three-bedroom condominiums, to four-bedroom single-family homes of more than 2,800 square feet.
The development will have a 2.4-acre park along Western Avenue at the south end of the development with an additional 7 acres of open space that will include, hiking and bicycle trails and pocket parks, as well as more than 3,000 trees. The plan includes 208 single-family homes, townhomes and condominiums.
The project will feature drought-tolerant landscaping, upgrades to Western Avenue and a package of traffic improvements at 16 intersections. The developer also will build a road to Mary Star of the Sea High School.
In 1962, the Navy built dwellings — most of them were stucco duplexes — on the site to house personnel and their families stationed at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. The homes had indoor and outdoor space with hill sides. The Base Realignment and Closure Commission ordered the station’s closure in 1991 as part of a plan to scale back the nation’s military.
The site was closed in 1997. The area became an eyesore on Western Avenue since.
“This site, more than 20 years ago, was a home to a lot of military personnel with kids, who could kick the ball around safely in the streets, play catch, enjoy kind of the sort of safety in the area, in an island almost in San Pedro,” Magee said. “The site is going to return to that. It’s going to be a family-oriented community, similar single-family homes; there will be a lot children who can live here as a result. It kind of helps return this area to what it once was.”
All existing structures, including roads, will be removed from the site. Workers are uprooting trees and prepping boarded-up homes for the demolition. The company is hoping to begin sales on the homes by some in 2015. The cost of the homes may range from $400,000 to $1 million, depending on the dwelling, the development costs and the housing market.
The project also includes a labor agreement with the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building & Construction Trades Council and a local hire program facilitated through the city’s work source center and PVJOBS.
District 15 Councilman Joe Buscaino demolished the first home, numbered 27479, as a symbolic gesture for the groundbreaking.
“It’s about time,” Buscaino said. “What a great portfolio that you have before us. To put people in homes and to ultimately strive for that American dream of being a homeowner, it’s going to happen here at Ponte Vista.”