Port Opens Bids for State Lands Property
By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor
Responding to a wave of community outrage the Port of Los Angeles recently extended its request for proposals from entities to lease a land at 3000 Shoshonean Road land, near Fort MacArthur.
The Neighborhood Council Port Affairs Committee asked that the proposal be sent immediately to the appropriate people on the on the port committees of each of the Harbor Area’s neighborhood councils.
The Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council and the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council made motion resolutions calling on the port to open the pre-proposal meeting to the public, asking for a community representative on the evaluation committee who would be selected by the neighborhood councils via the Neighborhood Councils Port Advisory Committee and calling on Councilman Joe Buscaino and the Harbor Commissioner to assist the neighborhood councils in securing port cooperation with a community initiative to make the land more accessible to the public by making it an open facility.
The RFP for the site was originally due Nov. 20, but calls from stakeholders to include community input have resulted in the extension of the deadline by at least 30 days. The port opened the bidding process on Oct. 7.
The San Pedro beachfront property, which caters to youth, now is up for grabs.
“Many in the community have asked the Port of LA for a couple of years to be sure to include the community input for this RFP,” wrote Laurie Jacobs, a community member and a longtime Girl Scout leader who helped organize a meeting Oct. 28 at Peck Park. “We feel we did not get that opportunity.”
In 1946, the Los Angeles Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America — a private entity — started providing training for youth at the site under a lease with Fort MacArthur.
In 1982, then-Mayor Tom Bradley, city, port, civic and business leaders entered into a 30-year lease with the Los Angeles Area council to construct, operate and manage the non-exclusive youth camp. With more than $3.6 million the area council constructed the Cabrillo Beach Youth Center, which was dedicated in 1987, and financed in part by filmmaker Steven Spielberg and several foundations.
The facility has an Olympic-size swimming pool, campgrounds, a boat house and a 25,000-square-foot Spielberg Center, which houses meeting room and an amphitheater.
The lease allowed for the constructions that the area council built to continue being the property of the Boy Scouts of America. In other words, at the end of the lease, the Boy Scouts of America has the option to sell its improvements to the new operator or demolish it.
The land is public and has been entrusted to the Port of Los Angeles.
The 12.3-acre property has been under the care of the Los Angeles Area Council of the Boys Scouts of America since 1946. The request for proposals may change that. The Los Angeles Area Council’s 30-year lease contract with the Port of Los Angeles and the City of Los Angeles ended in 2013 and it has been on a month-to-month lease basis since.
Who takes control of the operation and maintenance, and who has access to the public land is a matter of contention. Community members would like the land to be available to everyone.
“This is public property and it should be a public acquisition … equivalent to a public pool or park,” said Bob Gelfand, a community activist. “Our position is extremely clear.”
Gelfand believes the port and city elected officials should have been meeting with the local neighborhood councils to work out an agreement for the future of the property.
The RFP does mention public access but it does not delineate the level of public access.
The Boy Scouts of America gets to pick and choose the groups to whom it rents its facility. According to a fact sheet the Boy Scouts distributed a recent Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council meeting, the youth center served more than 23,000 campers and visitors through a variety of youth campouts, training and activities in the fiscal year 2013-14. Participating groups included schools, churches, the YMCA and other entities.
It isn’t that it’s bad that the Boy Scouts of America maintains the property, but it could be better, said Doug Epperhart, a former board member with the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council and community activist. Most people within the area have not been there or used the facility. The outreach simply isn’t there.
“They decide who uses it and who doesn’t. They cater to groups that are not necessarily close to the community, particularly the camping.”
But, the community concerns are not about criticizing the Boy Scouts, as much as it is about opening the land up for a much broader use.
“When you put public land in the hands of a particular organization with a particular point of view (there is a risk of excluding particular groups or individuals)” Epperhart said. “If it is a public facility run by a public agency, you don’t have to ask the question. There is a difference.”
Yet, what entity would lease the land determines who foots the bill for maintenance and operation of the land.
“There is significant cost with maintaining and operating the facility,” said Phillip Sanfield, a spokesman for the port. “The port is not looking to maintain a park. We are looking for an operator to come in and maintain it.”
In a column at CityWatchLA Gelfand wrote that he believed that the port should not have put out an RFP at all.
“There should be a public process regarding what to do with the property, and at the end of that process, perhaps we will see the Port sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Recreation and Parks over administration of the site,” he wrote. “It is possible that some local group could piggyback on that agreement as the operating partner.”
Epperhart believes that money is the least of the matter. It is a matter of political will.
“If people get behind and idea, the money miraculously follows,” he said, mentioning how there is money for council vehicles, and therefore, there should be money for the benefit of the community.
District 15 Councilman Joe Buscaino is weighing out the extension of the request for proposals process. Branamir Kvartuc, a spokesman for Buscaino, said the councilman understands that the community would like Recreation and Parks to take over the property.
“However, Rec and Parks do not have the necessary funding to take over the property,” Kvartuc said. “He is siding with the community, but as it stands Recs and Parks don’t have the necessary funding. So, it looks Recs and Parks is not going to happen.
But Epperhart doesn’t see it that way.
“Apparently the councilman does not see it as his job to make something happen that is good for his constituents,” he said. “No matter what you ask from politicians, the answer, at least initially, is always, ‘no.’”
Throughout the entire waterfront development process, the issue of returning this land to public ownership and use has come up repeatedly, with overwhelming public support. Now that the entire area is being re-purposed to be public-serving, leaving this parcel in private hands simply made no sense to anyone. The port has repeatedly said in response that there was nothing that could be done until the lease expired. Community members have indicated that they are not willing to just have the property handed over to the Boy Scouts once again without including stakeholders’ input. This is not just a thing that one or two activists are upset about. It came up in numerous different meetings that have taken place in the past decade or so.
Sanfield said that the port is handling the RFP for the site as it has done with its marinas, without precluding the entities such as the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks and proactively outreaching to other nonprofits.
“Anyone can come in and make a proposal,”Sanfield said. “Now, we’re exploring our options. The RFP is consistent with our land and leasing policies.”
The RFP can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/POLABSARFP