Budget Cuts, Priorities

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By June Burlingame Smith

Dear Joe [Buscaino]:

 What I didn’t say the other day, and should have, is that I was a Dodger fan when they were the Brooklyn Dodgers. We lived in Northern Jersey during World War II and I glued myself to the radio to listen to games. I loved those “bums.”

 But I’m writing on a more serious note, so please bear with me.

 We see, as a nation, that when we are all suffering together we turn to the arts for solace, expression and sanity. They offer us the creativity, emotional touch and release we seem to require to be stable human beings. So the arts are much more than just something “nice” in our lives; they are vital to our life and culture. Local businesses heavily depend on their health and vibrancy.

 As you well know, San Pedro is a mecca for all of the arts; look at what ballet and the success of Misty Copeland has done for us nationally. We are also the headquarters for the Watercolor Society and maintain the national reputation of our museums and aquarium. Without this creative and stimulating community, San Pedro would suffer financially and it would lose one of the mainsprings for tourism: nightlife and cultural attractiveness. To that end, I have a huge concern about upcoming budget cuts and what they will inevitably do to not only the arts communities individually but also to the collective economic and cultural life of San Pedro.

 Along with that loss, we are also changing the very “face” of San Pedro by new building and planning design. As we move into the mid 21st century, we have already seen the destruction of many of the older business buildings from the 19th and 20th century. As we tear out the old, we have to have a vision for the future that seeks to maintain one of the most important attractions to our town: families and family heritage.

Each new building changes the character of the town’s presentation; each new apartment house changes family structure; each new business builds a new economic engine. Too much elimination of  what makes San Pedro an essential current draw for the movie industry, for instance, will deprive that industry of one of its favorite sites and an income loss for us. We will always have the beach and the parks, at least I hope so, and we can probably depend on that continuing to draw movie revenues, but the rest of the town’s draw will diminish and eventually disappear forever.

 The proposed building along Pacific Avenue up to 22nd Street will further change the nature of San Pedro drastically; the whole west side of Pacific will be open to 45-foot buildings with inadequate parking for residents who occupy the buildings, diminished if not eliminated frontal local businesses and no parking for clients. Further, the proposed development and the  inevitable build-out that will follow, will narrow and constrict a major emergency roadway, one of only two, that must be available for tsunami evacuation or earthquake access to Fort [MacArthur] housing and the Point. No additional park or open space will be provided for the many thousands of new residents, nor for the “old residents” either, and the effect will be container architecture boring, a parking nightmare and loss of any old San Pedro charm.

Destroying the old character completely will not make the community more family- friendly, nor enticing, nor will it attract new businesses because it isn’t providing the space, the transportation, the open space, or parking required for successful business and cheerful living.

 So, Joe, I am very concerned.  How can I be a voice in the community to help you shore up and keep what is most valuable in our labor, immigrant and arts rich town?