Keeping land for cargo
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Port of L.A. protects property from encroachment by non-maritime uses.
By Eric Kulisch
The Port of Los Angeles is in the process of formulating a development plan for interior sections of Terminal Island to protect it from encroachment by non-maritime uses that don’t depend on water transportation.
In the past five years the port has created land-use plans for the San Pedro and Wilmington sections of its property. Terminal Island, which houses four of the port’s busiest container terminals, lacks its own plan.
“My goal is to ensure that all the land that is not committed is dedicated for cargo operations,” Executive Director Geraldine Knatz said in an interview with American Shipper’s news team.
The port held the last of four working group meetings in late October to refine the draft land-use plans for the property.
The seaport has provided about 500 acres for community uses in the San Pedro District during the past decade and plans to build some public access to the waterfront on open space in Wilmington. Knatz acknowledged the importance of allowing surrounding neighborhoods to get some of the benefits of port expansion, but said the remainder of the land now has to be locked up for potential expansion projects on Terminal Island.
Old canneries, steam plants, shipyards and vacant parcels are scattered about the land, which is not being put to its most efficient use, the port chief said.
The port still has docks where the fishing fleet, much smaller now than in its heyday before the demise of the tuna population, will come to drop its catch and have it flash-frozen.
By moving non-water dependent businesses off the Island and “consolidating some of the activities that we have, like the fish processing industry, we can make some more land available for cargo handling” and on-dock rail, she said.
The port contributed to the problem years ago by allowing industrial users that don’t require water access to take over leases at below-market rates to gain some revenue on land that had been abandoned and was vacant. Food producer Del Monte, for example, operates a canning operation on Terminal Island and could be relocated to the Wilmington Industrial Park, Knatz said.
Getting companies that have bargain rents to leave is difficult because they built their budgets around low overhead, she said.
It could take 10 years to free up the backlands, including two years to get the plan through the California Coastal Commission, she estimated. The timetable depends a lot on the fishing industry because a handful of the remaining processors have made significant investments in their facilities and are protected from having their land taken away against their will.