SAN PEDRO — The operator of Ports o' Call Village has won approval to dismantle the 365-foot high Skytower, but only after agreeing to replace it with another attraction.
Los Angeles Harbor Commissioners, at a special meeting Thursday, unanimously agreed to issue Specialty Restaurants a permit to remove the tower after the firm promised to submit proposals to replace it.
Village merchants had appealed to the commission in January to repair the Skytower, which once afforded patrons a panoramic view of the harbor but which has not been used for three years, or replace it with another tourist attraction.
According to the agreement signed Thursday, Specialty must submit a list of proposals for developing the Skytower site within 60 days. Once commissioners approve a development, the company will have 30 days to apply for a construction permit and must begin work within 90 days after a permit is issued.
The agreement also states that the site should be developed and maintained in a manner that would enhance business at the village, and that Specialty should seek comments from Ports o' Call tenants before deciding what to build.
No Legal Power
Harbor Commissioner Fred Heim, who helped draft the agreement, said before Thursday's vote that the board was advised that it could not legally prevent Specialty Restaurants from tearing down the tower. The company operates the village under a long-term lease with the port.
"We have been advised by the city attorney that this is all we can do," Heim said.
Chuck Milner, vice president of the Ports o' Call Merchants Assn., said merchants had anticipated that the commission would allow the company to tear down the tower. Despite the deadlines imposed on the company for future development of the site, merchants are uncertain whether they will benefit, he said.
"A lot of it depends on just what (Specialty President David Tallichet) plans to build," Milner said. "We're talking blue sky at this point because we have no idea what he has in mind."
No Decision Yet
William Sleeper, Specialty vice president, said Thursday that the company had not decided what it would build on the property. He said he believes dismantling the tower is in "the best interests of the village."
Sleeper said he could not comment specifically on the agreement reached Thursday. Tallichet, who signed the agreement, was out of town on business and could not be reached for comment.
Specialty Restaurants' announcement in January that it had sold the Skytower to Bob-Lo Island, a Detroit-area amusement park, touched off protests from the 84-member merchants association, which complained that Specialty had not informed them of the sale.
The company's decision to sell the tower also rekindled a long-standing battle between Specialty and the merchants, who say they have been plagued for years by problems such as leaky roofs, termites, rotting wooden walkways, poor outdoor lighting and landscaping.
Specialty has said it believes the village is being properly maintained.
Port officials completed an investigation of the tenant complaints in November but have declined to release their findings. Commissioners, who have pledged to review the complaints, have yet to take any formal action.
"I basically feel, and I've made no secret about it, that the merchants need the help of Mr. Tallichet in improving the ambiance of the village so they can prosper," Heim said. "And I think Mr. Tallichet is not doing enough in that respect."