SAN PEDRO — The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners voted Wednesday to begin negotiations with a Hollywood developer for a $54.7-million hotel and retail center at the new World Cruise Center near the Vincent Thomas Bridge.
By a 3-2 vote, the board ended three months of indecision on the issue by selecting H.C.T. Inc. over San Pedro-based Podesta-Moller & Associates.
The Podesta-Moller proposal called for a $27.5-million ship-shaped development with a 240-room hotel and 5,000 square feet of retail space.
The H.C.T. proposal calls for a 140,000-square-foot retail development, a 200-room hotel, a multi-screen cinema, office space, a 10,000 square-foot museum on the port's history and an eight-story parking garage.
Campaign by Local Businesses
The Harbor Department staff had recommended the H.C.T. proposal in September, but the commission put off its decision after local business leaders complained that the larger retail center would siphon customers from downtown San Pedro and the Ports o' Call seaside shopping village.
A commission subcommittee held a public hearing in October, and last month recommended that the board open negotiations with H.C.T. despite continuing opposition from the business community.
At Wednesday's meeting, commissioners Joseph Zaninovich and Robert G. Rados, both from San Pedro, voted against the subcommittee recommendation, while board President Jun Mori and Commissioners E. Grace Payne and Michael W. Schwab, all of whom live outside San Pedro, voted to negotiate with H.C.T.
"This recommendation is contrary to the best interests of the citizens of the harbor area," said Zaninovich, who was the only commissioner to elaborate on his vote at the meeting. "This will be detrimental to the future development (of the harbor's West Channel) and downtown San Pedro."
In a report to the board, subcommittee members Payne and Schwab concluded that proposed stores at the International Market, as the H.C.T. retail development would be called, would not compete with those in downtown San Pedro or Ports o' Call.
The two commissioners recommended that H.C.T be required to provide shops and restaurants that complement existing commercial developments, and that the company "help promote and advertise" businesses in the downtown and Ports o' Call.
Schwab and Payne also recommended that the Harbor Department require H.C.T. to help finance and promote a shuttle system linking Ports o' Call, the World Cruise Center and downtown San Pedro. The board included the subcommittee's recommendations in its authorization for negotiations with H.C.T.
Representatives from Podesta-Moller did not speak at Wednesday's meeting, but Steve Podesta and Bill Moller, who own the company, have said that they intentionally limited the retail space in their proposal to protect San Pedro merchants.
Several businesses, including the Ports o' Call Merchants Assn., endorsed the Podesta-Moller proposal.
LeRon Gubler, executive director of the San Pedro-Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday that the chamber supports developing the World Cruise Center site, but that the group is concerned that the H.C.T. proposal "won't interrelate with the rest of the community."
Gubler said recommendations that the company be required to help promote other areas of San Pedro and assist in a shuttle service might not be enough.
"Our desire is to use the cruise center as a means to help upgrade and infuse more dollars into the community," he said. "If this project ends up keeping everybody at the cruise center, then it has not benefited the community very much."
Good Neighbor Policy
Cyril Chern, vice president of H.C.T., said Wednesday that the company is committed to being a good neighbor to businesses already in San Pedro.
Chern announced at the board meeting that the company will create a citizens advisory committee to help H.C.T integrate its development into the community and to improve relations between the company and local merchants.
Chern said the company hopes to break ground on the development by the end of 1987.
In the meantime, H.C.T. and the Harbor Department must negotiate a development agreement, which will have to be approved by the Board of Harbor Commissioners, the Los Angeles City Council and Mayor Tom Bradley.