Four years ago, the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners paid $4.3 million for a prime piece of land across the street from its San Pedro headquarters. The idea, commissioners said at the time, was to prevent any high-rise development from blocking the view between the five-story building and the harbor.
On Wednesday, commissioners gave preliminary approval to a developer's proposal that calls for construction of one of the tallest buildings in San Pedro on the 2.7 acres--without even mentioning the 12-story office tower's impact on the vista.
But Harbor Department officials and the architect of the proposed $29.8-million project said the commissioners have not sacrificed their panoramic view of the port's main channel. Indeed, the architect said, preserving views is a "major consideration" in designing the project.
"We want to have a structure that minimizes the view impact, but also one that will be a landmark for the area," said Mark W. Hall, an architect with Archiplan Urban Design Collaborative of Los Angeles.
"The bulk of the land will only have one or two stories. They were concerned with direct views, particularly of the World Cruise Center to the north and the (maritime) museum to the south."
Across From Garage
Hall said preliminary drawings of the project protect views by placing the 12-story tower almost directly across the street from the port's parking garage, not the administration building itself, and by placing low-rise buildings in front of the administration building.
Architects are also looking into ways to "crop the corners" of the tower to minimize the obstruction, he said. Some Harbor Department offices could also be relocated from the administrative building to the 12-story tower, he said. The two buildings will be connected by a second-floor walkway. Harbor officials confirmed that they are interested in leasing space in the new tower.
The developer chosen for the project Wednesday, HCT Inc. of Hollywood, has not said whether it had any tenants for the 187,500-square-foot project.
Phil Tondreault, of the port's property management department, said port officials have worked with Hall to ensure that views are protected, but he said officials are more interested in preserving the view of the Harbor Department building from the harbor than they are in protecting the reverse.
"This is our main headquarters, and we wanted to ensure that our building was seen from the main channel," he said.
Proviso in Announcement
Last March, when the board sought development proposals for the site, it inserted a paragraph in its request for proposals that required the view between the port's headquarters and the main channel not be blocked. The provision was inserted after concerns about obstructed views were raised by commissioners Fred Heim and Joseph Zaninovich, both of whom have since left the board.
Having a harbor view "is important from a marketing point of view," Zaninovich said at the time. "The view is something we can't buy, and if we can preserve it, we should. If you remove the view, we might as well be on Wilshire Boulevard."
Commissioner Jun Mori, now president of the board, objected to the paragraph, saying the port should not mandate that the view be protected.
The commissioners then softened the paragraph to read: "The Harbor Department will also consider favorably if the view or physical presence of the administration building from the main channel not be screened" by the project.
In an interview, Commissioner Robert Rados, who was appointed to the board last summer, said the view--from the main channel or the headquarters--"never was an issue" when the board reviewed development proposals for the site.
"It was never discussed," Rados said. "We are concerned more with what they will be building there."
The board vote authorizing its staff to negotiate with HCT was unanimous. The port also is negotiating with HCT for a $54.7-million hotel and retail development at the World Cruise Center.
In selecting HCT for the office development, the board rejected two other proposals, one from Steve G. Podesta, a San Pedro developer who proposed a $26.5-million, 10-story office building that would have been constructed for the Pacific Texas Pipeline Co. of Long Beach. The board also rejected a $11.9-million, seven-story proposal from Property Ventures of Irvine.
The Harbor Department has been under pressure from the city's Community Redevelopment Agency to develop the site, most of which was purchased from the agency in 1983. Gerald Grimaldi, manager of the Beacon Street Redevelopment Project, said the department has been in default of its purchase agreement with the city, which required development of an office building on the land, since December.
Grimaldi said, however, that the agency will probably not issue a notice of default since the board has selected a developer.