The City of Los Angeles and the Harbor Department have for a number of years been working to redevelop the waterfront and bring back commercial, recreational and public-use activity. However, the City Charter currently imposes a 50-year regulatory restriction on franchises, permits and leases. According to a study by the LA Economic Development Corporation, the ability to exceed this restriction would increase the likelihood of private investment in the area.
The 50-year restriction originally was to conform with state law for tidelands. As such, Senator Isadore Hall introduced a bill last year, SB 399 to authorize the City to grant franchises and permits on tidelands and submerged lands for specified purposes for a term of up to 66 years. That bill was unanimously approved by both houses in Sacramento and signed by Governor Brown.
Measure P would update the Charter to reflect this new 66-year lease term accorded by state law. It would also make Los Angeles consistent with other major ports up the coast.
San Pedro and other communities near the Port of Los Angeles have longed for a more vibrant waterfront with restaurants, shops and parks that draw tourists and create an amenity for locals. Measure P if approved would change the city charter to make it easier to attract developers to help make that dream a reality.
After decades of discussion, the city last year approved a $150-million proposal by Ratkovitch Co. and Jerico Development to transform the 30-acre waterfront,” Los Angeles Times reported.
The developers aim to convert Ports O’ Call Village, a kitschy collection of shops, fish stalls and restaurants, into the San Pedro Public Market, a modern complex in the style of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. The project will be bigger, more modern and more open — with more glass-and-steel construction and fewer faux-Spanish and faux-New England structures. It will still include shops, restaurants and fresh markets, but will also include offices, a Ferris wheel, a carousel and a discovery sea park.
The Port of Los Angeles will spend at least $50 million reconfiguring roads, building a new stretch of promenade and a town square, and making other infrastructure upgrades around the public market. The rest of the project will be privately financed. But the developers behind the project and city officials say the city charter, which limits leases of port property to 50 years, has discouraged private investment and could ultimately hurt the long-term success of the waterfront redevelopment.
Developers typically own the property under their buildings and the land can be used as collateral for the loans needed to build the project. The harbor and waterfront, however, are public lands that can be rented but not sold. Port officials say the charter limit on 50-year leases is too short for developers to get financing and therefore makes it hard to attract the kind of private investment needed. And, when a lease is capped at 50 years, there is little incentive for the property owner to reinvest and maintain the property after 20 or 30 years, so the development falls into disrepair.
Measure P would not mean the port would automatically approve a slate of 66-year leases. Rather, the measure gives the port the flexibility to approve longer leases. There would still be a public vetting process of the individual leases, and there should be scrutiny to ensure that any lengthy contracts include safeguards to protect public lands.
Any fiscal impact in costs and revenue to the Harbor Department and City cannot be determined until future agreements subject to this amendment are proposed by the Harbor Deparment and reviewed as part of a public approval process. The measure potentially impacts the Harbor Revenue Fund, which consists of all moneys recieved or collected or arising out of the operation of the city’s harbor. There is no anticipated impact to the city’s general fund.
-Yes on P proposes a technical change that would substantially increase the maximum term that the Port of Los Angeles may lease or grant its tidelands and submerged lands for specified purposes.
-No on P would leave term limits the same at 50 years.
Supporters, including the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, believe Measure P will generate additional tourism and visitor opportunities at the LA waterfront, promote transit use and create jobs.
Election results will be displayed at ballotpedia.org after 8:30 p.m. local time on March 7, 2017.