Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Key City Councilmember Supports Los Angeles Port Shipyard Re-Use Plan

The more than year-long effort by a Long Beach-based firm to redevelop an abandoned Port of Los Angeles shipyard into a modern ship repair facility has received the vocal support of at least one Los Angeles City Hall official--Councilmember Janice Hahn.

Though many industry insiders and port officials scoff at the plan, Hahn wrote an op-ed piece for the port-area Torrance Daily Breeze newspaper last week in which she supported the Gambol Industries proposal to invest $50 million in redeveloping the former Southwest Marine shipyard, located along the port's main channel.

Hahn, daughter of famous City Councilmember Kenneth Hahn and brother of former Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn, represents the port area. She also chairs the City Council's Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee, which oversees the Port of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles International Airport and the city's Convention & Visitors Bureau. The Los Angeles port, like the neighboring Port of Long Beach, is owned by the state but operated and managed in trust by a semi-autonomous city department.

According to Hahn, her support of the Gambol ship facility plan comes down to its promise to create jobs.

"Gambol wants to invest $50 million private dollars to bring a green, union [staffed], state-of-the art shipyard at the vacant Southwest Marine site, which could generate thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue. This is a difficult prospect for any of us to pass up. And to be clear, it will not cost any taxpayer or public dollars," she wrote.

Gambol commissioned The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. (LAEDC), a local economic think-tank, to study their proposal. LAEDC found that the Gambol facility would be "a welcome addition to a city that has struggled to create employment opportunities for its growing population."

The LAEDC estimated that "When the [Gambol] shipyard reaches full capacity, it [could] generate total annual economic activity of over $219 million and sustain 2,040 full-time jobs in Los Angeles County with [payroll] earnings of $79 million."

Hahn also wrote in her editorial that preserving the historical use of the shuttered shipyard was an important goal, both economically and environmentally. She pointed out that "of the top 25 ports in the world, Los Angeles and Long Beach are the only ones without a major ship building and repair facility. Large ships have to travel to San Diego or Seattle for maintenance and major repairs, which generates additional diesel pollution, and sends the jobs there, instead of keeping them here in Los Angeles."

Hahn urged the Los Angeles port commissioners to support the Gambol plan.

On Monday, the port commission spent more than four hours debating the Gambol plan, deciding at the end to postpone further discussion until Aug. 19.

The port wants to fill areas around the shuttered Southwest Marine facility with sediments from an impending $96 million Army Corps of Engineers project to dredge the port's main channel. Port officials have cited possible delays to the dredging project--which could impact the ongoing redevelopment of two marine terminals--and the lack of a viable business plan from Gambol as reasons for not moving forward with the shipyard re-use plan.

For its part, Gambol claims to have come up with a way to provide enough of the shuttered facility for the dredging sediment while still retaining enough waterfront area to operate the facility as a shipyard.