Along the Waterfront – Past, Present, and Future

09/18/2019 4:14 PM | Cinnamon Thompson (Administrator)

September’s breakfast panel event hosted by SCDF was on the topic of an iconic natural feature of Southern California, our beloved waterfront. The conversation was thought provoking as it involved development industry leaders, each with unique waterfront development projects currently underway. SCDF President, Ann McLennan kicked off the discussion by introducing moderator David Waite, partner at Cox Castle Nicholson, LLP. As a land use and environmental lawyer with over 25 years of experience, Waite was able to seamlessly navigate the conversation with his knowledge of legislation such as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and his role as former president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Urban Land Institute.

“The Coast is Never Saved, it’s Always Being Saved”

In an environmentally-conscious state like California, one important distinction of this panel, is the fact that all panelists see themselves as stewards. Members of the development community are often face stringent environmental regulations as they further the progress, or even at the inception of their projects. Members of this panel are noted for balancing perseveration and responsible development with exceptional coastal access that is rich and unique for all Californians to enjoy. The precious coastline in California is publicly accessible to all citizens, with no private ownership under current law. Waite led the conversation by introducing the three panelists: Jenny Krusoe, founding executive director of AltaSea; Ryan Altoon, executive vice president of AndersonPacific, LLC; and Yehudi “Gaf” Gaffen, CEO of Protea Waterfront Development.

AltaSea at The Port of Los Angeles

Jenny Krusoe introduced the audience to her latest development project, a 35-acre property at the Port of Los Angeles. Here, AltaSea is creating an urban, ocean-based campus where innovators from multiple fields can collaborate on furthering AltaSea’s mission – which Krusoe simply stated is people. By “people,” Kruose went on to elaborate that AltaSea’s goal is the acceleration of marine-related scientific research and job creation in the blue economy for the next generations. The blue economy is a term used to describe the economic activity that falls under the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth while maintaining or improving the overall health of oceanic ecosystems. In the bigger picture, AltaSea is focused on the creation of solutions to the planet’s most pressing challenges such as food security, ocean exploration, and energy.

Currently, AltaSea has a 50-year agreement with the Port to develop and operate their campus on the man-made peninsula that was formerly utilized for Panama Canal cargo in 1914. The development is also the site of a World War I-era submarine base, and is located in a historic neighborhood. The future Phase 2 of project, is to further the identity of the campus as a center of innovation. This will largely be driven by the Southern California Marine Institute, which will host 23 university organizations for research and the discovery of solutions to environmental problems.  

Shoreline Gateway in Long Beach, California

Ryan Altoon, executive vice president of AndersonPacific, LLC introduced one of his latest projects, which is located in the booming city of Long Beach. The coastal city of approximately half a million residents has experienced a resurgence in recent years. As of 2018, there was more than $5 billion in both public and private development, the full figures from 2019 are expected to be comparable, or even higher. The project, is part of the Shoreline Gateway Master Plan and is a 35-story, 315 unit high-rise residential tower which will ultimately serve as the eastern gateway into Downtown Long Beach. Altoon noted that the tower’s strategic location, on the inland side of Ocean Boulevard, made for an easier approval process when dealing with the California Coastal Commission, one of the state’s most powerful regulatory groups.

The residential towers will provide unobstructed views of the ocean, as well as the city. Ground floor retail will be accompanied by a lobby with community-focused amenities, in an effort to design for both residents and non-residents alike. The development will also incorporate a public space with the addition of a new 25,000 square foot urban plaza positioned between the two towers. This space will incorporate a 1% Arts component by artist team McCarren/Fine. Shoreline Gateway is on track to be the first LEED-ND project in the City of Long Beach.

SeaPort San Diego

A great example of waterfront development is seen in our neighbor to the south, San Diego. Our panelist, Yehudi “Gaf” Gaffen, CEO of Protea Waterfront Development is originally from Cape Town, South Africa, and has worked specifically in waterfront development for the majority of his career. In his latest project, which is scheduled to break ground in 2024, public spaces, nature, and ecology will all be combined into one venue to serve as an iconic landmark for the San Diego waterfront. When complete, over 70% of SeaPort San Diego will be composed of parks, urban open space, promenades, pedestrian walkways and other public spaces for people to gather.

The design also features a tower, reminiscent of the Space Needle in Seattle. This iconic tower will feature multiple layers of retail, lodging, dining as well as SeaPort San Diego’s lifelong learning center. This center will house educational workshops focused on marine sciences, maritime logistics, as well as music. Both University of California, San Diego and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have contributed to the development of plans for the learning center.

A Common Theme

While all projects are unique in their own regard, they all have one thing in common – public access. In keeping with the tradition of California, all waterfront developments are at their core, public spaces for community members to gather. These new developments will perpetuate the ideal that the coast is for everyone, for many generations to come.


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