Viva San Pedro.
Residents gathered Thursday, Oct. 20, at Pepper Tree Place, a 10,000 square-foot mini-park next to San Pedro’s Municipal Building, to break ground for what will be a town “piazza” anchoring the new Little Italy district on lower Sixth Street.
For outgoing Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino, who is set to leave office after a decade that saw a flurry of development and change in the port community, the Little Italy district had been a long-held desire. The district was approved in 2018 to recognize the role Italian immigrants — including Buscaino’s family — played in the harbor area’s early days, when commercial fishing drew folks from a wide radius.
While the coronavirus pandemic slowed the progress, several Italian businesses and restaurants have already moved into storefronts in the district.
The centerpiece of the district, Piazza Miramare, referring to the view of the sea — Los Angeles’ working harbor is across the street — was designed by Gensler, an award-winning architectural firm, and will provide a European-style space at the corner of South Harbor Boulevard and West Sixth Street. A fountain and a waterfront shade trellis will provide an area where people can sip coffee or eat lunch. A terraced seating area, the “Beacon Steps,” will provide more spaces to congregate.
The piazza will offer cultural and entertainment programs, under the direction of the Little Italy of Los Angeles Association. Construction is expected to take 12 to 18 months. The plan, Buscaino said, will bring new activity and color to what has been an under-utilized patch of city park space.
“As we know, San Pedro is home to the largest concentrated Italian American population on the West Coast,” Buscaino said, noting that Los Angeles is known for its ethnic districts, including Chinatown, Olvera Street and Little Ethiopia.
The concept for Little Italy, he said, was also to create a bridge between San Pedro’s historic downtown and the waterfront that is undergoing development — and will have its own groundbreaking on Nov. 12.
“When you go to Europe, piazzas are the central point of a city,” Buscaino said, “where we see people of all races and cultures converging.”
An ornamental urn that has sat at the site, meanwhile, will be moved to the Wilmington waterfront.
The urn, weighing 6 tons and standing 9 feet tall, was one of four that once sat at the Matson Terminal at Berths 195-198 in Wilmington. It will be reunited with one of its mates that has remained in Wilmington.
The other two urns were reported stolen when thieves used a forklift and tractor to remove the sculpted pieces.