Mayor Karen Bass’s first two appointments to the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners, which she announced this week, have drawn mixed reactions in the city’s port communities, with folks particularly concerned about the potential panelists not being local.

Replacing two local commissioners, one each from San Pedro and Wilmington, with nominees from downtown Los Angeles seems to go against the more recent trend of ensuring the communities next to the behemoth Port of Los Angeles — which are all too familiar with its various impacts, from pollution to traffic — have strong representation on the five-member panel.

So far, Bass has nominated former U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard to take the seat now held by Lucia Moreno-Linares of Wilmington; and Michael Muñoz, research director for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, to replace Anthony Pirozzi of San Pedro.

The nominations must make their way through a City Council committee and then be confirmed by the full panel, which isn’t expected until elected officials return from the current spring recess on April 10.

But if Bass’s appoinments get confirmed, the only local commissioner remaining would be Diane Middleton, a San Pedro resident who served on the mayor’s transition team, though more nominees are anticipated to come.

Bass, in a written statement, said her appointments “recognize the port’s role locally, nationally and globally, as will future appointments that will be made soon.”

“Together,” the mayor added, “these two appointees have decades of relevant experience and a wide breadth of expertise of the port and surrounding communities.”

Councilmember Tim McOsker, who represents the Harbor Area and sits on the  committee that will hear the nominations, said it’s the mayor’s job to make appointments but that he anticipates, in the end, there will likely be two local commissioners on the panel. He said he’s reached out to Bass with his thoughts and advice.

“I have a strong sense that there will be more appointments” to come, McOsker said in a Wednesday, March 29, phone interview, adding that he shares the community’s concerns about local representatives being important on the panel.

His advice to the mayor, McOsker said, “is that it’s very important to have a harbor commission that represents the local area, as well as labor and as well as including eminently qualified professionals.”

The move to put more local residents on the panel — which in the more distant past sometimes included no Harbor Area voices — came during the administration of Mayor James Hahn, whose sister, Supervisor Janice Hahn, also represented San Pedro and Wilmington at the same time on the City Council.

McOsker, an attorney, served in Mayor Hahn’s administration in City Hall.

“Going back to my time with (Mayor) Jim Hahn, my personal view has been that it was important to have more than one local representative” on the commission, McOsker said.

The City Charter from 2000, drawn up during that Hahn era, requires at least one port-area resident serve on the commission.

But currently, there are three, the same number as under Hahn’s administration and a ratio that outgoing Commissioner Anthony Pirozzi said has made a significant impact on port-community relations.

“It provides a majority perspective,” he said.

“Let’s see what the end game looks like,” Pirozzi, who has served nearly 10 years on the panel, added. “There’s a new mayor and the mayor has the authority to put in place the folks she sees fit for what she wants to accomplish.”

But David Pettit, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said he liked the appointments pverall.

“I’m very pleased by the appointments,” Pettit said in a phone interview. “They’re both really smart, progressive people and I think they’ll quickly understand the issues at the port.”

Pettit said he knows Muñoz.

“He’s a really smart guy, hard working,” Pettit said. “He knows a lot of the issues.”

The NRDC has been involved in a long-running legal dispute with the port over mitigation measures for the China Shipping Terminal.

Bass, in her statement, also underscored the experience both Roybal-Allard and Muñoz possess.

Roybal-Allard has been a “champion for the people,” representing residents in South and Southeast Los Angeles for 30 years,” Bass said. She also has experience in prioritizing federal funding “to improve conditions for ship traffic in the Port of Los Angeles.”

Muñoz, meanwhile, “is a community leader with an excellent grasp of environmental and quality of life issues related to the Port of Los Angeles,” Bass said, “specifically impacting the working class communities of Wilmington, Harbor City and Harbor Gateway.”

Moreno-Linares, though, said she hopes more locals are named to the panel.

“It’s very important, in my opinion, that people who live near the port and who experience first-hand living at the port, can bring a different perspective to the board,” she said in a phone interview. “I hope that element doesn’t get lost.”

The lingering question of local representation is the one she hears most-often from other residents, Moreno-Linares said.

“And my answer is, ‘I don’t know,’” she said. “We had it good for a while.”

When news of the first nominees came out, some local residents expressed immediate concern.

“Ideally, we’d have five locals, but that’s probably not practical,” said Andrew Silber of San Pedro, a longtime downtown restaurant owner who has now retired. “But there should certainly be two or three people from the Harbor Area.”

That’s important, Silber said, “because they experience the port’s impacts. They drive the same streets as the trucks. If you’re coming from downtown or East Los Angeles, you really don’t experience the port’s impacts and that’s why I’m so up in arms.”

Shannon Ross, who has been active in area neighborhood councils and is a community advocate, said she was disappointed by the mayor’s first two picks.

“I recognize that the port is part of the entire Los Angeles area,” Ross said, “but the fact is that Wilmington and San Pedro are most affected.”

Ross, though, said she supports Bass and remains hopeful that the mayor, who was elected in November, will make more local commission selections.

“I would appreciate at least one other qualified commissioner appointed that is from the immediate area,” said Janet Gunter of San Pedro, an environmental activist who has been involved in port issues for several years. “The port impacts here are dramatic. Living with those impacts is important to understanding them.”

She cited port pollution, hazardous transportation and terminal storage, and local seismic vulnerabilities, especially in light of increased tourism in the area, as major ongoing concerns.

Gunter, though, also agreed that Bass’s appointments have strong resumes.

Roybal-Allard “has an impressive record on the environment,” Gunter said. “(Muñoz) has his own expertise with workers that will benefit the port’s longshore community and hopefully, he, too, will embrace a strong commitment to reducing the port’s health risks as well as improvements in working conditions.”

The current board — along with the port and Executive Director Gene Seroka — has been through a remarkable period of change and challenge at the port, from implementing a complex push to transition to zero-emissions vehicles and equipment in a fairly short time to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw massive congestion followed by a still-continuing free fall in ship traffic.

Bass, though, could also choose to replace Seroka — though he’s backed by McOsker.

“It’s the mayor’s call to evaluate her (own) goals and evaluate whether or not he fulfills those goals,” McOsker said. “It’s entirely up to the mayor. But I think Gene has been done a very good job at a critical time in the port’s history and in the city’s history.”

Pirozzi agreed.

“I think Gene has done a phenomenal job, especially working through all the issues,” the commissioner said. “He brings an unprecedented knowledge and skill to this industry, he’s the best in the business.”

Seroka was in Washington, D.C., and unavailable for comment

But Pettit, who acknowledged he’s had his personal differences with the port director, said he thought it was time “for someone with a different vision.”


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