Port plans to demolish San Pedro’s empty Star-Kist cannery draws objections – Daily News

on Dec25
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Plans to demolish the long-empty Star-Kist cannery building on San Pedro’s Terminal Island are bringing objections from those who say a new use should be found for the 1952 structure that was a central part of the port town’s commercial fishing heyday as well as its rich seaside heritage.

Noting that the building has become an “attractive nuisance,” the Port of Los Angeles wants to demolish the former plant to create “a parcel of land that is more marketable for future development,” along with removing safety hazards.

While there have been requests for proposals sent out, no future use has yet been identified by the port which is the property’s landlord.

“Demolition of this property would remove a dilapidated building near the Palos Verdes Fault zone,” the port’s negative declaration reads. “The buildings are challenging to secure and have been subject to multiple incidents of vandalism and breaking and entering.”

The project would involve demolition of the main building (Plant No. 4) and the northern and southern portions of the East Plant and a water-side dock. The 16.5-acre parcel sits on Terminal Island amid a heavily industrialized area.

The port’s environmental study determined that the site did not quality for historic status based standards for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, the California Register of Historic Resources and the Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.

But for many San Pedrans with immigrant roots in the town and fishing industry, that’s a point they would argue.

“There’s a lot of history there,” said Port of L.A. Harbor Commissioner Anthony Pirozzi who toured the site on Dec. 18. “It runs deep.”

His grandfather worked at Star-Kist when he came to San Pedro from Italy.

Public comments, which had been extended by the port due to the interest, have now closed and the board is expected to take the matter up at a January meeting.

The building, Pirozzi suggested, could be used as a site that celebrates labor or the Japanese immigrant history. It also might be used in a job creation project.

“I start asking myself what can you do with the location that kind of captures that history as well as celebrates the working port around it?” he said. “Then you have to ask if people will go, it’s really off the beaten path and not easy to get to.”

But, Pirozzi added, the process will have to work itself out as the full board takes the matter up. He said he’s not committed to any particular use.

The area was once known as Fish Harbor and a permanent exhibit on the history of the tuna and canning industry is featured at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum at Sixth Street and Harbor Boulevard.

“The Star-Kist building is a historic structure that continues to represent a significant link to Los Angeles’ once might tuna industry,” said Anthony Misetich, whose great uncle, Martin J. Bodanovich, founded Star-Kist with two partners after coming to San Pedro around 1910.

Other family members followed to help work in the cannery. His grandfather, Luka Bogdanovich, was plant manager at the Star-Kist Plant.

“They came here with nothing in their pockets and carved out successful careers in San Pedro,” Misetich, a former honorary mayor of San Pedro, said in a recorded interview.

Misetich, who now lives in Texas, said the building represents a link to “Los Angeles’ once mighty tuna industry.”

Star-Kist closed its facilities on Terminal Island in 1984, Misetich said.

The facility was designed, he said in his formal remarks on the negative declaration, by John K. Minasian, an engineer who worked on Cape Canaveral and the Space Needle at the Seattle World’s Fair.

“It was the single largest example of tile-up construction built by industry on the West Coast,” he wrote, “and boasts an unusual level of architectural detailing on its Fish Harbor facing facade. It also was the workplace of tens of thousands of San Pedrans who made their living working at the facility. Star-Kist Plant No. 4 was literally the economic engine for San Pedro for decades.”

Stephanie Mardesich, whose grandfather Joseph M. Mardesich, Sr. was a founding partner of the French Sardine Company that was later renamed Star-Kist, has also filed objections to the plans. She recalls visiting the plant offices as a child.

“The Star-Kist edifice could function as a cannery for products other than fish shipped in from agrarian communities,” she said as a possible future use.

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