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San Pedro makeover, other port projects move forward in busy week

October 3, 2009 |  2:04 pm

The Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex's new crosscurrents were evident this week, with approvals of projects and federal funds to improve the quality of life in what was once among the least hospitable regions in Southern California.

The Los Angeles Harbor Commission early Wednesday unanimously approved a long-awaited $1.2-billion San Pedro Waterfront revitalization project, which aims to transform the shabby Ports O' Call Village tourist spot into a 300,000-square-foot dining and shopping outpost.

The project, which backers say will create an estimated 5,000 new jobs over the next decade, also calls for an 8.7-mile-long promenade, new parks and fountains, three pocket harbors, a 75,000-square-foot conference center and another cruise ship terminal.

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved $90,000 for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review a city-commissioned analysis of the feasibility of dismantling the part of the Long Beach breakwater to restore ocean currents, create cleaner beaches and revive the city's historic seaside allure.

The Army Corps' review will determine whether there is federal interest in pursuing changes to the stony barricade.

According to the study conducted by the engineering firm of Moffat & Nichol, the city could gain $52 million a year in local spending — and $7 million annually in sales tax revenue — by altering the 2.2-mile wall of rock created during World War II.

Also on Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced $26 million in federal stimulus grants to reduce diesel emissions in the Southern California air basin, in part by retrofitting heavy port equipment including big rigs and rubber-tired gantry cranes.

There's more. Environmental, health and labor groups on Thursday joined Los Angeles and Long Beach officials in celebrating the first anniversary of the clean truck program, a $1.8-billion strategy to slash diesel emissions by phasing out 17,000 old, dirty big rigs serving port terminals.

In the Port of Los Angeles, the program has already eliminated 2,000 of the dirtiest and oldest trucks from port terminals, and put an estimated 6,000 cleaner-burning vehicles into service.

"Congratulations to Southern California residents, environmentalists and truck drivers who fought for the Los Angeles Clean Truck Program and now breathe cleaner air one year later," Michael Green, head of the Center for Environmental Health, said in a statement.

-- Louis Sahagun in Long Beach