By David J. Barboza
This post on Harbor Gateway is the last of three on SurveyLA’s recently released harbor area findings. Here’s a link to the report and appendices. If you know of something you think we should have covered, we’d be interested to hear about it. To understand the Harbor Gateway, it’s really important to take a look at the map. This long, narrow piece of land that roughly parallels the Harbor Freeway was known as the Shoestring Strip in 1907 when the voters of Los Angeles decided to annex it in a municipal election. The stakes were high. San Pedro, Wilmington and Santa Monica were considered the most likely sites for the region’s major port when Congress authorized funds to build a breakwater for a port in 1890. The City of Los Angeles was keenly interested in the wealth a port could bring, and the Shoestring Strip was the key to avoid being landlocked to the south. The newly incorporated City of Wilmington vehemently protested the annexation fearing that it would prevent its own westward expansion. Wilmington ultimately failed in a legal challenge to the annexation before the California Supreme Court. San Pedro, Wilmington and Harbor City were consolidated into the City of Los Angeles in 1909 and San Pedro became the nucleus of the modern Port of Los Angeles, which along with its adjacent rival, the Port of Long Beach, is today the largest seaport complex in the United States.
Like Harbor City just to the south, Harbor Gateway was sparsely populated and largely agricultural before World War II. During and after the war however, the population increased rapidly and the built environment shifted to one of detached houses, duplexes, commercial strips and industrial sites. Japanese Americans, Hispanics and African Americans all became a major presence, making the area quite diverse. Harbor Gateway is often confused with the adjacent cities of Torrance and Gardena to the west. The name Harbor Gateway was officially adopted in 1985 in part as a way to attempt to give the area a more cohesive sense of identity. The name also encapsulates astonishingly well the story of why the neighborhood is a part of the City of Los Angeles.
Harbor Gateway is much smaller than San Pedro or Wilmington-Harbor City Community Plan Areas in terms of the number of parcels. It has only 8,580 compared with over 17,000 for each of the other two. The findings for Harbor Gateway were also more limited. Interestingly, no place in the Harbor Gateway Community Plan Area currently has a historic designation. Here are some of my favorite findings from the report (click the photos to enlarge them).