Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"A New Place to Call Home"

Here is a post contribution from Ginger Grant.

Ginger Grant moved with her family into the Navy Housing area in northwest San Pedro in 1974 when her father was transferred to the Long Beach Naval Station.

After Ginger's father retired from the Navy and went to work at Todd shipyard, the family moved into a home on North Meyler Street, just a short distance away in the lower Eastview neighborhood.

Ginger grew up and now is raising her kids in a home just one block from where her parents still live.

Ginger provides us with a very unique look at living in two areas directly affected by the Ponte Vista at San Pedro development. Her ability to tell us all about life in the Navy Housing area as well as growing up and living so close by, gives her special insight into this area and the surrounding community.

Thank you Ginger, for contributing your story to this blog. I hope this may inspire others to share their upbringing in our community as well.

“A New Place to Call Home”
By Ginger Grant

I find it incredulous that on the Ponte Vista at San Pedro Web site the following statements are made: “A new place to call home. The way it used to be, the way it ought to be.” They should have included, “the way it is, and the way it might very well be.”

I lived on S. John Montgomery Street, which is one of the streets in the old Navy Housing tract when my dad was transferred to the Long Beach Naval Station in 1974. We lived in the “Chiefs” housing. Our home, now empty, can still be seen from Western Avenue.

After my dad left the Navy, our family moved into a home very close by near Capitol Drive and I grew up living in the lower Eastview area of San Pedro, not far away from that home on S. John Montgomery, that now sits empty.

Today I am living my life and raising my kids just one block from my parents and I really know the way it used to be and the way it ought to be!

For me, growing up in both areas, this is the way it used to be.

The “Chiefs Housing”, where we lived when my dad was in the Navy, are the houses along Western Avenue that run down several streets and used to meet up with many apartment buildings the lower ranked Navy personnel lived in, on the east side of the project. The apartments were all torn down years ago and now that area is going to be used as the new Mary Star of the Sea High School.

The house we lived in on S. John Montgomery Street was a “normal” house. It had three bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, laundry room, front and back yards, and even a 2-car garage. It seemed to be just like many of the other homes outside the fences of the Navy Housing.

The streets all had speed humps so there were never any cars racing up and down, and we could ride our bikes in the streets without any thought of being hit. I had friends who lived in the apartments that are now gone and except for all the kids moving in and out because their dads got transferred, it was a pretty normal neighborhood.

My sister and I played softball for the Navy League and the field was right behind our house. It is now the overgrown space between the old Racquet Club and the Navy Housing. The old field and the stands our parents and friends watched up play from have been gone for many years.

Most of the families living inside the area did their main food shopping at the Naval Base on Terminal Island. That big store was kind of far to go for a few things we might need so there was a little store inside the Navy Housing area between the houses and apartments where folks with I.D. cards could buy stuff to get them by on. Next to the little store were some meeting rooms where I had my Girl Scout meetings .
The area had M.P.’s patrolling, so crime was non existent. To me and my friends, it was a very safe place to grow up in, and fun, too.

When my dad decided to retire from the Navy, my parents chose to stay in San Pedro and we moved from the Navy Housing to a home on North Meyler, between Channel Street and Capitol Drive. My dad went to work for Todd shipyard, and my parents still live in that same house.

When we first moved into the home, Capitol did not go through to Western Avenue and the 7-11 was actually on Capitol next to the little park, instead of where it now is on Gaffey Street. Because Capitol did not go through and there was a little park so close to our home, it was a nice, safe, child friendly neighborhood with low traffic and lots of friends to grow up with.

My brother and I walked to Taper Elementary School and my sister could walk to Dodson Junior High up the hill. She “could” walk, but it always seemed she got a ride.

Even after we moved in to our new home on North Meyler Street, we still kept our Navy privileges because my dad retired from the Navy. So that meant we could still ride our bikes into the Navy Housing site and visit the little store for Ice Cream or something my mom would need. I still played softball on the old field but soon after moving to Meyler, the field was closed for good. This was the beginning of the end for the Navy Housing. The store closed and the houses lost all their families. It seemed like such a waste to me for those homes to sit unoccupied. Eventually all the block style apartment buildings near Taper Avenue were torn down and the houses became training grounds for various law enforcement people.

Our new neighborhood was great though. The Eastview Little League was only for boys, but when I got into the 6th grade, they allowed girls to join. My best friend Georgia and I begged our parents to let us try out, but our parents thought we could get hurt so we were left to enjoy watching the games from the stands and buying stuff at the snack bar.

We grew up smelling fresh baked bread from DiCarlo’s Bakery and we could watch movies at the old drive-in from my friend’s house right behind it.

When I attended Dodson Junior High School I got a paper route delivering
the Daily Breeze. I was the only girl delivery person and I had the largest route! My brother and our friend from down the street would race home from school to get our bikes and go deliver our papers. Once a month we collected the money people owed for their subscriptions and that was a lot of money for a 12-year old to girl to walk around with. But it was safe back then. When attended San Pedro High School, I got my first “real” job at Ports o Call where it seemed everyone else had jobs, too.

Over the years my little area of San Pedro changed; Capitol was made to go through to Western Avenue, the 7-11 was moved to the corner on Gaffey, the D.M.V. was built next to it, the Long Beach Naval Shipyard closed (yeah it’s not in my neighborhood but it was the reason I was there to start with), tons of houses/condos/apartments were built, Todd shipyard closed, the drive in movie theater was torn down, Di Carlo’s Bakery closed, and the Eastview Little League fields will soon be gone.

The biggest change seemed to happen as more and more people moved into the area. Traffic increased and crime went up, too. I understand this happens whenever more people move into an area this size.

Today I live around the corner from my parents and my kids attend Dodson Middle School and San Pedro High School. I don’t feel it is safe for them to walk to school like it used to be for me and my siblings. It takes me 45 minutes, on a good day, to get both of them to school and picking them up is something I dread each day because of so many cars.

People driving on Western Avenue and Gaffey Street know what I am talking about. If the traffic is like the way it is now in the middle of the day, when people are at work, what can it possibly be like with 2300 additional homes?

The Ponte Vista Web site has another statement; “A place alive every night with the light of a million stars.” No, I’m sorry, that is not quite right, in my opinion. Those “stars” should be “headlights” because that’s what will be lighting up the night…all the cars parked on Western trying to get somewhere. But the folks at Ponte Vista assure us the degree of traffic planning they did will make if feel like there are half that number (of 2300 homes). Hhmmmm, traffic is awful now and feeling like it’s only 1150 instead of 2300 is going to make it better?

Now let’s add the Target and the new homes planned for “Highland Park”, both going in near the corner of Capitol and Gaffey streets. All the traffic that will bring into my neighborhood will change it from the way it was and the way it ought to be, to the way it should never be and will be long gone, forever.

Bob the builder will say whatever is necessary to achieve his goal regardless of the actualities of it. First and foremost this is his business and he is doing it to make money, not to make San Pedro a better place or provide any wonderful community places where we can all get together and sing campfire songs.

My youngest son will promise me he will clean his room and take out the trash and whatever else, if I will give him whatever he it is he wants at the moment. However, once he has gotten his way he “forgets” all about the promises. Once Bob the builder gets what he wants and those 2300 homes are built, he won’t be giving any thought to those of us parked on Western.

I’ve lived here most of my life and because everything I grew up with is gone and the future holds so much over development for this area, I might as well go to another neighborhood somewhere, where citizens are content remaining in a neighborhood and not allowing so much development. I am sad that my neighborhood has to change this way.

What “ought” to be at Ponte Vista? To be honest and at this point, I am not sure what I would like to see there. I know I don’t want “more” than what is already there, as far as housing.

As far as any type of park goes, we have parks. Peck Park, Harbor Park, and even the park down the street from where I grew up. Unfortunately, none of those parks are safe enough for me to let my children go to. People from other areas, drive in on the weekend to the park on Capitol near Gaffey and it’s disgusting to walk by on Monday mornings. I feel a new park (at Ponte Vista) will bring more criminals with more paint cans and I call 311 almost daily, as it is.

I don’t think there has to be something on every available piece of space there, but that’s just me.

I think the Community Advisory Committee is better suited for deciding what would be best for that area, unless it is another Starbucks, ha, ha, ha. I disagree with any plans to put another one (Starbucks) on Gaffey Street.

I am still reeling with the news about the new development on Gaffey, south of the D.M.V. I had no idea there will be more homes built along Gaffey, or else I just blocked it out.

You know that just because you can change something, doesn’t mean you should.

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