The slow economy has led to San Pedro's long planned Ponte Vista project being turned over to primary investor iStar. The company will now have to revise plans for the project. (Robert Casillas/Staff Photographer)

For good or ill, few projects get done quickly in San Pedro.

And Ponte Vista - the large-scale housing development planned on 62.5 acres of surplus Navy property - surely is no exception.

Mired in controversy since it was first proposed in 2005, Ponte Vista now has been hit hard by the plunging economy. It has already been through a few incarnations and now is about to present yet another.

Last week, it was announced that the project has been turned back over to its chief investor, iStar Financial Inc., which will again re-evaluate building and density plans for the site on Western Avenue.

"Unfortunately, Ponte Vista has been subjected to the current economic ills affecting the country and because of that, there's been an orderly transferring of the property back to the (primary) lender," said Elise Swanson, who is serving as a consultant to the newest team taking over the development.

Gone is DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners, a subsidiary of Credit Suisse that took over the project after Bisno Development was bumped in December 2008.

Taking over is SFI Bridgeview, LLC, a subsidiary of iStar Financial Inc.

"iStar has just begun an assessment of the status of the project and they're reviewing all the community input from the past," Swanson said, adding the company is putting together yet another new project team for Ponte Vista. "They've just taken title to the property They want to take some time before they come back to the community to make sure there's a thoughtful approach."

The primary disagreement remains over density and traffic impacts. As first laid out in 2005, the project called for 2,300 homes to be built. That was later reduced to 1,950, a number turned down by the Los Angeles Planning Commission.

Before talks were suspended, housing numbers had been bumped down to between 500 and 1,395.

"It's just got to be recognized that we're transportation corridor poor being on a peninsula," said Jerry Gaines of San Pedro who served on the community's Ponte Vista task force.

"The community's been very clear that they want somebody who will address the traffic needs," said John Greenwood of San Pedro, who was chairman of the committee. "I don't think anybody has done that yet."

Vacant Navy homes still sit on the property across from Green Hills Memorial Park. A herd of about 80 sheep and goats graze the property to keep the weeds down and Ponte Vista still maintains an open office in a trailer on the site.

"I would like to see something built, those places are getting worse and worse," Greenwood said. "I'd like to see the right kind of development there."

While the debate over density and traffic has yet to be resolved, Gaines agreed that the property shouldn't continue to sit vacant.

"I'm sure that at some point people realize they don't want a continuous eyesore there," Gaines said. "The community does need housing This is a working asset and it would be ridiculous to watch the sheep out there graze for the next 15 or 20 years."

Swanson said it is anticipated that the new team will be ready to go public with some of their ideas in two to four months.

"They are committed to working with this community to determine what development at Ponte Vista is a `fit,"' she said. "They're very interested in doing a high quality project."

"I keep hoping someone will get it right," Greenwood said of the plans. "We're still waiting."

Gaines noted that the economic climate is vastly different from that in 2005 when developer Bob Bisno purchased the land for $125 million.

The city union members targeted to purchase the future homes have also since fallen on hard times of their own.

Developers have to look at "what's affordable and what's achievable in today's market," Gaines said. "Most of the existing (new housing) stock is leasing rather than selling. But at some point that property needs to be utilized."


The takeover by iStar Financial Inc. has been known by a few individuals for a few months now. I have refused to publish what I knew about it because I considered it a rumor and I am not comfortable publishing rumors.

I wish the information contained in Ms. Littlejohn's article contained the answers to more rumors that I have known about and perhaps within the timeframe stated by Ms. Swanson, we will learn whether the other rumor(s) I have heard are true.

I do know that there has not been much for staff members of The Los Angeles Department of City Planning do to for many months concerning Ponte Vista and I hope we all learn whether the entire Environmental Impact Report will require recirculation.

The news about Ponte Vista also comes at a time when signatures are being gathered for a proposed initiative dealing with Marymount College and that institution's administrations' attempt to build on-campus housing on Marymount's main campus in Rancho Palos Verdes.

Even though supporters of The Marymount Plan want on-campus housing, they have no intention of closing the off-campus housing site the college owns along Palos Verdes Drive North, not far from the Ponte Vista site.

The Volunteers of America as also moving forward with their plans to open up the dwelling units they own adjacent to both the Marymount off-campu housing site named Palos Verdes North and Rolling Hills Prep School.