Seriously? Ports O' Call has got to go

As a San Pedro resident, this is a subject near and dear to the heart. POC, as it is, has GOT to go! I'm dating myself surely, but when I was in high school, POC was THE place to go for prom night, in the South Bay! My husband (new to the area) and I had been remiss in getting down there, since we moved back to the area. Hungering for a local seafood market, we wandered in there one afternoon and were stunned to find what a dump it had become!

From the outside, it looks like it's several restaurants. When you get inside, it's clear that, instead, it's one "fast-fish" stall after another..each virtually identical in fare offered (all sub-standard) and price (exorbitant, to say the least). What a let-down! We went from stall to stall..and finally wound up leaving, with no food purchased. As an example, all these stalls (as in a horse-barn) offer as "salmon", the phony Atlantic, farm-raised variety which is DYED orange (from a sickly yellow-grey color to "fake" its looking like real salmon), loaded with antibiotics to kill off bacteria and parasites that result from these fish swimming in circles in dirty, feces-infested ponds. Stall to stall, without exception, that was the story! Yukkhh!

San Pedro needs to get its act together. Having spent much of my youth growing up in Redondo Beach, I'd recommend to all that they take a look at King Harbor, to see what POC should look like! Many REAL restaurants along the piers and marinas..diversity! A fantastic, REAL fish market (Quality Seafood), which offers not just FRESH, but LIVE crustaceans of all kinds..which you can select and have cooked to order), a fantastic array of legitimately FRESH fish, at reasonable prices..and the opportunity to order fresh clams, crab and a pitcher of beer, enjoy "al fresco" at one of their picnic tables overlooking the marina!  They rent out the mallets and give you a pile of newspaper and you get to go to town, for a most reasonable fare! The quality is unsurpassed! Why can't we have something like this here?

Seriously..POC is a dismal failure. I work for one of the venues that inhabits the waterfront..and..I am sorry..but the folks there now are the pitts! They need to go..or greatly upgrade what they're offering. San's time to be honest. I don't care if your best friend runs one of these stands..they're killing the city. Go..or get better..immediately! I surely don't want to see the area get "gentrified" in some amorphous, boring, redundant manner, with nothing but Red Lobster-type places (God-forbid) but we can surely do something far more creative and productive than we're seeing happen now!

JR Oto


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Comment by Michael Ungaro on August 30, 2013 at 10:21am


I understand that everyone has an opinion and I respect yours.  As such, since you made it public, I have no choice but to respond and defend the business my family has been working to make successful for the last 55+ years.


We have 2000 seats on the the open.  How is that a "Horse Barn"? Are you referring to our customers as Horses?  And "stalls"? We have been trying to offer as many point of sale areas as possible this year because we're seeing record crowds unlike anything we have every imagined and it's the only way to prevent 2 and 3 hour long lines.  


Now, I can understand if that's not the experience you want to have when visiting a seafood market/restaurant...really, I do, because I personally prefer to visit places on their off days and avoid crowds. For example, I never go to Disneyland on the weekend or holidays.  But for some reason, 15 to 20 thousand people prefer to spend their weekends and holidays with us traveling all the way to San Pedro from up to 100 miles and farther every weekend and Holiday.  Here's another fun fact - about 20% are first time visitors.   These people are coming all the way to San Pedro and contributing to the city's tax base.  They're also keeping over 120 people employed who spend their wages in town, not to mention have families to feed, clothe and shelter.  They're also generating revenue for all of our vendors, some of which are small mom and pop businesses that survive based on the business they do with us.


Sometimes people respond to this in disbelief because they "heard" no one goes to the POC anymore.  I would kindly refer you to these links so you can see for yourself:


Take a look at who is talking about us and where they're from.  Sure, there are a few complaints but we have a 4 star rating on yelp. That doesn't exactly mesh with your opinion of us.


You also made some very disparaging remarks about our seafood selection. It's true, we do offer Atlantic, Farm-Raised Salmon but it's very small fraction of what we offer.  We also offer several dozen choices from all over the world.  For example, let me name a few:

Halibut (Local and Northern)

Red Snapper (Oregon)

Catfish (Whole and Fillet from Louisiana)

Sea Bass (Several varieties from around the world both Whole and Fillet)

Octopus (Philippines)

Orange Roughy (New Zealand)

1/2 dozen or types of Smoked Fish (Tuna, Swordfish, Alaskan Halibut, Albacore and more) all of which we smoke ourselves

Oysters (Washington State, Maryland and Louisiana)

Shark (whole and fillet)

Mexican Red Snapper




Parrot Fish

Local Crab (live and cooked)

Dungeness Crab (Live and Cooked)

Maine Lobster (Live and Cooked) - We're helping to prepare 20,000 of these in 2 weeks at the 14th annual POLA Lobster Festival (

Alaskan Snow and King Crab

And several varieties of Shrimp from all over the world (Farmed and Wild).   


And every single item we sell we will prepare for you for free- Fried, Sautéed, BBQ'd, Garlic Butter, Hot and Spicy, our Signature Recipe, etc.


You also made a recommendation to visit Redondo Beach.  I have nothing bad to say about Quality Seafood in Redondo Beach or the Dragich Family that has (or had, not sure) run it for many decades. As a matter of fact, we provide their Clam Chowder mix.  The Redondo guys do a great job! They also serve a great knock off of our World Famous Shrimp Trays! Good for them, we're flattered!


You might also find these links interesting, which show undercover investigations of seafood labeling in LA, our history and our appearance on the Food Network:


All this being said, we understand the community's desire to see the Waterfront Upgraded and we fully support the LA Waterfront Alliance and all they're trying to do.   We've had several discussions with them and believe they have San Pedro's best interests in mind.  Great things are going to be happening on the waterfront with their help!


We are the Port's oldest standing retail tenant.  We have not only survived recessions, several mayors, council persons and POLA Board members and directors.... we have flourished in spite of all this.  It hasn't been easy; we work from early mornings to late nights including weekends and holiday. I'm proud to work shoulder to shoulder with my brothers, sister, uncles, cousins and all of our staff, many of which have been with us for decades; and I'm proud of what we've built!  


I am part of the 3rd generation of a family owned business that has grown to becomes Southern Californian's largest fish market and restaurant and our success directly benefits the community of San Pedro in countless ways!  For instance, did you know San Pedro Fish Market's World Famous Shrimp Tray is now available in over 500 grocery stores in California and Hawaii?  Coming in November it will also be available in Southern California Sam's Club locations.  All that from "Horse Barn" with "Stalls", who knew?

Comment by Jana Oto on August 30, 2013 at 7:51am

Sorry that PeedroPaula (and others) misunderstood my reference to King Harbor. Obviously, I'm not holding King Harbor up as the be-all, end-all "model" for San Pedro to emulate! I'm only offering it for comparison and as an example of the sort of quality that POC should offer. If you're defending POC's fish market, then I'm sorry that you've never had access to what a real fish market should be, for both variety and freshness..especially in what had traditionally been a fishing and port town!  I also live here and work here and, as a point of personal interest as well as a part of my job, I want to be able to recommend our local businesses to customers and guests to our city. As I said, POC used to be "the place" more. By not having visited there in years (frankly, I was out of work for a long time and we couldn't afford eating out, anywhere), I was able to see it all through the eyes of a tourist..and "it ain't pretty"! Leaving the food aside (and one should), consider that people come to a waterfront, expecting to access the "outside", even if they're actually "inside". POC is more reminiscent of dining in a series of seedy stalls in a big horse barn, or a cave! Sorry, but that's the truth!  I, too, agree that we're the "poor wife" or the country cousin that lives under the stairs, vis-a-vis our relationship with the rest of Los Angeles. Councilman Buscaino..perhaps you can explain, for instance, why SP is on no one's list, when it comes to bringing a train line to the largest port in the country?? Doesn't it occur to anyone that commerce, both here and to the north, would benefit greatly from a more convenient way to actually travel back and forth to this area?? We see that the Westside and even the "west South Bay now have their trains..but not here! Why not?? Shame on youl!        

Comment by PeedroPaula on August 29, 2013 at 11:08pm

I'm so glad to hear you say that, Joe. I was somewhat horrified when, many years ago, Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores said she wanted San Pedro to have a skyline to rival Long Beach. As you well know, that's not who we are.

Comment by Joe Buscaino on August 29, 2013 at 9:34pm

Dear Jana Oto and residents of San Pedro. Earlier this year, the Port of Los Angeles named a master developer to turn the aging Ports O' Call Village into a new, vibrant regional destination. The LA Waterfront Alliance has already done a lot of public outreach and planning as they design Los Angeles' newest attraction. The lease for most of the current tenants of Ports O' Call expires on December 31, 2014. Staring on the first day of 2015, the LA Waterfront Alliance, as the master developer, is free to start redeveloping the 30-acre property. What you are talking about Jana in this post is already well in motion. I am as eager as most of you for opening day. Although the design is being developed and major anchor tenants are being considered, The LA Waterfront Alliance has already collected and interpreted ideas for the new development. They fully understand that although we residents desire a new development, that it must retain the San Pedro feel. They are not out to make another cookie-cutter mall, but a unique experience that represents the attitude and history of the Port and San Pedro.

Here is a story from San Pedro Today featuring developer Wayne Ratk...

Comment by Aurora Franck on August 28, 2013 at 6:33pm

San Pedro has been the neglected "wife" of Los Angeles ever since LA "married" us in order to get the Port. I 'm hoping the bromance between Garcetti and Buscaino will reverse some of neglect. I pray that Garcetti will appoint Commissioners who have a vested interest in our port town. POC is such a  trove of potential tourist and community economic growth if it is handled correctly by the new managment. Refurbishment is essential!And what happened to the new boardwalk? Don't blame the townies because the twits in charge keep dithering and procrastinating!  Joe Buscaino do something!

Comment by Celia Gonzales on August 28, 2013 at 4:32pm

> Thank the previous owners & management that raked the merchants over the financial coals - raising rents while refusing to perform even basic maintenance on the properties. Demanding merchants stay open when there was absolutely no foot traffic whatsoever after 9:00 pm all year 'round. The smart boutiques and the Murata Pearl shops closed down started the beginning of the end. Then the Occult Shop & Crystal shops left & the Cheese shop is a shadow of what it was,,, Hudson Ruggles shop was the absolute death knell of what was once a very nice place to visit - we used have to wash-up & dress nice to go to Port's O'Call but it hasn't been of that Quality for many many years. Even the main restaurant, the Ports'O"Call has gotten low-brow with patrons arriving in ratty shorts, t-shirts, flipflops & backwards ball-caps & their companions loudly boistrous & repellant of attitude. And the Staff? Dining room & Bar Wait-staff is pleasant but if you'd like to see an evening buffet deteriorate with picked over displays and cold food in chaffing dishes then go on a holiday thinking what a good deal it is and be shocked at the lackadaisical attitudes of personnel that'd rather chat than maintain the former superior standards that regretably are also gone with the channel breezes - Thank all the many operating managements for what Ports O'Call has fallen from and hope the next operator that's ending all the leases next year does a better job than just being another money-grubbing team looking out for the cash-cow the property'll never be if it's repopulated with the same trinket vendors the majority of the shops have devolved to.  

Comment by Lorna Lee Locke Salem on August 28, 2013 at 3:19pm

I have to go along with Jana. It needs cleaning up. It is not entirely the Ports fault either. For the past few years POC has had it very good. Rents were low and there was no mandatory operating guidelines that had been previously enforced. Merchant tenants showed up when they felt like it while leaving signs with store hours that were not reliable. The only real area that gets frequent business is the fish market and that is from people who do not necessarily live here but enjoy the cool breeze & relaxed atmosphere it offers. POC restaurant has its loyal locals and cruise line customers. As for the balance of shops it's a hit and miss thing which makes them partially responsible. If and when the marine institute goes in I think that the type of adjacent business's that will follow will impact the overall area in a positive way. Praying for good things ahead.

Comment by PeedroPaula on August 28, 2013 at 2:45pm

Well said, Gayle!

Comment by Gayle Fleury on August 28, 2013 at 2:41pm

While I agree that the current state of Ports O Call is dismal at best, I don't believe you can hold the town of San Pedro accountable for what the Port does. They have run roughshod over committees, business owners and store keepers as well as citizens. Public outcry is ignored and money continues to be siphoned from the cashcow- the Port- while the City dumps vagrants, homeless, mentally ill, and addicted people into the town as if there is a bottomless pit to contain them. It would be greatly appreciated if the Port and City would HELP rather than HINDER community efforts to revitalize our town. Those on various committees to redevelop Ports O Call are frustrated because their suggestions fall on deaf ears. Two of the Three Port Commissioners just come to work here, they have no investment in the community as a whole. We are at their mercy. It would be great to see efforts on the part of the citizens to gather momentum and take back our town, and the areas that make it unique. We want a safe place for tourists to come and spend their holiday dollars. Pedro Proud- we all have "ownership" if we live here- help take back our town and make it the great place it can be!

Comment by S. Hernandez on August 28, 2013 at 2:18pm

Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.  POC has long been a nice place to visit with the family and tourists.  The fish market is not all there is to POC, there are the little shops and the harbor tours.  I will definitely agree that we have allowed it to be cheapened and run down, however that can be fixed with remodeling, after all, this is a longshoremen town.  I am old enough to remember the old days of Beacon Street and what an improvement in our town since then.  If we could pool our efforts to renovate Ports O' Call we could  make it into an even better tourist attraction and family gathering place that is has been in the past.

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