Plans to Demolish Former LA Cannery Draw Objections

A plan by the Port of Los Angeles to demolish a long shuttered cannery is drawing fire from area residents who say that a new use should be found for the building, which some consider historic due to its connection to the area’s commercial fishing past.

The Port of LA wants to demolish the former StarKist plant to create “a parcel of land that is more marketable for future development,” along with removing safety hazards, according to a late December article in the Daily Breeze newspaper.

The article also states that the port’s wish to demolish the long-empty StarKist cannery building, located in San Pedro—an LA area that’s known for its connection to maritime commerce— is bringing objections from those who say a new use should be found for the structure that was a central part of the port town’s commercial fishing heyday.

StarKist was founded in 1917 in San Pedro, which was at the time known as “Fish Harbor.” The cannery, which opened in 1952 and was at one point the largest tuna processing facility in the world according to the company, closed in 1984.

The 16.5-acre parcel sits in a heavily industrialized area within Terminal Island, the manmade land mass that serves as a container handling facility for the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.

The POLA’s plan for the former cannery includes demolition of the main building and the northern and southern portions of an east plant and a waterside dock.

According to the Daily Breeze, there have been requests for proposals sent out, however no future use has yet been identified by the Port of LA, which owns the property.

In a recent staff report, POLA stated that the building was dilapidated and sits near an earthquake fault zone.

“The buildings are challenging to secure and have been subject to multiple incidents of vandalism and breaking and entering,” the staff report states, according to the newspaper.

Port staff has said that lead and asbestos abatement would be required, and that demolition would take about two months.

Although the Port of LA determined that the site did not quality for historic status in the national or state registers of historic places, or as a Los Angeles historic or cultural monument, many area residents with roots in the town and fishing industry have said they think differently.

Port of L.A. Harbor Commissioner Anthony Pirozzi, whose grandfather worked at the StarKist plant upon coming to San Pedro from Italy, said one possibility was turning the site into a celebration of immigrants and/or labor, though he declined to endorse a specific proposal.

The harbor board is expected to take the matter up at a January meeting.