Neighborhood Decries LA Ports’ Plan for New Cargo ‘Parking Lot’

By Jill McLaughlin
Jill McLaughlin
Jill McLaughlin
December 28, 2021 Updated: December 29, 2021

Residents living next to the overloaded Los Angeles and Long Beach ports are not happy about the harbor’s plans to build a new container parking lot in their neighborhood, according to a local official.

Wilmington has taken the brunt of increased truck traffic and containers this year, said Wilmington Neighborhood Council board member Valerie Contreras.

“If you have trucks weighing 80,000 pounds going through here, where our children are playing, that’s a hazard,” Contreras said. “The port has to put these containers somewhere, but we’ve done our fair share.”

Shipping containers are left on the streets where their children play, creating safety concerns, she said. One container also fell off the back of a semi-truck in October, crushing a parked passenger car.

As the ports continue to deal with an overload of cargo during this year’s supply chain crisis, the Los Angeles Harbor Department has proposed building a new parking lot in Wilmington to store cargo boxes. The John S. Gibson Container Parking Lot project plan was released last week.

Contreras and other council members plan to schedule a special neighborhood meeting at the beginning of the new year to ask the LA Harbor Department about the proposal.

“We are happy it’s not in a residential area, but we’re not happy that they continue to backfill Wilmington like it’s part of the port,” Contreras told The Epoch Times. “The impacts are enormous.”

The community of about 54,000 people is located adjacent to the port complex. Wilmington is made up of nearly 90 percent Latino residents, according to the U.S. Census.

Contreras said Wilmington has become a target for the city because most of the residents are low-income and of Latin descent.

“We’re just this economic engine for the city of LA,” Contreras said.

The plan proposed by the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports calls for building the 19-acre site along John S. Gibson Boulevard. The lot would be enclosed by 30-foot walls and would be used to load, unload, and store trucks and containers.

Upon the city’s completion of the project, the parking lot would be sold or leased to a private operator.

The site is expected to increase truck traffic in the area, with over 350 daily one-way trips to the site and nearly 100 more trips to the port, according to the report.

At full capacity, the lot could hold a maximum of about 2,000 shipping containers, if they are stacked five high, according to a study published by the city of Los Angeles.

City planners mostly expect companies to store cargo containers on truck chassis or trailers. But the design also allows full containers to be stacked three high and empty boxes to be stacked five high.

The proposed site’s boundaries are on the edge of Harbor City, Wilmington, Long Beach, and Rancho Palos Verdes.

Currently, the land can only be used for open space, according to city zoning laws. The property is covered in sparse vegetation and is vacant except for two abandoned cell towers, a partial road, and abandoned oil pipelines and utilities.

Studies at the site have found that some of the land is contaminated with crude oil chemicals and by-products, which are being monitored by the Western Fuel Oil Company.

The twin ports approved a container dwell fee in October to try to encourage companies to remove containers more quickly from the terminal area. Companies would face a $100 per day fine for each container left longer than nine days, if transported by truck, and six days if moved by rail. The fine would escalate by $100 per day until the cargo was removed.

However, the ports continued to delay the implementation of the new fee and will reevaluate the start date on Jan. 3, both ports announced Dec. 27.

The Los Angeles port reported that about 72,000 empty containers were stored at locations in or around the area on Dec. 28.

A longtime crane operator at the ports said the lack of space due to the container pileup in the yard may be contributing to the supply chain backup.

“I think we are backed up in our yards, and I think that is another reason why things are going slow,” Steve, a 26-year longshoreman at the docks who declined to use his last name, told The Epoch Times.

Before the crisis, four to five cranes were operating per ship, per terminal. Now the terminals only operate one or two cranes per ship, he said.

Under the direction of President Joe Biden’s administration, the ports reportedly started operating around the clock to ease the crisis, but not many longshoremen want to work the extra shift from 3:00 to 8:00 am, Steve said.

“Nobody likes to work that shift,” he said. “I don’t see anything going on at that time at all.”

The public has until Jan. 17 to submit comments about the John S. Gibson Container Parking Lot project to the city’s Harbor Department. Comments can be submitted in writing or via email to ceqacomments@portofla.org.

A request for comment about the project submitted to Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the area, was not returned by press time.