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See Pictures of What City of LB Did With Former LB Naval Stn. & Historic Roosevelt Base:

  • Port of LB Opens "Pier T," LB's Largest Container Cargo Facility & First "Mega-Terminal"

    Pier T #1
    Photo courtesy Port of LB

    (August 19, 2002) -- The former LB Naval Station and historic Roosevelt base, whose acquisition and demolition by the Port with Council approval for a container terminal (originally planned for the China Ocean Shipping Company) ignited one of the biggest controversies in the history of the City of LB, has now become Pier T, LB's first "mega-terminal" whose first phase construction has been declared officially completed by the Port of LB.

    COSCO isn't there, but the container yard is.

    We post verbatim below the text of a Port of LB press release.

    The full history of how Pier T came about is beyond the scope of this article. However, we believe its salient points are worth recalling.

    After a Base Realignment Commission voted to close the Naval Station, City Hall moved quickly to get the property from the Navy and justify its use for Port interests. A City Hall selected commission, charged with assessing the best proposed reuse of the property, focused on economic returns of proposed reuses, a process framed in terms that inevitably steered the result toward a Port of LB proposal to give the property to the Port for exclusive Port use. The Port claimed large economic benefits from its proposed reuse.

    Numerous hearings and public meetings were held and public input taken, but City Hall kept details of the Roosevelt Base on the Naval Station property fairly well hidden.

    LB Naval Stn Roosevelt Base
    Photo from Port of LB web site

    The Roosevelt Base had a campus like facility which qualified for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, included well manicured greenery surrounding elegant buildings (some designed by renowned African-American architect Paul R. Williams), amenities and recreational facilities including a gymnasium and swimming pool and high rise housing, all built with U.S. taxpayer dollars.

    Without serious discussion of how these facilities might be retained for use by LB residents, the City Council voted to approve exclusive Port use of the property once the Navy gave it to the City. The Port then proceeded to make plans to turn the property into a container facility, eyeing a new terminal for COSCO, the China Ocean Shipping Co.

    This might have remained largely out of public view had it not been for an article by then-LB based Press-Telegram reporter Bill Hillburg. Mr. Hillburg described the Roosevelt Base facilities that LB City Hall officialdom had not. His PT piece ran after the Council had already voted but its effect was amplified by another journalist.

    Mr. Hillburg's article caught the attention of Huell Howser, host of KCET-TV's "California's Gold." Howser brought a TV crew to the Roosevelt base and took a walking tour with Mr. Hillburg. His tour ended with an uneasy colloquy between Mr. Howser and a Port spokesperson.

    When Howser's program aired on KCET, the effect was like cold water hitting a hot pan.

  • Many viewers were offended by what the City of LB was planning to do. Some were angry over plans to demolish historically significant buildings. Others were infuriated over plans to destroy taxpayer built facilities to accommodate COSCO (with its ties to the Peoples Republic of China) on the former U.S. Naval Base.

    One then-LB Councilman said he doubted the Council would have voted to allow the Port to destroy the Roosevelt Base facilities if Councilmembers had known what was really out there. The controversy soon percolated onto talk shows and escalated into the national media with wire service and network coverage.

    Not long after Mr. Howser's KCET program aired, the Navy held a local hearing on the proposed reuse. A few thousand people showed up at LB's Terrace Theater. Mayor O'Neill and City Hall officials were booed. Mr. Howser received a standing ovation. Testimony, which began in the early evening, ran past midnight.

    Supporters of the terminal (Howser derisively labelled it a "container yard") included shipping, corporate and trade interests and much of LB's establishment. Opponents included former LB Mayor Eunice Sato, environmental advocate Ann Cantrell and largely conservative opponents of the Peoples Republic of China angered over the proposed terminal for COSCO (already a LB Port tenant elsewhere) on the new site.

    City Hall and the Port pressed ahead, insisting the project was economically and fiscally sound and would bring jobs. Some opponents filed lawsuits. One Superior Court sided with opponents, ruling the Port had "predetermined" the project's environmental impacts with plans to put COSCO on the site. That ruling was eventually reversed by a Court of Appeal.

    Mr. Howser personally filed suit alleging (among other things) that the city's demolition of the taxpayer built facilities amounted to a waste of public resources. The courts ruled against him, some citing the City Council's decision that Port use was the best use of the property.

    For the record, even after Councilmembers learned of the historic and campus style facilities, none made a motion to re-examine their previous vote.

    Some LB area preservationists struck a deal (described on the Port of LB web site) in which "the Navy, in coordination with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the State Historic Preservation Officer, and local Interested Parties agreed that the Port would provide the following mitigation measures: a Historic American Building Survey; curation of architectural drawings, photographs, and written histories; a model and exhibit; an open house and tour; a documentary video, salvage of architectural and landscape elements; and the establishment of the Long Beach Heritage Fund [$4.5 million] for the express purpose of fostering and supporting the identification, evaluation, preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, and interpretation of historical resources within the municipal boundaries of the City of Long Beach."

    Meanwhile, the raging brouhaha over COSCO "taking over" part of the former LB Naval Station, and being handed the facility by the City of LB, became a topic on talk radio (and a new medium called the internet). It got the attention of Congress, which passed a law effectively blocking use of the former Naval Station property by COSCO by, in effect, preventing use of property by entities with ties to the Peoples Republic of China.

    Thus, Pier T is now used by Hanjin, a South Korean firm. COSCO continues using other Port of LB facilities.

    Veteran PT journalist Bill Hilburg went on to cover the City Council until being transferred to a post in Washington, D.C.

    Mayor Beverly O'Neill, booed at the Terrace Theater, won reelection handily in 1998 and won an unprecedented third term write-in campaign in 2002.

    Art Wong, the PT reporter whose byline appeared on stories covering the controversy over reuse of the Naval Station, left the paper several years ago to become the Port's Media Relations Manager, a post he continues to hold.

    Port of LB press release follows:

    Port Completes First Phase;
    Turns Over 288 acres to Hanjin

    LONG BEACH, Calif. Aug. 19, 2002 - The Port of Long Beach has formally declared construction complete on the first phase of a new 375-acre Pier T shipping terminal on Terminal Island - the port's largest container cargo facility and its first "mega-terminal."

    With the certification of eight gantry cranes marking the final step in the completion of the 288-acre first phase, the port has turned over use of the Pier T facility to Hanjin Shipping Co. The South Korea shipping line, one of the world's largest, will operate the terminal under a 25-year lease that calls for Hanjin to pay the port a minimum of $42 million a year. Financed without taxpayer money, the $576 million Pier T project is the largest in the port's history in dollar terms.

    Hanjin will be moving from its existing Long Beach terminal north of Terminal Island at Pier A - previously the port's largest container terminal. Hanjin has tentatively scheduled its first vessel call at Pier T for mid-September.

    "Hanjin's move to Pier T launches the era of mega-terminals here at the Port of Long Beach," said port Executive Director Richard D. Steinke. "We project a doubling or tripling of trade during the next two decades. To accommodate trade growth, shipping lines have begun building larger ships. To accommodate the increasing cargo volumes and larger ships, we are building larger shipping terminals. Pier T is the first of our 'mega-terminals.'"

    Hanjin's move is the latest for the Korean line, reflecting its growth in Long Beach and the boom in Pacific Rim trade. Hanjin began calling in Long Beach in 1979, moving into its first dedicated terminal in 1991, a 57-acre facility at Pier C. In 1997, the Korean shipping line moved to its 170-acre facility at Pier A where, in 1999, it became the first Long Beach terminal to handle the equivalent of 1 million container units in a single year.

    The massive scale of the new Pier T terminal reflects the promising outlook for trade. When completed next year, the facility will be equal in size to 280 football fields. The first phase features a 3,700-foot-long deep-water wharf with a minimum water depth of 50 feet. (The port will complete another 1,300 feet of concrete wharf in the second 87-acre phase.) The Pier T facility includes a 29-lane truck gate, more than 140,000 square feet of terminal buildings, and the nation's largest on-dock rail yard with more than 83,000 feet of rail linked to the newly opened Alameda Corridor.

    Pier T #2
    Photo from Port of LB web site
    Among the terminal's most prominent landmarks are its 12 bright-red ship-to-shore gantry cranes. Costing $7 million each, the cranes are among the largest and fastest in the world, standing 350 feet high with their lifting booms raised and featuring sophisticated computer technology. They are each capable of lifting 100 tons. The cranes can reach across a yet-to-be-built generation of vessels with a width of 22 containers each eight feet wide. The largest vessels today are 17 containers wide.

    The first phase resulted in the employment of 5,500 temporary construction workers under 15 major construction contracts. Once Hanjin moves into Pier T, the facility will employ nearly 600 full-time management and union workers.

    The Pier T site was formerly home for nearly half a century to thousands of sailors and civilians based at the Long Beach Naval Station and the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. With the end of the Cold War, Congress closed the Naval Complex in the mid-1990s and transferred use of the land to the city of Long Beach for redevelopment in 1998.

    "The successful redevelopment of Pier T has been a model for the military base reuse process," said Steinke. "These former federal lands have found a new productive use as a major center for international trade and jobs."

    Both the Navy and the port have been lauded for their part in the environmentally sensitive redevelopment of Pier T. The Navy has remediated contaminated land. The port dredged contaminated sediment from the harbor floor and safely sandwiched the sediment within landfill created to expand another shipping terminal. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Regional Water Quality Control Board honored the port for its environmentally conscientious work.

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