Monday, September 24, 2012 at 7:30 a.m.
After months of rallies, public discourse and meetings where enraged community members voiced their love for Berth 55, the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners set aside the 180-day notice that would have displaced the businesses on Oct. 16.
Since the community forum at Queens Warf Restaurant on Aug. 29, where supporters of Berth 55's tenants--Berth 55 Fish Market and Seafood Deli, Long Beach Sport Fishing and Queens Wharf--proclaimed their outrage over the port's plans to replace Berth 55 with a fireboat station, supporters have attended city council and harbor commissioners meetings to continue the fight.
The pressure from activists was high, but the announcement appeared last week to much surprise. And many are wondering, has the port actually listened to the voices in the community? Has a juggernaut of international commerce stopped their plans for continued progress because of the voice of the people?
To date, it's not clear how long Berth 55 will stay out of the way of the port's wrecking ball. It's almost as if Berth 55 was sitting on the electric chair, and at the last moment, the governor called in with what appeared to be a pardon.
"We will do an environmental analysis of the proposal for a new fire and security center at the Berth 55 site," said Susan E. Anderson Wise, President of the Board of Harbor Commissioners. "In the meantime, the 180-day notice has been rescinded and the restaurant and sport-fishing vessels can stay."
While Berth 55 has been granted more life, the port has not provided Lawrence Maehara, owner of Berth 55 Fish Market and Seafood Deli, with a definitive answer or any timeline to clarify the uncertainty of the businesses' future.
"It's not over yet," says Lawrence Maehara. "The only thing that happened so far is that I get to keep my foot in the door, and I get to stay. But it's only during their EIR (Environmental Impact Report). And that could take up to a year. But after that, who knows what's going to happen."
Despite the uncertainty, Maehara is excited about the positive response from the city council, Mayor Bob Foster and the possibility of staying in business, but Maehara still believes he needs to continue the fight and the hope of working with the port.
While Maehara is staying positive, Michael Redlew, general manager of Long Beach Sport Fishing, says he is cautiously optimistic -- though maybe skeptical is a better phrase. He's not sure if the port is listening to members of the community -- or just waiting for public outcry to subside before moving forward.
"It could just be a way to quiet the furor over it right now," Redlew said. "We suspect that there's a possibility that they're just trying to quiet everything down for a while, see if we can loose the weight of support we have right now and come back later when things are all quiet and people have forgotten about it a little bit."
Now, the community waits to hear the results of the EIR and the port's plans for moving forward. It's hard for many to believe that the port will stop, but right now, it appears the port has listened.
"Long term, I don't know," Maehara says on the future of Berth 55. "All I know is that I've got to stay positive and keep up the good fight."