A Guide to San Pedro, California: What to Do, See, and Eat
Under a freeway overpass in San Pedro, where the sounds of cars and semi-trucks echo from above, there is a hidden skate park. It’s both gritty and magical, made by a group of volunteer hands that poured concrete, scooped rain from storms, and assembled each shiny tile of decorative mosaics that cover the walls of this DIY playground.
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Gabriel Solis, a 59-year-old retired construction worker, came skiing early Wednesday morning while his rescue dog watched. He jumps from his painting to take in the scene.
“I am an artist and this is my painting,” he says.
In a way, this underground sanctuary – Channel Street Skate Park – seems like a symbol of San Pedro, a city where creativity and community seem to emerge in the most unexpected places. Solis, who has lived there for 20 years, describes the neighborhood with words like “rebellious,” “punk” and “pure.”
“It’s a place where you don’t have to explain yourself,” he says. “Here, I’m Gabe. The people I know in skating, I don’t even know their last names. It’s a culture. We know who you are because you put in the work. This is Pedro. We build things here and destroy them with passion.”
Located at the southern end of Interstate 110, just 25 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, San Pedro (called “San P-Dro” by those in the know) is an old Navy town that was primarily inhabited by shipping workers stevedores, port workers and their families. It has long had a rebellious spirit: in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it was home to a swelling punk scene. (The 1981 Black Flag show at San Pedro High School, with new singer Henry Rollins debuting with the band, is a moment punk’s predecessors still talk about.) San Pedro is also home to a strong Croatian community — in 2003, part of 9th Street is called the “Croatian Place” and every year, in honor of Croatia’s independence from Yugoslavia, a huge multi-day celebration is held there. The city constantly attracts creative people. Art flourishes everywhere, from the gallery walls displayed at First Thursday Art in San Pedro to the sidewalks, utility boxes and various urban cracks. (Try to find several cats scattered around the city drawn by an artist vaguely known as @ifoundyourcat on Instagram.)
At a party in San Pedro, young children sit on skateboards and emerge from a Calimocho screen-printing shop, while people gather outdoors to listen to a surf band chocolate. There’s a mix of small business owners selling wares — houseplants, crystals, San Pedro’s version of Monopoly — and they all seem to be friends.
“San Pedro has a small-town vibe,” says director April Jones, whose documentary “Concrete Law” follows Channel Street Skatepark’s bureaucratic battle over seven years. “I’m friends with the Tamale lady. I say ‘good morning’ to the little old lady walking her dog. I hug my neighbors.”
While creation is one theme that runs throughout the city, preservation is another. There is a fight to protect history here – one that has emerged in recent efforts to restore landmarks including the Hey Rookie Pool, the Warner Grand Theater and the Muller House Museum. However, the emotions are intertwined with the knowledge that massive change is also coming. Currently in the works is a 42-acre, $160 million waterfront park and food hall called West Harbor, which will appear in the former home of the dilapidated but beloved Ports O’ Call Village. It will open in 2025 and boasts a long line of big-name tenants, such as Hollywood’s iconic Yamashiro Mountain Mansion, immersive art experience Hopscotch and stylish dog social club Bark Social.
As in all neighborhoods facing transformation, there is excitement and apprehension in the air. But one thing’s for sure: Whatever San Pedro’s next town is, the locals will figure out how to make it their own.
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What is included in this guide
Anyone who lives in a major city can tell you that neighborhoods are tough. They are eternally malleable and raise social questions about how we place our homes, our neighbors, and our communities within a broader fabric. In the name of neighborly generosity, we’ve included gems that might otherwise remain outside technical standards. Instead of relying on strict definitions, we hope to celebrate all the places that make us love where we live.