Long Beach Looks At Harbor Redevelopment

Rob Stinson couldn't believe what he saw sitting in Katrina's muck.

"Look at all the table bases, all the china, all the soup cups," he said. "It's the first time I've actually seen anything of substance from the restaurant."

His restaurant once sat on top of wooden pilings at the foot of the Long Beach Harbor. But the hurricane chewed it up and spit it out.

"The days of a small entrepreneur like me building on wood pylons, a restaurant on the water are done," he said. "It's not going to happen."

Long Beach Port and Harbor Commissioner Phil Kies said what may happen along the water will completely transform this hurricane damaged harbor area.

"If we can go from 200 slips to 450-500, then it's just gravy," said Kies. "Anything we can do to improve that situation, then we're all for it."

Kies remembers the devastating scenes he saw on his initial post-Katrina trip to the harbor.

"I was shocked the first time I came down here. I almost got sick to my stomach when I saw it," he said.

Some of the piers survived. But the harbor's offices, its two restaurants, its yacht club all disintegrated.

"It's disheartening to only see 12 masts where we had 212 vessels in here before," he said.

Kies vows to bring the harbor back to life.

"We're going to rebuild one way or another," he said.

One option is to adopt the plans drawn up by Florida developer Jerry Wallace. His designs extend the harbor out to Jeff Davis Avenue. They add more boat slips. And they turn the waterfront into more of a resort, with condos, shops and restaurants surrounding the docks.

Kies said Wallace "brought a plan which may or may not fly. But it's at least a start."

It's a starting point that Rob Stinson says the city must take seriously. Because to him, the only way Long Beach can recover from Katrina is if it jumps on a good opportunity.

"I think the hardest part now is people don't want to let go of what they thought of Long Beach. But Mother Nature did that for them," the restaurant owner said.

Thursday night, the Port and Harbor Commission has invited a representative from Jerry Wallace's development team to a meeting, so the harbor design proposal can be unveiled. The meeting will be held in the Long Beach High School gym at 7:00.