Star-Kist plant in San Pedro dodges wrecking ball–for now

Port of LA invites lease bids for 9-acre site of former tuna cannery on Terminal Island

1050 Ways Street (LoopNet)
1050 Ways Street (LoopNet)

A former Star-Kist tuna cannery on Terminal Island in San Pedro has been spared from the wrecking ball–at least for a while.

The historic plant, once the largest tuna cannery in the world, got a reprieve when the Port of Los Angeles put a planned demolition of the vacant building on hold, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.

After objections by neighborhood groups, the port halted the state-mandated environmental review process needed for the demolition and is now seeking “expressions of interest” for a lease and development agreement for the property at 1050 Ways St., on Terminal Island.

Bids are due April 7 for the 8.63-acre property, which includes a 267,720-square-foot warehouse and parking lot.

The hold on demolition was announced by Mike DiBernardo, deputy executive director of Marketing and Customer Relations for the Port of LA.

The Terminal Island cannery was founded in 1917 by Croatian immigrant Martin J. Bogdanovich and four partners to process catches sailing into Fish Harbor, as San Pedro was then known. It ran as the French Sardine Company of California, before becoming Star-Kist Foods in 1953.

Not only was it the largest cannery in the world, the 1952 plant designed by John Minasian, the engineer behind Seattle’s Space Needle, was the largest example of tilt-up construction built by private industry on the West Coast, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy.

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Star-Kist closed its facilities in 1984. The cannery was later used for a pet food plant. Chicken of the Sea was the last operating cannery to close on Terminal Island in 2001, marking the end of an era that had been waning since the 1970s.

Initial plans in 2021 called for razing the main Star-Kist building, Plant No. 4, and the northern and southern portions of the East Plant, as well as a dock.

But the building, critics say, holds significant historical value and is an important symbol of San Pedro’s heritage. They said more effort should be made to find a new use. They also question whether the April 7 deadline for responses comes too soon, and called for a 90-day period.

“I’m very pleased that the port is going to give this a shot,” said Anthony Misetich, a nephew of Star-Kist founder Bogdanovich, who said a food cannery would be a good fit. “It doesn’t have to be a fish cannery.

“It could be a cannery for vegetables or other kinds of products, and you have the port facility there for export.”

[Los Angeles Daily News] – Dana Bartholomew

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