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A neighborhood guide to San Pedro, ‘the last affordable beach town’

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The Harbor neighborhood is the winner of the 2017 Curbed Cup

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock

The People’s Guide offers tours of Los Angeles neighborhoods led by loyal readers, favorite bloggers, and other luminaries of our choosing. Have a piece to say? We’ll be happy to hand over the megaphone.

This time, we welcome two guides to San Pedro, winner of the 2017 Curbed Cup. They are husband and wife Dora Epstein and Chad Whitney. Epstein is the executive director of the Architecture + Design Museum, and Whitney is a 15-year resident of Pedro and a bartender at Brouwerij West. Their love of San Pedro is infectious.

What brought you to the neighborhood?

Chad: I was having my first son, doing the stay-at-home dad gig, and San Pedro was a much closer to commute to Carson, where my ex-wife was working.

Dora: The decision was the same for me. I had a nine-year old, and Chad and I moved in-together. I took a look around and thought: “This is a great place to raise a kid.” There’s lots of green space, lots of walkability, lots of other mommies and daddies with their kids.

Why’d you stay?

San Pedro is a walkable neighborhood with a small-town vibe.

Dora: For us, it’s a very livable. It’s like a small town, but you get the benefit of the diversity and cultural sophistication of being in Los Angeles, but without a backward way of thinking, and it doesn’t come at with a real high price tag.

I was able to purchase in a town. I wouldn’t have been able to purchase a house of this quality in Los Angeles. It’s a 1920s bungalow—your dream bungalow that costs $1.2 million to $1.3 million in Silver Lake, and it comes with a yard.

Chad: It is the last affordable beach town. It’s often overlooked, and that’s perfectly fine with me. We’re a stone throw’s from the water in three directions. It’s the last place you can afford a house, a nice house, on a middle class income.

Dora: Chad’s employment is here now. I work in DTLA and the commute isn’t so bad. It’s a straight shot down the 110 freeway. We can get on the train from the Harbor Transit Center. It’s kind of like, why go anywhere else?

Tell us more about your house; it sounds darling.

Dora: It’s a 1919 bungalow; three bedrooms, one bedroom is a Jack and Jill; one bath; on a 5,000-square-foot lot. It’s raised up from the street. We’re on a tree-lined street. We have all the amenities: a garage, a yard, beautiful built-ins, leaded windows, a glassed-in sun porch, and all for well under $600,000. It’s gorgeous.

Chad: It’s bad ass.

What do you like most about San Pedro?

Chad: The small-town vibe. I lived in NYC for 15 years, but I grew up in the Midwest. And, there are a ton of great restaurants and food. We’ve got three butcher shops.

Dora: Real butcher shops with meat hanging!

Chad: In Pedro, they’re not even considered specialty foods, but they’re speciality foods because they’re the only place you can find them.

Dora: Most of the businesses here are locally-owned. It’s mom-and-pop. There’s larger retail, like Home Depot and Target, but they’re out of town slightly. The local bakery is owned by the person with a daughter who ran for fiesta queen and her last name is the same name as the bakery’s. Joe Buscaino, you’re going to see him around. You get to know him. Janice Hahn is all over town. There’s an independently-funded, progressive newspaper, and it’s free, and it’s politically very, very active.

Chad: It’s been around for 40 years.

Tide pools in San Pedro.

What are some hidden gems?

Dora: There are so many. Let’s go restaurants first. It’s the best restaurant in Los Angeles: J Trani’s.

dinner in toon town

A post shared by Julio Miles (@julliomilles) on

Chad: It’s like American, steaks, seafood, with a Croatian Italian vibe to it. It’s a phenomenal restaurant.

Dora: I’ve been to every major sushi restaurant, and I’ll put Senfuku in San Pedro up against any of them. They have a master sushi chef. There’s some really cool shopping, an antique store called House 1002; they have really incredible finds and good prices.

Chad: The Warner Grand Theatre, it’s so impressive, and JD Hobbies across from that.

Dora: There are tide pools, as well.

Chad: The Korean Bell of Friendship, where you can fly kites.

Dora: There are miles and miles of hiking trails.

Local customs of note?

Chad: The tall ships festival, the fireworks on the Fourth of July, the holiday boat show, Taste of San Pedro in the summer, Lobster Fest, the grunion run.

What’s the housing stock like?

Dora: It’s not aimed at the young, urban professional. There are some places with one-bedroom apartments, but it’s not South Beach in San Francisco.

Who wouldn’t be happy living here?

Chad: If you’re looking for anonymity, Pedro is not the place.

Dora: I’ll say, “Hey let’s go to the grocery store,” and Chad will say, “I don’t want to run into anyone I know.” San Pedro is tight-knit. We have a culture of wanting to know what’s going on, and that turns a lot of people off.

Any last thoughts?

Dora: There’s a little bit of sweat equity in Pedro. You do have to be friendly with your neighbors, and then all of those good things start to become apparent to you. If you drive down Gaffey, there’s a lot of gas stations, fast food. If you took a cursory drive through it...

Chad: You’d miss 90 percent of what makes it great.

Dora: There’s nowhere else in California, I’d rather be.