The first time I visited San Pedro, I drove past a Motel 6 when I noticed a naked man hanging outside a window two floors over the street. Pedestrians walked past as if nothing strange was happening. I concocted scenarios to explain the incident. Perhaps the man was having a clandestine affair when the woman’s husband walked in. Maybe he was tripping on drugs. Maybe it was a fraternity hazing ritual.
San Pedro is quirky. The aging American cars and antiquated stores feel like an old episode of The Rockford Files. There are bait and tackle shops, bait and burger shops and a bait barge in the middle of the harbor. There’s a Croatian chicken cafe with a massive hen sculpture on the roof (Slavko’s Harbor Poultry). There’s a store specializing in 18th century inks and quills (Hare & Trove). The National Watercolor Society is headquartered here.
San Pedro is the birthplace of Mike Watt from the Minutemen and Joe “Pegleg” Morgan, former head of the Mexican Mafia. This is where film director Tony Scott committed suicide by jumping off the Vincent Thomas Bridge. This is also where the film The Usual Suspects shot the boat explosion scene and where Steve Buscemi’s ashes are spread in The Big Lebowski.
San Pedro is a small working-class neighborhood of 80,000 residents known for the Port of Los Angeles, the largest seaport in North America. It’s home to several maritime museums and a Frank Gehry designed aquarium. The town is named after Saint Peter of Alexandra, whose feast day (November 24) is when Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovered the area in 1542.
To get to San Pedro, you take the 110 Harbor Freeway from downtown Los Angeles south until the freeway ends. You’re deposited onto Gaffey Street, San Pedro’s main thoroughfare. The heart of the neighborhood is downtown 6th Street where you’ll find the Warner Grand Theater, a vintage art deco movie palace. Screenwriter Robert Towne (Chinatown) grew up in San Pedro. His experience watching Sergeant York at the Warner Grand Theater in 1941 made him want to become a filmmaker.
Author Charles Bukowski lived in San Pedro from 1978 until his death in 1994. He hung out at Williams Bookstore on 6th Street, the oldest bookstore in Los Angeles until it shuttered in 2013. Bukowski’s favorite coffee house, Sacred…