The Future is Looking Ocean Blue

Palos Verdes Pulse

Slightly less than a decade ago, Geraldine Knatz, former Executive Director of the Port of Los Angeles, asked Leonard Aube, former Executive Director of the Annenberg Foundation, to evaluate and seed fund a proposal of moving the Southern California Marine Institute (SCMI) to the Port’s City Dock No. 1.  Through these discussions came a point of inspiration for Aube and he quietly exclaimed, “We can do more.”  Thus, was the motivation to create AltaSea, a small nonprofit organization, to promote and increase interest in finding ways to capitalize on and preserve earth’s most vital ocean resources and stimulate economic growth.  Thanks to Aube’s recommendation, AltaSea was honored to be seed funded by Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation.

Once in place, AltaSea’s Board of Directors established its foundational pillars:

·         Exploration to find solutions for the world’s pressing challenges.

·         Feeding future generations.

·         Creating clean, sustainable energy solutions.

·         Creating economic opportunities for future generations.

The Port of Los Angeles agreed to provide $40 million in site improvements in a 50-year lease on a 35-acre property located at City Dock No. 1 to serve as a home for the AltaSea campus.  The property’s 4,700 ft. wharf allows direct ocean access and affords ample space to dock a variety of vessels.  Built just prior to the opening of the Panama Canal in approximately 1915, City Dock No. 1’s warehouses were originally used to store goods that were transported through the Canal intended for distribution along the West Coast. 

Tim McOsker, Chief Executive Officer of AltaSea, states, “During the previous century, man explored space and benefitted from the knowledge gained and many innovations that were an outgrowth of the space program.  This next century, we must turn to ocean exploration for greater understanding and knowledge to find solutions to many issues we are facing on this planet such as global warming and rising sea levels.  Our discoveries will include the development of sustainable food sources and energy sources that will have less of an impact on our planet.  Other discoveries may include new medicines and other ways to improve our daily lives.”  McOsker concludes, “AltaSea’s task is not to make these discoveries, but to create an environment that serves as a platform for others to make this possible and inspire future generations, just as we were inspired by our space program.”

The AltaSea campus is designed to house ocean-based businesses and technologies, research laboratories, provide opportunities for students of all ages to further their knowledge in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and develop and expand career paths as well as create economic opportunities in related fields and industries.

The Center of Innovation renovation of an existing 180,000 square foot warehouse, is designated for commercial purposes focusing on businesses engaged in aquaculture activities, the development of Unmanned Underwater Robotic Vehicles (UURVs), entrepreneurial opportunities in oceanic related businesses and serve as the winter home for Ocean Exploration Trust, established by famed oceanographer, Dr. Robert Ballard, who discovered the remains of the ill-fated Titanic. 

Currently, the Boeing Company leases space to test the 51 ft. UURV, Echo Voyager.  Blue Robotics produces drones and UURVs of a much smaller scale.  Holdfast Aquaculture and Transparent Sea are engaged in establishing sustainable food sources.  They are establishing “farms” in the waters off the San Pedro coast. 

Montauk Technologies, LLC assists with developing companies specializing in ocean sustainability and climate change using technology and intellectual properties.  They operate out of the La Kretz Blue Economy Incubator at AltaSea.  Braid Theory focuses on bringing entrepreneurs and influencers together to create maritime collaborations.

Another existing warehouse, Berth 57, will serve as the new home for the SCMI.  This is a cooperative learning and research laboratory shared by USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, UCLA, Occidental College, Ocean Studies Institute California State Universities, Los Angeles Community College District, The Bay Foundation, California Science Center and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  The building’s design includes classroom space for lectures and learning activities.  But, the heart of the building features tanks and aquariums as well as laboratories and other spaces to conduct research and oceanic studies.

The last parcel slated for development in Phase 1 is the open space adjacent to Berth 57.  It is here where AltaSea will erect its Visitor Engagement Center.  The Center will feature an auditorium with large windows overlooking the wharf.  It will host programs on a variety of topics related to ocean exploration. and discoveries.  In other sections of the Center, visitors will have the opportunity to interact with exhibits and displays related to the work being done by researchers and industry leaders.

As you can imagine, converting these buildings into viable businesses and learning centers requires a vast amount of renovation along with the construction of the new Visitor Engagement Center.  Estimates indicate the complete renovation and construction will cost upwards of $150 million.  The campus design was developed by Gensler, an architecture firm whose Los Angeles projects include the Banc of California Stadium in Exposition Park and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Residences and the J. W. Marriott at LA Live.  Major funding sources for the project include Economic Development Administration for infrastructure improvements, the Annenberg Foundation, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, Crail-Johnson Foundation, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, The Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation, Roy and Patricia Disney Family Foundation, Joseph Drown Foundation, Weingart Foundation and Goldhirsh Foundation LA2050. 

In November 2019, Melanie and Richard Lundquist donated $5 million dollars to AltaSea.  When making the donation, Mr. Lundquist recognized Aube’s inspirational plans for AltaSea, “He had an inexplicable passion for what AltaSea could be for our young people, for entrepreneurs interested in the blue economy and most importantly for helping find solutions to combat climate change.”  The owner of the Continental Development Corporation went on to say, “Melanie and I felt compelled to ensure that any money we would give to AltaSea should advance Len’s memory and in doing so, recognize the investment of time and resources he made along with Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation.”

McOsker says, “This gift from Richard and Melanie Lundquist is a wonderful tribute to Len and inspires us even more to realize our campus of innovation, discovery, and education on ocean sustainability.”

McOsker points out that their fundraising activities continue, and he is grateful to the organizations and individuals who have supported and continue to support AltaSea’s efforts to raise the funds to make required improvements to the buildings and infrastructure.  Mr. McOsker goes on to say, “Any of the funds raised from leases or usage fees go directly towards the ongoing costs related to the upkeep of the facility and its operating costs.”

AltaSea’s Phase 2 consists of developing the 17 acres adjacent property to the east of the existing warehouses which will be renovated into the Center of Innovation and Science Center.  Currently, AltaSea is working with potential partners for the expansion of the AltaSea vision on this parcel.

Inspirational and Educational Opportunities

Educational opportunities on-campus and off-campus play a vital role in AltaSea’s mission.  As a result, tenants at AltaSea are required by their lease agreements to assist with educational opportunities and internships.  After renovation, on-campus educational opportunities abound.  Dr. Ballard’s Ocean Exploration Trust offers educators and students access to its ocean exploration and research projects.  Students and instructors from California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) have used AltaSea’s waterside access to conduct tests and research on the UURVs they develop in their labs at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).  Many of the AltaSea’s prospective tenants offer internship opportunities to college students to develop career awareness and knowledge to extend their classroom learning.

High school and middle school students can take advantage of AltaSea’s extended learning opportunities that develop their STEM skills.  Initially, The Boys and Girls Clubs of the LA Harbor participated in the Project Blue curriculum.  The activities focused on aquaculture and robotics that featured hands-on opportunities.  Additional curriculum was developed and implemented at the Alliance Alice M. Baxter College-Ready High School in San Pedro.  During their study of robotics, students received assistance from U.S. Navy personnel.  Additional learning experiences were developed in cooperation with the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium (CMA).  The latest project is a workshop series emphasizing sustainable aquaculture and taught by CMA educational staff.

Prior to the COVID-19’s Safer at Home implementation, AltaSea officials were working with representatives from the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Long Beach Unified School District to incorporate the Project Blue curriculum into their classrooms.  Development and implementation of these activities will resume when the COVID-19 situation stabilizes and school resumes.

Inspired by the advent of COVID-19 restrictions, AltaSea staff developed a larger online presence for Project Blue.  “Project Blue @ Weekends” provides students of all ages and their parents the ability to engage in weekly hands-on contest opportunities to develop solutions for global challenges.  “Project Blue @ Home” offers live chats with AltaSea’s partners, participation in a blog series, ‘Here’s the Blue Deal’ and access to learning tools.  “Project Blue @ Summer” is scheduled to launch on June 15th.  “Project Blue Presents”, a unique event on the Battleship Iowa, is scheduled for the evening of October 10, 2020. 

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The Port of Los Angeles has always played a vital role in the supporting the economy of Southern California.  Through the efforts of the businesses and educational opportunities provided by AltaSea and its partners, it is apparent that we will not only look to the Port of Los Angeles to support our economy, but to play a vital role in creating sustainable energy and food sources as well as developing economic opportunities beyond those previously dreamed of.

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There’s More to the Story

Leonard Aube, former Executive Director of the Annenberg Foundation, faced an untimely death in April 2015.  Prior to his death and during the grand opening celebration for AltaSea, in recognition of his leadership and energies on behalf of the citizens of the City of Los Angeles and the Annenberg Foundation, Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles City Council designated a portion of 22nd Street that fronts the AltaSea campus as Leonard Aube Way. 

Steve Tabor Bio

This South Bay native’s photographic journey began after receiving his first 35 mm film camera upon earning his Bachelor of Arts degree.  Steve began with photographing coastal landscapes and marine life.  As a classroom teacher he used photography to share the world and his experiences with his students.  Steve has expanded his photographic talents to include portraits and group photography, special event photography as well as live performance and athletics.  Steve serves as a volunteer ranger for the Catalina Island Conservancy and uses this opportunity to document the flora and fauna of the island’s interior as well as photograph special events and activities.

Watch for Steve Tabor Images on the worldwide web.

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