It's all about the views, particularly those of Catalina Island. San Pedro has a rugged shoreline with crumbling bluffs and a vintage lighthouse more reminiscent of Northern California than the groomed, flat beaches of Redondo Beach or Torrance. The inland hillside homes capitalize on views of Los Angeles Harbor and Long Beach.
The two most desirable neighborhoods, South Shores ($600,000 to $800,000) and Palisades (high $400,000s to $750,000), have Catalina views. Vista del Oro (low $300,000s to $800,000) is the inland heart of San Pedro. Taper Street and its townhouse complex called the Gardens (high $200,000s to low $500,000s) is an '80s-era neighborhood popular with young families.
Bargain hunters may want to search the bluff-side Point Fermin area (high $200,000s to $500,000) or the inland Holy Trinity area (high $200,000s to $400,000). Prices drop the closer you get to the area's dowdy strip-mall gateway of Gaffey Street and the older section of town on and below Pacific Avenue.
The community has an unpretentious appeal likely attributed to its blue-collar soul. Its mix of dockworkers, military personnel (Ft. MacArthur is still an active base) and old and new immigrants give the area an eclectic feel. The Old Town area (6th and 7th streets) is undergoing a renaissance with new restaurants, the refurbished Warner Grand Theatre, galleries and coffeehouses. Ports o' Call Village remains a tourist draw.
Single-family homes dominate, with condominiums and townhouses making up about 15% to 20% of the housing stock. Unlike other parts of suburban L.A., San Pedro didn't grow up around '50s- and '60s-era tract houses. Homes built from the 1920s through the 1960s on tree-lined streets give the area a distinctive charm. It's not uncommon to see an older Mediterranean between a Cape Cod and an English Tudor.
Public schools in San Pedro are part of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Elementary schools are the strong suit here; test scores fall off at the middle schools and at the sole high school, San Pedro High.
Within San Pedro, inland areas stay sunny and warm; ocean-side neighborhoods are cooler and can be fogged in during mornings.
Good news, bad news
San Pedro has an out-of-the-way feel. However, the congested 110 Freeway is the only main artery off the peninsula.
Also, although the seaside location means cooler temperatures and great views, it doesn't translate to cleaner air.