In the spring of 2000, the Business, Education, and Arts committee of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce began to look at some ways that they could help with the revitalization of downtown San Pedro. Chamber Chairperson, Camilla Townsend, had heard about the Orange County High School for the Arts, a charter school that was operating in the city of Santa Ana in a renovated office building. Over the next few months, several members of the committee as well as several Chamber board members went to visit the Santa Ana school to see how this was done.
In September 2000, the newly appointed Los Angeles Unified School Superintendent, Roy Romer, spoke at the monthly Chamber breakfast. In his speech, Romer discussed the severe overcrowding in LA city schools and challenged the Port of Los Angeles and the San Pedro community to find creative solutions for new schools.
At the next Business, Education, and Arts committee meeting, a Charter School subcommittee was formed to explore the possibility of a high school modeled on the Santa Ana school. The school would not only address the overcrowding issue, but would also further the goal of revitalizing downtown San Pedro. The Chamber of Commerce applied to the state for a feasibility Planning Grant for a charter school. The school would be a comprehensive grades 9-12 high school, but would also have an enriched curriculum that focused on international business, trade, transportation, the maritime industry, advanced technology, and global humanities including the arts. Additionally, students would have the opportunity to engage in school-to-work programs and internships in the maritime industry as well as pursuing Higher Education goals.
The Planning Grant was awarded and a consultant was hired to draft the initial charter document. Several sites were viewed by the charter committee, chamber officers and the developer who had built the Santa Ana high school. The Evergreen complex on Centre between 3rd and 5th streets was for sale and was identified as the most feasible site for the school. An interim Foundation Board for the school was formed and the Foundation applied for and was granted non-profit status.
At this same time, the Port of Los Angeles was looking for a new site for the Port Police and decided that the Evergreen Site being directly behind the Port Administration Building would be a good site for them also. Knowing the chamber was looking at the site for the school, chamber president, Jayme Wilson, met with port officials and Harbor Commission president, Nick Tonsich, to explore possibilities for joint use of the site. The Port decided to purchase the site but found that they did not need the entire site for the Port Police and declared some of the site as surplus.
In 2003, the final charter document was approved by the Los Angeles Unified School District and the State of California. The official name of the school became the Port of Los Angeles High School.