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Bombshell: Coastal Comm'n District Director Tells City Council "Best Practice" Should Avoid Locating Belmont Beach Aquatic Center In Area Subject To Sea Level Rise/Shoreline Erosion; Letter Reveals Coastal Comm'n Staff "Has Previously Recommended" City Consider Relocating It To Site Not Affected By Sea Level Rise/Wave Action

Letter Also Requests City To Address Increased Height Issue "And Provide Clarification" On How Project Would Be Consistent LB's Current Local Coastal Program (LCP) Without Need For Amending LCP is reader and advertiser supported. Support independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.
(May 12, 2017, updated 8:03 p.m. with Ass't City Mgr. statement) -- In a bombshell development that calls into question significant aspects of city-staff's proposed Belmont Beach Aquatics Center, the District Director in the Long Beach office the CA Coastal Commission has informed the City of Long Beach that Coastal Commission staff -- which serves the agency whose voting Commissioners have ultimate approval authority on the project above that of the City Council -- believes "the best practice" for the City is to avoid locating the proposed Aquatics Center "in areas subject to sea level rise and shoreline erosion."

The May 11 letter also includes a revelation -- to our knowledge information not previously disclosed to the public by city officials -- that Coastal Commission staff "has previously recommended" that the City "consider relocating the facility to a site that will not be affected by sea level rise/wave action..."

In addition, the letter from Steve Hudson, District Director in the Coastal Commission's Long Beach office, addressed to the LB City Council (and cc'd to Coastal Commission member Roberto Uranga; Ass't City Mgr. Tom Modica; Dir. of Development Service Amy Bodek; and Planning Bureau Mgr. Linda Tatum) requests that the City address the increased height of the proposed facility "and provide clarification" on how the project would be consistent with Long Beach's current Local Coastal Program ["LCP" governing land uses in the LB coastal zone] without the need for an amendment the LCP.

[Scroll down for further.]

The Coastal Commission letter is consistent with concerns repeatedly raised about sea level rise and height by a number of LB area residents including shoreline protection advocate Gordana Kajer; parks/open space advocate Ann Cantrell plus Dr. Joe Weinstein (on behalf of CARP/"Citizens About Responsible Planning"); Belmont Shore neighborhood advocates Jeff Miller and Melinda Cotton; and Anna Christensen on behalf of the LB Area Peace Network.

Reacting to the Coastal Commission staff's May 11 letter, [update] Assistant City Manager provided with the following statement:

On the afternoon of May 11, the City received an unanticipated comment letter from the Coastal Commission local staff regarding the Belmont Pool project. A copy of that letter is attached for your review.

The City previously received an EIR comment letter during the CEQA comment period from local Coastal staff regarding issues concerning location, jurisdiction, height, sea level rise, and wave uprush, all of which were responded to and addressed through the Draft EIR comment period, and a copy of that letter is attached as well for your reference.

City staff will be reviewing this latest letter in addition to the prior response already provided to the Coastal Commission and will be discussing this in detail with the City Council on May 16, 2017 as part of the EIR appeal. The Tuesday presentation will discuss in depth the City's analysis of the three alternative locations studied, Local Coastal Plan conformance, wave uprush and sea level rise analysis conducted, and building height and view corridors.

Appellant Gordana Kajer told

It was a little surprising to see such a strongly worded letter from Coastal Commission staff to the Long Beach City Council. But it confirms what we have said, the Planning Commission erred in certifying the EIR and approving the Coastal Development Permit. In light of the information provided from Coastal Commission staff in this letter, we hope that City Council will take heed and overturn the project approvals this coming Tuesday night [May 16]. We also hope that they'll direct City staff to re-start a process to find a more appropriate site for this aquatics center in Long Beach -- out of harm's way, off the beach and away from the threat of sea-level rise.



The four groups of residents/taxpayers have appealed a March decision by LB's non-elected (Mayor chosen, Council approved) Planning Commission to approve the proposed project. On Tuesday May 16, the residents/taxpayers' appeals have been scheduled to reach the City Council for a formal hearing, along with city staff's request that the Council overrule the appeals and approve legal entitlements for the project. If a Council majority vote were to approve the proposed project, it would go to the Coastal Commission...where its staff's recommendations (letter above) could carry sizable weight with the Commission's voting members. The Coastal Commission letter isn't the opinion of the Coastal Commission itself (which would be expressed through a future voted action of Commission members; a Commission majority may or may not agree with agency staff recommendations on particular issues.)

The Coastal Commission's members include LB City Councilmember Roberto Uranga, recently appointed to a second Coastal Commission term by state Senate Democrat leadership and is (separately) seeking reelection to a second City Council term in LB's 7th district in April 2018.


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On April 26, the Long Beach Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation released a letter opposing the shoreline-adjacent proposed Aquatics Center, providing in detailed technical terms the grounds for its objectons and why it encourages the Council to "uphold the appeals, reverse approvals of the EIR and CDP and direct staff to reinitiate an analysis of alternative sites for the facility."

Much of a previously estimated $103+ million cost of the project stems from City-proposed measures to address sea level rise, including building the new facility on a "plinth" or elevated platform/pedestal. Other costs result from the need to deal with seismic issues that doomed the former Belmont Plaza Pool at the same site. In a June 17, 2014 City Council study session (with the now-former Council majority), then-Assistant City Manager Suzanne Frick said the project entails "designing a building on jello because we are in essence on beach sand with a very high water table, so in the world of earthquakes, that creates liquefaction and if we don't design it properly we can have some trouble."

The facility's cost would be significantly less if it were relocated elsewhere in the city...but Tidelands funds wouldn't be available to build it if were relocated inland (outside the LB's shoreline Tidelands area.)



City staff also proposes to include various amenities and competition related features sought by LB's well-organized aquatics community which has consistently urged city officials to build the facility. Although an estimate several years ago put the cost at $103 million, during the June 2014 study session city staff estimated the cost would reach or exceed $120 million by FY15-16. City staff currently declines to provide a firm cost figure until after the Council votes on whether to proceed with the facility.

The Council has previously voted to put aside $60 million from LB's Tidelands fund for the facility (which project opponents note could otherwise be used to address other shoreline needs.) It's currently unclear from what taxpayer sources city management would obtain $40-$60+ million estimated to build the facility along the Belmont Shore shoreline. Some project opponents have suggested building it along LB's more solid downtown shoreline [reminiscent of the popular "Plunge" at the now-former Pike decades ago] which city officials have said isn't feasible because potential downtown locations are already taken up with other planned uses.

Developing. Further to follow on


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