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Mayor Garcia Told U.S. Senator Feinstein That City Seeks $60 Mil For Belmont Beach Aquatics Center...Months Before Public Hearings And Votes By Planning Comm'n And City Council On Whether To Approve It

See other items on City Hall "wish list" for fed'l funds 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 14, 2017, 4:25 p.m.) -- One week after President Trump delivered his inaugural address that described plans to increase federal infrastructure spending, Mayor Robert Garcia's office sent a letter to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D, CA) stating: "On behalf of the City of Long Beach, and in the interest of improving America's infrastructure, below is a list of infrastructure projects that if funded, will create United States manufacturing jobs and with full funding could be underway and creating jobs in 2017."

The letter wasn't a formal request; it was basically an introductory wish list; the items might be changed or re-prioritized in the future. The letter's first-listed item was $400 million to replace/reconfigure the Shoemaker Bridge at the southern end of the 710 freeway. Its second listed item was: "Belmont Beach Aquatic Center -- $60 million." Mayor Garcia's letter described it as follows:

[Scroll down for further.]

[Garcia Jan. 27, 2017 letter text] Seismic deficiencies forced the closure of the original Belmont Plaza Pool in January 2013. Since that time, a temporary pool has been erected to sustain some aquatic activities, but a permanent facility is needed to support Long Beach's strong aquatic community, which has produced numerous Olympic athletes. The newly designed aquatic complex will be a state-of-the-art facility that will include indoor and outdoor pools for recreation, teaching, competition, and therapy. Also included in the design is a casual café with open-air seating and an indoor concession area to be available during indoor events.

Project goals include providing the community with an aquatic space for both teaching and recreation, as well as providing an aquatic competition and practice space for swimming, diving, and water polo. Long Beach is also seeking to maximize the use of this prime beachfront location by fostering access and a sense of civic presence.



Mayor Garcia's letter didn't mention that the City hadn't yet held legally required public hearings at which LB residents could testify, pro and con, on whether their city's Planning Commission and City Council should approve city-staff sought legal entitlements for the project. The City did hold public study sessions and some community meetings on matters including the project's design and the like but not on Planning Commission/City Council voted actions on whether to approve city-staff sought legal entitlements to advance the project.


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On March 2, 2017 LB's Mayor-chosen Planning Commission voted without dissent to do what city staff requested. It certified an Environmental Impact Report, approved a Site Plan Review, Conditional Use Permit, Standards Variance and Local Coastal Development Permit entitlements to construct and operate the Belmont Beach and Aquatic Center. LB taxpayers Gordana Kajer; Jeff Miller and Melinda Cotton; Joe Weinstein, Ann Cantrell and Citizens Advocating for Responsible Planning (CARP); and the Long Beach Area Peace appealed the non-elected Planning Commission approvals to the elected City Council.

On May 16, those appeals will reach the City Council...and Councilmembers can either uphold or overrule the taxpayers' appeals. If the Council overrules their appeals, City Hall will ask the Coastal Commission to approve the Coastal Act-related entitlements. If a Coastal Commission majority approves the project's entitlements as consistent with the Coastal Act (and if the EIR and the project entitlements aren't overturned by a reviewing court), the City could build the now-proposed Aquatics Center.



City Hall currently proposes to build the Aquatics facility (larger than the pool it replaces) on the same seismic liquefaction prone site that doomed the previous pool. (In a June 2014 City Council study session, LB's former Assistant City Manager, Suzanne Frick, likened the engineering challenge to building the facility on "jello.")

The site also simultaneously raises issues of sea level rise that are forecast to affect the site during the useful life of the project. In other contexts, Mayor Garcia and others like minded have said global warming and sea level rise are science that it would be foolhardy to ignore.


The seismic and sea level rise issues have together propelled the Belmont Shore site's cost to over $100 million (of which the Council has allocated, but not spent, $60 million dollars toward the Aquatic Center's construction.) City staff proposes to perch the Aquatic facility on a specially elevated "plinth," a pedestal that would raise its peak to roughly double the height that the City agreed in LB's current Coastal Commission approved height-limiting Local Coastal Program. If the same Aquatics Center were built inland, it would likely cost millions less but couldn't tap Tidelands funds. That would effectively require City Hall to find other source(s) of taxpayer funds to build the Aquatics Center (which would free up $60 million in Tidelands funds that could be used for other shoreline projects including repairs to the damaged Belmont Pier.) Meanwhile, the City could continue to use a temporary pool now serving the public at the site.

On May 11, the Coastal Commission's District Director in the agency's Long Beach office informed the City by letter that [summary paraphrase] the agency's staff finds problematic City Hall's proposed actions regarding sea level rise and coastal zone height issues. The Coastal Commission's voting members have ultimate decision making authority over whether to approve or deny the project as proposed. On May 10, state Senate Democrat leadership reappointed LB Councilman Roberto Uranga to a second four year term on the Coastal Commission. reported the Coastal Commission staff's May 11 letter as well as a May 12 statement by the City in response at his link.

In addition, the Planning Commission certified the project's Environmental Impact Report, a document that's legally required to consider alternatives to the Belmont Shore site. The EIR dismisses other locations as infeasible and doesn't mention an Aquatics Center now planned for LBCC's ELB campus would have the same Olympic-dimension pool as proposed in Belmont Shore.

The planned LBCC Aquatics Center stems from a November 2016 local voter-approved property-tax raising debt-bond ballot measure based on an LBCC "Project List" that included the following representations:

"...(ix) Repair, improve and construct additional athletic laboratories, including an aquatic center, to serve District students, members of the general public and qualified athletic organizations ...(xv) Seek opportunities for joint use of facilities with Long Beach Unified School District, the City of Long Beach and other public agencies."

The design phase of the LBCC Aquatics Center is about to begin. To date, there's been no serious public discussion of whether it would or wouldn't be feasible to add to the planned LBCC facility a number of amenities and other features (including high diving) that are included in the proposed Belmont Shore Aquatic facility (and if so at what costs and who'd pay for them.)

Following March 2017 public testimony by taxpayers Gordana Kajer and Ann Cantrell (appellants in the Belmont Shore Aquatic Center proceeding), a member of LBCC's governing Board of Trustees, Sunny Zia, asked LBCC staff to provide information at a future meeting to invite informed discussion on whether some type(s) of joint use(s) with the City might be feasible with the LBCC Aquatics Center. reported this in detail at this link. LBCC's staff report on the matter wasn't on the Board's April meeting...and the Board's May meeting isn't scheduled until May 30.

Mayor Garcia's Jan. 27 letter to Sen. Feinstein also listed a number of other projects (in the order below, after Shoemaker Bridge and the Belmont Aquatic Center, letter text in quotes):

  • LB MUST -- Stormwater Recycling Facility -- $40 million. "This project will result in the creation of an innovative facility that will provide treatment of urban runoff prior to the water entering the Los Angeles River.), a stormwater recycling facility "that will result in the creation of an innovative facility that will provide treatment of urban runoff prior to the water entering the Los Angeles River..."

  • Police and Fire Facility Improvements ($10 million) to replace trailers with a permanent facility at which to train new police officers [Amnesia file: a previous City authorized demolishing the city's previous permanent facility to make way for a now defunct "AutoNation" site]

  • Bicycle Infrastructure ($105 million). "Long Beach's residents and visitors, even those who choose not to ride bicycles, greatly benefit from the improvements recommended within this Plan. A more bicycle friendly Long Beach contributes to resolving issues like traffic congestion, poor air quality, and climate change."

  • Houghton Park Community Center ($10 million) to cover construction costs of a "regional center providing a wide array of recreational services to area youth, teens, and seniors."

  • Colorado Lagoon -- $25 million. "..The creation of approximately 25,000 square feet of new subtidal habitat is necessary to maintain the ecological value of one of southern California’s last remaining salt marshes."

The letter continues:

In addition to the infrastructure projects described above, the City of Long Beach could also break ground on numerous transportation and building facility improvements. With respect to transportation, there is a need for $420 million in street pavement projects, a $200 million grade separation project at the Metro Wardlow Station, $60 million in sidewalk repairs, and $60 million in alley repairs. In order to maintain clean beaches and waterways, there is a need for $20 million in stormwater pump station improvements and $95 million in storm-related flooding. So that our children have safe and active places to recreate, $3 million could be invested in public park playground improvements; and because the Long Beach Convention Center is in such high demand, $53 million is needed to make improvements to the facility.

Mayor Garcia's letter concludes with: "It is no secret that national prosperity is driven through civic innovation in the City of Long Beach. Evidenced by research conducted by the Los Angeles County Business Federation, Long Beach is one of the five most business-friendly cities in the region. Our streets and roads, buildings and infrastructure, technological improvements and investments all support a vast network of private businesses and American growth."

The letter is cc'd to Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D, LB-West OC) and Congresswoman Nanette Barragan (D, NLB, San Pedro-Southgate).

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