|(Feb. 7, 2018, 10:30 p.m.) -- In a bright-line policy duel that pitted a City Council candidate against the Council incumbent she's seeking to replace, Third district Council candidate Gordana Kajer publicly urged LB Councilmembers to remove the Belmont Plaza pool rebuild -- a facility that isn't scheduled as the location for any of LB's 2028 Olympic Game competitions -- facing down Councilwoman Suzie Price who urged the City Council to prioritize the project as Olympics-related.
[Scroll down for further.]
The Feb. 6 agenda item, co-agendized by Mayor Garcia joined by Councilmembers Price, Pearce, Gonzalez and Mungo, described the Belmont Pool project as "new Belmont Pool would showcase Olympic history and is expected to be widely used for city exhibitions and events."
Ms. Kajer (who opposed the pool rebuild location before entering the April 2018 race to replace Price) told the Council: "It's clear that the pool will never be used for these Olympic events. It's being designed as a hall to host exhibits and I'd suggest to you that there might be some other locations within the City of Long Beach that might be more appropriate for that type of use."
Ms. Kajer, a veteran of other battles with City Hall, told the Council that the pool would face sea level rise and said the project faces a court challenge (to its EIR) filed by Citizens About Responsible Planning as well as appeals to the Coastal Commission, joined by two Coastal Commissioners (inviting an inference that those Commissioners may believe the appeal raises significant Coastal Act issues.)
A few minutes earlier, Councilwoman Price sought the support of her Council colleagues for the agenda item "to prepare...a needs assessment and project timeline" for eight projects it described as Olympics-related "and to prioritize and brand these projects as Olympic priority developments for future funding opportunities." Councilwoman Price said the pool rebuild is over half funded [Tidelands funds set aside] and "we have an incredibly engaged and active community dedicated and committed to seeing us raise money and look for alternative funding sources to be able to completely fund that project and I'm very very pleased and proud to be part of that project so I'm glad to see that that's on the list of eight [Olympics prioritized projects.]"
In addition to the Belmont Pool rebuild, the agenda item listed the Belmont/Veterans Pier Rebuild ("centerpiece and viewing center for sailing); Lifeguard Towers ("construct new lifeguard towers across the Long Beach coast to ensure safety and beach accessibility"); Beach Concession Stands ("for use by visitors and residents traveling between Pier and Downtown events"); Arena Rebuild ("refurbishment and needed investment of the structure to improve functionality for handball events"); Convention Center Hotel ("construction of new Pine & Ocean Convention Center hotel that would provide needed rooms for Olympic events"); Airport improvements ("completion of Airport improvements including reconstruction of rental car area, baggage claim, and amenities for Olympic travelers") and Metro Blue Line Improvements ("infrastructure improvements along the Metro Blue Line to ensure connection between other sports parks across LA County.")
LB's other shoreline Councilmember, Jeannine Pearce, steered clear of praising or panning the pool rebuild, saying she liked the pool project because it shows that LB is "open to investments" and "corporate sponsorships" to "make sure that we're not carrying the entire financial burden on our backs" and said she looks "forward to hearing what comes back from the Coastal Commission..."
When the vote was called and tallied, Councilwoman Pearce wasn't at the Council dais...and didn't cast a vote.
The Council recorded vote was
Ms. Kajer, who didn't mention her Council candidacy in her Council testimony, has publicly disagreed with Councilwoman Price's stance on other issues. In September 2017, Ms. Kajer testified against SEASP rezoning that would allow increased commercial building heights beyond current Coastal zone levels (five to in some cases seven stories) on parts of some commercial parcels along PCH in the vicinity of 2nd St. Councilwoman Price voted to approve the SEASP rezoning after city staff pared down more intense initially proposed building heights and density. The Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust has filed a court action challenging the Environmental Impact Report used to justify the SEASP rezoning.
Councilwoman Price is also facing a ballot challenge from Robert D. Savin, who didn't speak on the Olympics agenda item.
Ms. Kajer's position drew support from 3rd dist. residents Jeff Miller and Melinda Cotton (who've taken a number of environmentally protective and neighborhood vigilant stances over the years.) Mr. Miller said the pool rebuild was in the wrong location and would create traffic issues, suffers from lack of access and visitor amenities; he urged building the pool downtown which he noted was adjacent to a freeway, the Blue Line, bus lines, adequate parking, hotels, restaurants and other entertainment opportunities. Ms. Cotton said no one opposes providing LB's Aquatic Community with a nice pool, but said locating it downtown would better serve residents spanning east to west LB while allowing LB to retain the open space gained (where the former pool stood) now informally dubbed "Olympic Plaza Park" by nearby residents, from which spectators could view Olympic sailing competition.
Other speakers, from "Nolympics L.A." advised LB Councilmembers against joining in L.A.'s Olympics boosterism. Johnny Coleman said the group is a coalition of thirty groups comprised of housing and homeless advocates, "anti-imperialist" immigrants rights and workers groups. He said LB's Olympics participation could undermine LB's "sanctuary"-style policies because it's a national security event that would involve ICE and CBP agents working with local law enforcement.
Fifth district LB Councilwoman Stacy Mungo commented that United Airlines had just obtained naming rights for the L.A. Coliseum, and said she hopes for similar offers in Long Beach...prompting a response from Nolympics rep Coleman that the International Olympic Committee prohibits any city from letting an Olympic venue use a corporate-associated name during the period of the Olympics.
Feb. 8: Text amended to reflect 6-0 vote (not 7-0); although Councilwoman Pearce spoke during the item (as indicated above), she wasn't at the Council dais when the recorded vote was called.
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