Long Beach City Mgr's Office, In Carefully Worded Statement Attributable To Mayor Garcia on Behalf of City, Says City Is Exploring Feasibility Of Downtown Sports Venue On Convention Ctr Parking Lot, Approached Angels, In Early Stages Of Due Diligence, Exploring Variety Of Options. Amnesia File: In Formally Adopted EIR, City Refused To Evaluate Site For Public-Serving Recreational Pool, Said It Should Be Reserved For Hotel/Convention Uses
|(Feb 25, 2019, updated 9:15 p.m.) -- In carefully worded text, the Long Beach City Manager's office has issued the statement below, which it says can be attributed to Mayor Robert Garcia on behalf of the City of Long Beach:
"As part of our efforts to create a downtown waterfront development plan, we are exploring the feasibility of a downtown sports venue on the Convention Center parking lot. We are in the early stages of our due diligence and are exploring a variety of options for this property. We have approached the Angels to express our interest and discuss the possibilities of this opportunity. This is very preliminary and discussions are ongoing. This statement can be attributed to Mayor Robert Garcia on behalf of the City of Long Beach."
In answer to our inquiry, City Public Affairs Officer Kevin Lee told us "we" in this statement = the City.
As previously reported by LBREPORT.com, on August 28, 2018, Mayor Garcia stated at an event he titled "Building A Better Long Beach" that the public should expect intense development along what was once LB's downtown beach and is now a "waterfront" with no beach. Mayor Garcia said a "visioning" process would take place for the Downtown Shoreline Planned Development area PD-6 [Power Point slide text] "creating a new Specific Plan for this area." He indicated that a "task force" [whose members he'd likely choose] will discuss a "long term development plan to strengthen existing uses and promote new uses that enhance the shoreline."
In June 2016, following an L.A. Times story indicating that Los Angeles and San Francisco city officials were pitching filmmaker George Lucas on locating a planned museum in their cities, Mayor Garcia Tweeted the Lucas Museum inviting them to discuss "a location in downtown LB on the water." (Mr. Lucas chose downtown L.A. Exposition Park.)
In May 2017, the City of Long Beach -- by voted City Council action -- certified an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that declined to evaluate the site for a public-serving recreational pool (to replace the Belmont Plaza pool), noted the site is in the restricted Tidelands and stated that it should be reserved for hotel/convention uses. The City Council voted (6-2, Uranga and Gonzalez dissented, Pearce absent but said she would have voted "no"), the City certified EIR refused to consider the "elephant lot" as an alternative site for rebuilding the Belmont Pool, describing it as "unavailable" (EIR text below.)
[Scroll down for further.]
|The Pool EIR included the following (Chapter 5, p. 5-6):
[Belmont Pool EIR text] The "Elephant Lot" is an approximately 13-acre surface parking lot on the east side of the Long Beach Convention Center (LBCC). The site is bounded by East Seaside Way to the north, East Shoreline Drive to the south and east, and convention center facilities to the west. The site was considered because of its location in the Downtown area and proximity to existing public use areas, such as the LBCC, the Long Beach Arena and the Aquarium of the Pacific. However, Jehovah's Witness currently leases this parking lot site to accommodate parking demands during the annual convention at the LBCC. The lease expires in 2030 and requires 3,000 parking spaces in two different lots, currently the "Elephant Lot" provides over half of these parking spaces (1,915 spaces). Due to the existing lease, this alternative site is in conflict with Objective 3, to minimize the time the public is without a permanent pool facility. Further, any loss of parking for Jehovah's Witness or the LBCC would require additional mitigation. Special events, such as the annual Grand Prix of Long Beach, also use the parking lot for events and staging. This alternative site would not represent the highest and best land use for the area adjacent to the convention center, which should be reserved for convention or hotel uses.
After citing additional factors including architecture, planned development for the Belmont Pier area, ocean views, a required Local Coastal Program Amendment, the EIR said the Elephant Lot "would not be directly accessible for pedestrian and/or bicycle users, therefore not serve these existing users." On that basis, the Pool EIR rejected the "Elephant Lot" site as a potential alternative site and didn't consider it further.
In July 2018, a Superior Court judge ruled that the City had met minimum legal standards in its EIR, letting the Belmont Pool project proceed to Coastal Commission consideration.
The "Elephant lot" is in the Tidelands, legally limiting its types of allowable uses. It's speculative at this point whether Mayor Garcia or others inside LB City Hall are considering a land use change for future development of the "elephant lot" which was done to suit the developer of Tidelands property west of the Convention Center (previously the "Queensway Bay retail and entertainment complex" now dubbed "The Pike @ Rainbow Harbor.") In that action, the City of Long Beach publicly acknowledged that over the decades, the City had let Tidelands property it was supposed to safeguard in trust for Tidelands purposes to become useless for Tidelands purposes.
On June 23, 2011 under Mayor Foster, the State Lands Commission (a three-member body comprised of the Lt. Governor, the State Controller and the State Director Finance [works for the Governor] voted to approve a request by the City Council (8-0, Garcia absent for entire meeting) to declare basically the entire "Pike @ Rainbow Harbor" parcel free of Tidelands Trust development restrictions by moving ("swapping") those development restrictions onto land elsewhere (including areas not planned for development near Bixby Park, plus Colorado Lagoon and Marine Stadium.) Graphic at right: State Lands Comm'n.
In so doing, the City of Long Beach requested, and the State Lands Commission granted the City's request, with a statutory requirement to find that the Queensway Bay parcel from which Tidelands protection was being removed had "been cut off from water access and no longer are in fact tidelands or submerged lands or navigable waterways and are relatively useless for public trust purposes."
The photographic work below is Long Beach resident Dan Gutierrez (who manages the SoCal Stair Climbers Facebook page.) It demonstrates how various incremental actions by city officials altered the LB's shoreline in profound and permanent ways.
Further to follow on LBREPORT.com.
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