Coastal Commissioner (LB Councilman Uranga) Motions Give City Mgm't What It Wants -- Approves Belmont Beach Aquatic Center -- BUT Coastal Comm'n Adds What City Hall Doesn't Want: Req't To Actually Implement Equity Promises -- To Be Reviewed By Comm'n Before Final Approval
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(February 12, 2012, 8:05 a.m.) -- As flashed on LBREPORT.com's front page and Facebook platform after a nearly 7 hour Coastal Commission hearing, on Feb. 11 Long Beach 7th dist, Councilman Roberto Uranga made a series motions that gave LB city management what it wanted: Coastal Comm'n approval of a downsized version of initially proposed Belmont Plaza pool rebuild, redubbed the "Belmont Beach Aquatic Center." However, at the urging of several other Coastal Commissioners, the Commission added what city management didn't want: a requirement that the City return with specifics on its promises to implement equity/environmental justice actions. These could be costly (and go beyond what Coastal Commission staff recommended) for Commissioners' review and approval (not Executie Director as staff proposed) before granting the project final approval.
Uranga's motions passed unanimously or on 10-1 votes (alternate Commissioner Shelley Luce, Pres. of "Heal the Bay" dissented.)
The net effect isn't blank check approval; it requires future approval bny the Coastal Commission (not just executie Director as CCC staff proposed) of City Hall plans to actually implement environmental justice actions. Whether these may prove too costly for LB City Councilmembers to accept remains to be seen.
In substance, the future actions may not be a stopper. Coastal Comm'n staff proposed accepting less than the full Commission sought. And a Commission majority showed it was willing to advance the project despite testimony from multiple opponents that it isn't "coastal dependent," a threshold requirement under the Coastal Act. LB attorney Mel Nutter, a former Coastal Comm'n chair, bluntly called the project irresponsible and inconsistent with the Coastal Act's coastal dependent requirement since pools can be built anywhere.
Building the project along the coast (site of seismically challenged Belmont Plaza pool built in 1968 before Coastal Act) has let City Hall avoid tapping General Fund money...thus far. The Feb 11 Coastal Commission majority vote lets LB city management seek bids and present a current real world cost figure to the City Council. City management's current cost estimate (about $ 82-$85 million) is over two years old and management has acknowledged that using $60 million in Tidelands funds still leaves project short of needed funding by at least $20-$25 million. That sum, and possibly more, will have to come from sources currently unidentified in an amount currently unknown when management brings it to the Council for a recorded Council vote.
[Scroll down for further.
Coastal Commission proceedings are summarized below, and provided in full on demand in quick launch audio below:
Coastal Comm'n staff opens, supports project with City promised environmental justice/equity provisions, accepts City Hall rejection of alternative sites including downtown "elephant lot" (surface parking lot next to Convention Center (which City quietly offered to Angels for sports stadium and will now use for 2028 Olympics venue.) Modica says Elephant Lot is also subject to sea level rise. says City believes it has met necessary actions to satisfy objections on equity issues, sea level rise and other issues.
Mayor Garcia says City Hall is more concerned about equity now than previously. Councilwoman Price notes some people opposed beach bike/pedestrian path now enjoyed by many. Cites City-promised access plan (includes a bus to take residents from less affluent areas to SE LB pool site.)
Jeff Miller speaks. urges Coastal Commission to reject downsized pool project...This isn't a popularity contest, he says; project must be judged based on Coastal Act and should be rejected because it's not a coastal dependent activity, will eliminate current park open space for public use says project is based on nostalgia
Shane Weaver [sp?] speaks on behalf of Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell, supporting project. he says it will support youth, urges approval as recommended by Commission staff.
Ann Cantrell speaks :with PPT slides for Citizens About Responsible Planning (CARP). Says removing roof and moving project a few feet north have created new issues including loss of park space. Says project still reduces open beach space. Says removing trees will remove egret and heron colonies. Says downtown elephant lot isn't subject to sea level rise. 18 flawed special conditions can't make project consistent with Coastal Act.
Corlisss Lee has presentation and video as appellant with Citizens About Responsible Planning. Notes old pool wasn't build before Coastal Act. Shows video of Councilman Uranga (speaking on initially proposed larger project) calling it a new project, not a rebuild. At that time, Uranga said non compliance wasn't grandfathered in, it would create a precedent, how will Commission stop other cities that want non compliant projects. Cites parking and traffic issues, including (Price supported) road diet.
Renee Lawler speaks, says she's volunteered at pools for people with MS, cites inequity imbalance of project, says doesn't need to be on the sand, should consider alternate sites.
Susan Miller scheduled,Renee Lawler speaks on Ms. Miller's behalf with slide presentation. Shows trees removed but not replaced, calls city's failure a crime, also cites light and noise intrusion. traffic as issues for first responders.
Gordana Kajer speaks with video. Says building pool on beach will destroy beach with deep pilings, cites sea level rise issues. Says decades of social inequities can't be solved by buying a bus. .
Ashley Law speaks with a video, cites secret negotiations with Angels using Elephant Lot,. says elevation of Elephant Lot makes it less susceptible to sea level rise.
Audrey Nadine [sp?] speaks with video. Cites sea level rise, says city is ignoring facts to build in harm's way.
Gladys Moreau speaks with video. Says pool is new structure, not replacement, should not be built.
Anna Christensen speaks with video representing LB Area Peace Network. Says consider environmental justice: even with special conditions, still leaves issues. Will not facilitate access for those across town, will not grant equitable access to swimming training
Melinda Cotton speaks. City wants $61 mil from Tideland Oil Fund which is now in the red. City looking for corporate sponsors. Will Coastal Comm'n let company plaster its name across the coast? Current open beach allows people to use beach, asks Comm'n preserve beach as it is.
Franklin Sims speaks. Says he speaks as a Black man and a Black father. Says pool is build for Olympic purposes, has racist past, original pool built in 1968 same year MLK murdered. Says using Tidelands Funds is easier than saying Whites Only. because we marched in LB and challenges Mayor and Council has city revised pool. If you approve the pool, we need Comm'n governance to oversee pool. City has betrayed us before in housing and policing and even in air that we breathe.
Steve Marion [sp?] speaks. Has taught and coached in LB for 30+ years, says no pool should be built on the sand. Would amount to environmental injustice, says will continue to divide LB between haves and have nots. Other locations are less costly. Supports using elephant lot.
Many Sackett [sp?] speaks on behalf of Surfrider Foundation. Cites letter submitted and signed by 160+ residents. Says beach is wrong place to build.
John Neighbor speaks, competed in Montreal Olympics after qualifying at Belmont Pool. Supports building proposed BBAC.
Mel Nutter, Esq. (former Coastal Comm'n chair approx. 40 years ago) speaks with video presentation. Noted swimming pool can be build almost anywhere but cost of building at coast several times what it would be elsewhere. Says locating pool at coast would be irresponsible and inconsistent with coastal dependent requirement in Coastal Act.
Joe Geever speaks and has a video.: Opposes site for pool complex citing sea level rise issues.
Former 8th dist. Councilwoman Rae Gabelich (2004-2012) speaks: Raises cost and equity issues. Says promised buses could be part of future budget cuts. Says City should fund pools for all its residents, not mega pool complex for Olympic or for "poorly mamed" Aquatics capital.
Linda Scholl speaks with slides. Urges denial at this location, cites wind and blowing sand.
Laurie Smith speaks: Third district resident and opposes pool. Notes original pool built before Coastal Act. Says Elephant Lot was built over LB beaches that were destroyed. Cites Pres. Biden's Exec Order to address environmental justice issues.
Terry Stoddard: Speaks in support as General Chair of So California Swimming. Says supports people from cradle to cane.
Diana Lejins speaks for Environmental Concerns of Greater LB..Says "pure insanity" to build new facility close to seismic area that doomed previous pooled. .Cites budget shortfalls, says we cannot afford it, many more needy causes. Compares amenities needed in WLB with amenity-abundant affluent ELB.
Liz Carlin speaks for LB Grunions local non profit swim team. Its board took vote in support of project.
David Newell speaks, urges Comm'n approval. Says BBAC will benefit all of Long Beach, provide great source of pride.
Mary Parsell speaks for El Dorado Audubon. Says trees have been removed and none replaced, these were places for nesting egrets and herons.
Eric Sheehan [sp?] speaks, volunteers with Olympics Los Angeles. Says project fits into Olympics model of nostalgia and racism.
George Tuorses [sp?] says BBAC would be built in whitest and wealthiest area, criticizes Mayor, Councilwoman Price and other aquatics boosters, says privilege becomes prophecy.
Chair gives City of LB opportunity for additional comments in response City Mgr Modica says other individuals would like to speak incl Lucy Johnson [long time aquatics diving supporter]. .Modica says City believes it's addressed all issues raised by appellants. Denies site invites sea level rise. Denies it's a new project, says CEQA considers it a replacement project. Says project is connected to coastal uses. Says court in EIR lawsuit considered Elephant Lot and upheld City rejection of it as alternative. Says City believes it's addressed all arguments.
CCC staffer Dani Ziff responds to issues raised by comments in opposition. She says project is ADA compliant, special conditions require at least one pool available to public at all times with few exceptions. Says trees with nesting birds will be replaced at 2 to 1 ratio.
CCC Exec Dist. Dir. Steve Hudson responds re Coastal Act's coastal dependent requirement, says it allows pool as use in park and proposed project is in a coastal area park. Can it be located inland? For reasons cited by city Mgr Modica and CCC staffer Ziff City has done best it can do. Re use of Tidelands Fund, that includes parks and facilities along coast, notes project can't be funded with Tidelands fund at locations further inland..Re ElephantL Lot "we studied that with the City" and City disqualified it based on reasons cited by Modica. All these variables drove staff recommendation, he says. Acknowledges that at end of the day it's a judgment decision.
Commissioner Uranga says Commission weighs pros and cons and things have changed. Says environmental issues have been addressed. Says project now has some potential. Says moving pool closer to people of color would continue institutional racism, does nothing to change institutional racism. Doesn't agree with claim pool is being built in wrong place. Notes Cit has adopted racial reconciliation policy, says what better way to show racial reconciliation but to invite project's use from many areas.
Saff says some people signed up to speak but couldn't and chair allows them.
Kurt Schneiter (owms/operates Iconix Fitness at 4101 Olympic Plaza) introduced to speak but much of his testimony unheard (Zoom audio silence) When audio resumes he's heard disputing issues on nesting birds. Says birds will nest next to building. .Says project will attract residents from NLB. Urges moving forward.
Theresa Spaulding speaks, says she speaks for "silent majority." Says if look at community that uses the pool and bike path, it is a mix of community. Says her neighbors are all in support, says majority don't have pre-produced videos that look like they were produced for them.
Lucy Johnson:(long time aquatics/diving supporter) Cites CDC stats on drownings. Showed large percentage of Black children don't know how to swim.
Commissioner Luce: Torn on this project. Says project isn't coastal dependent but funding is coastal dependent. Calls it an outdated approach to bring people to neighborhood rather than build project in their neighborhood.
Vice Chair Brown: focuses on trees and nesting birds. Asks City Mgr Modica if he will monitor tree protocols personally. He says yes.
Commr Turnbull-Sanders says she's torn on project, credits Mayor Garcia for progress on equity issues but dismayed that City didn't come with more robust plan. Wants to see more.
City Mgr. Modica says if city gets approval to proceed he's agreeable to have City to come back with more specifics. Staff offers modification to Special Condition 3, requires City to submit specific equity implementing actions before final Coastal Comm'n approval..
Another Commr raises issue of Tideland Fund near deficit. Says can't find formal Parks inclusion policy in City policies. Not convinced in seriousness of project as a welcoming place (mentions including lifeguards of color.) Also not persuaded on why Elephant Lot pushed aside. Says it "could be" a great project but has concerns to be addressed. City Mgr. Modica says Tidelands has ongoing revenue sources (Port and oil production.) Acknowledges parks programs will be affected in General Fund but Tidelands looks better in the 3 year time frame.
Comm'r Uranga cites city adoption of Racial Reconciliation policies, then makes series of motions that effectively five LB city management what it wants: Coastal Comm'n approval of Belmont Beach Aquatic Center, but with City Hall unwanted/Coastal Comm'n added req't that City return with specifics on implementing City equity actions for Commission review before final approval. Most of motions pass unanimously but some on 10-1 vote (Luce dissenting.)
Next step is city staff getting City Council approval to actually fund the project...but from where? Tidelands $60+ million is still short at least $20-25 million (an old figure and updated real world cost may be higher.)
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