Gondola? Tram? Mgm't Asks Council To OK Pursuing "Alternative Transportation Analysis" For System(s) Linking Downtown/South Shore Sites; Future Steps Would Require Local Funds Of Unknown Amount w/ Future Council Approval
(First on LBReport.com: Sept. 16, 2010) -- City management has agendized an item for the September 21 City Council meeting seeking approval to enter into agreements with a Pennsylvania firm that would guide City Hall in seeking grants from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Federal Transit Agency to fund an "alternative transportation analysis" that would identify ways to connect some southshore locations linking downtown/southshore sites using traditional bus and waterway routes as well as "non-traditional approaches" including "ground-based cable drawn trams and aerial gondola ropeway systems."
The process, which management indicates would require local funding at costs currently unknown and not estimated for two of three of its phases [in part because the transportaion system(s) aren't yet known] is agendized one week after the Council voted 8-0 (Lowenthal absent) to cut police and fire services for taxpayers.
The first phase (which management says has no fiscal impact) entails seeking MTA pre-application funds to pay for an application seeking FTA funds to produce the second phase: an "Alternative Transportation Analysis" that management anticipates "would include a local match component that has not yet been determined."
That would be followed by a third phase that would also include an undermined, unestimated local match component. City management says the second and third phases will both require future Council approval.
Management's memo, jointly signed by Public Works Director Mike Conway and Community Development Director Dennis Thys, says that before proceeding with the second phase, "staff would issue a Request for Qualifications to identify the most qualified firm that could guide the City through this and subsequent phases of the process and return to City Council with the selected consultant, the scope of work and the associated cost for the next phase. Upon completion of the second phase, it is envisioned that additional grant applications will be submitted to the [federal agency] in a third phase that "will also include a local match and require subsequent City Council approval."
The memo says the transportation system (whatever it turns out to be) would provide "connectivity between critical commercial and retail nodes" that include the the "Pine Avenue retail and entertainment district, the Promenade, the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, Shoreline Village, The Pike at Rainbow Harbor, the Aquarium of the Pacific, and the Queensway Bay area including the Marriott and Maya Hotels."
As previously reported by LBReport.com, on August 4, 2010, the Tidelands and Harbor Committee (chair: Lowenthal; Vice chair: DeLong; member: Garcia) heard an unsolicited proposal from PA-based Urban Innovations and approved forwarding it to the City Council after allowing city staff to work with the private firm to provide more specifics.
Urban Innovations did work for the now-defunct "Save the Queen" (which had acquired the interests of bankrupted Queen Mary operator QSDI; a successor-in-interest now has the QM area leasehold/interests of Save the Queen). In Committee colloquy, it was indicated that UI had secured roughly $4 million from the Federal Transportation Administration but was unable to pursue it when "Save the Queen" failed financially. (STQ's leasehold interests at the QM site are now owned by another firm.)
Urban Innovations' Robert Ardolino indicated that his firm now proposes to have the City of Long Beach, not the current QM area operator/developer, serve as the preplanning grant applicant with the FTA.
During the Committee meeting, Councilman Robert Garcia and Vice Mayor Lowenthal stressed that pursuing the federal pre-planning application now wouldn't require funding from City Hall at this point. Garcia invited a leading question colloquy with UI's Ardolino:
Garcia: What we're talking is not some funding commitment from the city; what we're talking about is the city essentially giving its blessing as a partnership of sorts so you're able to get the funding, is that correct? Urban Innovations rep Ardolino: Yes. "That's just for clarification purposes for the public" Councilman Garcia said (without clarifying specifics).
When Councilman Gary DeLong pressed for details on what's actually being sought and proposed, Ardolino indicated that details would be become known during the alternative analysis grant process.
DeLong: Exactly what are you looking for from the City Council? By being your partners, what financial liability is involved and what would the City agree to do? Response: We're going to be able to address those financial commitments when we come back to the City Council. There are multiple funding opportunities that have been established by the FTA. We may cobble together six or seven different pots of grant funds. DeLong asked for details twice without success.
Vice Mayor Lowenthal then purused a leading question colloquy. Lowenthal: If in that grant forumla there was some local share to which the City wasn't agreeable, is there any opportunity for us not to go forward? Response: Absolutely. Lowenthal: So we're not tying our hands right now to a 5% match or 10% match. It's really setting up the framework to be the applicant in order to investigate the funding sourc available for this proposal. Response: It's a preapplication to get approved for an application, to be accepted by the folks who issue the money...that they will consider the city's proposal.
During the Committee meeting, Councilman Garcia indicated that he thinks Council interest in the project will be "high" and assumed that there would be extensive discussions with city staff so the Council would have more information. The Committee voted 3-0 to send the proposal to the full City Council for discussion.
Below is city management's agendizing memo for full Council action, signed by Public Works Director Mike Conway and Community Development Director Dennis Thys:
Long Beach faces a mixed transportation challenge in the downtown area. The convergence of needs for parking, congestion management and mitigation, and connectivity between critical commercial and retail nodes calls for alternative transportation solutions. These critical nodes include the Pine Avenue retail and entertainment district, the Promenade, the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, Shoreline Village, The Pike at Rainbow Harbor, the Aquarium of the Pacific, and the Queensway Bay area including the Marriott and Maya Hotels, Queen Mary and the Carnival Cruise Lines terminal, among others. Physically connecting these various and disparate nodes in a cost-effective, efficient and creative manner would provide operational synergism and provide unquantifiable benefits to the City.
As previously reported by LBReport.com, private government affairs advocate Mike Murchison is providing assistance to Urban Innovations in the matter.
Developing...with further to follow on LBReport.com.
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