A lack of a story pole was the last obstacle that postponed a certification of the project's environmental documents. The blue flag represents the height of the old structure, the red represents the height of the proposed project's dome. Photo: Jason Ruiz
A meeting of the city’s planning commission Thursday night could propel the Belmont Plaza Pool replacement project closer to completion as the commission is set to certify the new pool’s environmental impact report and approve various permits for the project to move forward.
The process has been delayed multiple times with the latest delay coming in December when a petition for “story poles”—poles or flags installed at a construction site to replicate the actual height of the proposed structure—was received and approved. A single pole, representing the highest peak of the 78-foot-tall project was installed last month to bring the project into accordance with rules governing projects seeking a variance in project height.
While the peak of the new Belmont Pool and Aquatics Center will stand some 18 feet higher than the previous structure, the final environmental impact report (EIR) states that due to its curved elliptical shape and the translucent dome that will cover the new structure, it would “feature a reduced sense of scale and mass when compared to the former pool facility.”
A $103 million budget was approved for the project about two years ago by the Long Beach City Council, but the dramatic drop in oil prices has ground the project to a halt. When the project’s initial budget was approved a barrel of oil was trading at over $90 per barrel. That same barrel of crude oil was trading at just over $54 per barrel as of yesterday.
Assistant City Manager Tom Modica said that despite that the city is still on-schedule to complete the pool project by 2020.
To do that, it will require securing the roughly $40 million deficit created by the huge drop in oil which feeds into the Tidelands Fund.
That process will include the search for grants and alternate funding methods including a fundraising effort that the city will soon unveil, one that has a goal of raising $25 million.
“When you have a regional draw and a place that’s so near and dear to the hearts of, in this case, the aquatics community, we think it’s a good opportunity that has real potential to find funding” Modica said.
The size, scope and ultimate price of the project could be altered by the planning commission vote tomorrow or a California Coastal Commission action if the project is sent its way. If funding is secured and no other obstacles spring up in the project’s path construction could start as early as Summer 2018.
The original pool complex was shuttered and then demolished in late 2014 due to it being deemed seismically deficient. Mitigation efforts in the final EIR, set to be certified tomorrow night, address some seismic fixes like having the new plan account for liquefaction issues—when soil loses its stiffness and acts like liquid—as well as deep soil mixing measures and the use of stone columns.
Other terms of construction revolve around tree removal—each tree removed will be replaced—and the potential displacement of migratory birds. A migratory bird specialist will be on hand during construction and could have the ability to stop construction if they deem that the nests are at risk of failure or if the birds are being “excessively disturbed.” To avoid that, construction is directed to be performed outside of the nesting period, which runs from January 15 through September 1.
Other conditions that will be leveled against the project are lighting constraints for both the transparent dome and the on-site cafe, both of which will be limited to business hours, which end at 10:00PM.
A parking plan for events forecasted to draw more than 450 attendees will be required by the city, and during construction, a map of proposed hauling routes will need to be submitted and approved by the city prior to the start of the project. During construction, at least one lane of Ocean Boulevard in each direction will remain open as will access to the beach, Veterans Pier and the shore bike and pedestrian path, as outlined by the city’s conditions of approval.