A rendering of the proposed Belmont Pool project looking south from Ocean Boulevard. Photo courtesy of the City of Long Beach.
The Belmont Plaza Pool project will inch closer to fruition on September 1, when the Long Beach Planning Commission meets at City Hall next Thursday for an expected approval of the final environmental impact report (EIR).
The draft EIR has been the subject of multiple outreach meetings with the public since being released earlier this year and was scrutinized by the city council during a study session held in June. The draft version of the document found no major deficiencies with the proposed layout of the pool, and the final version had made few revisions to what was previously presented to the public.
Some of the changes between the final version to be discussed by the planning commission next week were semantic in nature, replacing the word “competitive” when referencing the pools to clarify that they’re open to the public, as well as noting that although the apex of the structure will 71 feet tall, the fact that its base is already seven feet above the existing grade the net height should be read as 78 feet.
Concerns raised by the public since the draft EIR went public ranged from the placement of diving boards—originally slated to be outdoor to reduce the structure’s height but will now be inside the facility—and the number of permanent indoor seats which could dictate what type of events the facility could host.
In the answer portion to the over 60 letters of engagement the gathered during the EIR review process, it was noted that while the design calls for 1,250 permanent indoor seats, it does provide the implementation of 3,000 temporary outdoor seats to accommodate large scale events.
The Federation Internationale De Natation (FINA), the international governing body of swimming, diving, water polo, synchronized swimming and open water swimming, stipulates that a facility must have 2,000 seats to accommodate a world championship event. USA Swimming has a sliding scale for its events, mandating that between 1,000-2,000 seats be present with 1,000 of those being permanent. Both would fall under the umbrella of the facility’s outdoor capabilities the group pointed out.
Issues regarding the nesting of protected sea birds in trees that could possibly be cut down to make room for the structure, sea level rise and traffic impacts were touched on but did not result in any modifications to the draft EIR.
The review found that for events drawing over 450 people the level of service for the streets surrounding the facility would be at a “C” grade or better. Noise buffering walls and directional LED lights remain listed as attempts to limit the impact on the seabirds in the area, however, eliminating the trees they nest in remains a listed mitigation option for the project.
Sea level rise, according to a study prepared for the pool project, is projected to rise by several feet by the year 2060, and possibly “inundate” much of the complex, including the pool deck itself by the year 2100. But the document notes that by that time much of the peninsula and Belmont Shore, for that matter, would also be under water.
“Therefore the proposed project would not be adversely impacted by sea level rise due to climate change, and no mitigation is required,” the finalized document states.
The pool was abruptly closed in 2013 after seismic deficiencies were found with the structure and subsequently demolished. However, the final EIR still points out that because of its proximity (1.5 miles Southwest) to the Newport-Inglewood fault line, in the event of a “major seismic event” the site could be subjected to significant ground shaking and/or ground deformation effects.
“Potential seismic hazards at the subject site include ground shaking, seismically induced liquefaction, and various manifestations of liquefaction-related hazards, including lateral spreading,” the draft EIR states.
The only revision made in terms to the project’s seismic safety was an editorial revision pointed out by a member of the public that the site sits southwest of the Newport-Inglewood Fault, not Northeast, as the draft EIR stated.
Susan Miller was one resident who voiced opposition to the project’s placement at the proposed site, citing seismology and the ongoing drought as reasons why the project should be abandoned altogether.
However, she said in her correspondence that if funds are allocated for the project other sites in the city, ones she claimed were not properly vetted, served as a better venue.
“Harry Bridges Park or convention center parking lot are viable location options: those locations have less sea level rise issues, less liquefaction issues, have more infrastructure potential, do not have the same building height restrictions, do not negatively impact a protected bird habitat,” Miller wrote in a June 15 email. “Those two locations were not fully vetted.”
The response included references to Tidelands Funds expenditures being legally bound to shoreline developments but added it was always the city’s intention to place the new pool in the old pool’s footprint. Alternatives, the response said, did not meet project objectives so the city intends to move forward with the proposed site.
Funding, or a lack of, was highlighted during the council’s study session in June where it was revealed that the project currently sits at a $43 million shortfall of the approximately $103 million project. Much of that gap is attributed to the drop in world wide oil prices as its capital budget is based solely on oil revenues.
Oil is currently trading at just over $47 per barrel, a little more than half of the $90 per barrel price at the time the pool’s budget was initially approved. City staff has indicated that the cost of the project will only increase as time goes on, so the sooner the city can secure the necessary funds, the lower the overall cost of completion will be.
The planning commission’s meeting and potential vote to approve the final EIR will close one more chapter in the pool project and send it off to the California Coastal Commission for permit approval. If everything stays as scheduled design is projected to be completed by the Fall of 2017, building permit process by Spring 2018 and possible construction by Fall 2018, depending on the price of oil.
The Planning Commission’s September 1 meeting is scheduled for 5:00PM inside the council chambers at city hall.