Belmont Pool project heads back to Coastal Commission for final approval

The Belmont Pool replacement project moved one step closer to securing its final building permit from the California Coastal Commission after the City Council voted unanimously to re-submit the project with the changes commissioners requested earlier this year.

Coastal commissioners voted 10-1 in February to move the project forward, but first the city needed to make adjustments to the application.

One of the biggest concerns was ensuring equitable access to the $85 million pool facility, which will be located in southeast Long Beach, one of the most affluent parts of the city. The city has proposed a plan that will bus residents from other parts of the city to use the pool once it is constructed.

The city has allocated $61.5 million in Tidelands Funds to go toward the construction of the pool and will have to identify additional resources to fully pay for the project.

The commission asked the city to present more concrete ways it will make the pool accessible to the entire city and gave it until August to submit changes. One of those new submissions is an equity plan that the commission requested from the city as part of its consideration of the project.

The vote Tuesday night was procedural and aligned the city’s proposal with the Coastal Commission’s requested revisions. City officials believe the commission could vote on the pool project again in early 2022.

Building the pool could be a critical part of the city’s Olympic plans for the upcoming 2028 games. While Long Beach hasn’t been designated as a host for diving, city officials believe a new outdoor pool complex could put it in the running.

If the Coastal Commission approves the city’s building permit, it’s expected that the pool could be completed prior to the 2028 games.

The pool replacement project has been held up by appeals and legal challenges from residents who opposed its placement on the beach for a variety of reasons including sea-level rise, accessibility and the structure’s potential to negatively affect views of the beach.

The pool also had to be redesigned because projected sea-level rise showed part of the project could eventually be affected by rising water, something opponents have seized on over the years.

“This is an idiotic site choice,” said Joe Weinstein, a board member of Citizens About Responsible Planning, which has opposed the project. “It makes Long Beach a leader in climate denial.”

An initial rendering of the project included a 78-foot tall translucent dome but has since been revised to a more open concept that is much shorter than the domed version. The highest point of the current design are the poles that will hold up shade awnings, but the structure itself is about 30 feet tall.

The original Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool was shuttered in 2013 and demolished the following year because of seismic deficiencies.

The City Council’s vote Tuesday night is likely one of the last procedural hurdles the project faces before the city begins pursuing construction.

Debby McCormick, owner and head coach of McCormick Divers, said she hopes the next and last time she’s in front of the City Council to speak about the pool is when it’s approving a contract for construction to begin.

“We are beyond anxious for you to begin digging that hole,” McCormick said.

Belmont Pool project wins key approval from Coastal Commission

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.