City in discussions to buy site that could bring Fire Station 9 home to North Long Beach

The location of a new, permanent home of Fire Station 9 could become clearer over the next few months as the city continues its search to bring the fire engine and rescue unit back to the Los Cerritos neighborhood since its relocation in June 2019.

According to a memo released by the city this week, the City Council could meet in closed session within the next few months to discuss the purchase of a site at the southeast corner of the intersection of Long Beach Boulevard and San Antonio Drive with the intention of building a new home for Station 9.

The closure of the station built in 1938—it is one of the city’s oldest—was precipitated by the discovery of recurring mold issues that had caused some employees to become ill. The station’s engine was moved to Fire Station 15, about 3 miles to the east. Its rescue unit was relocated to Fire Station 13 in West Long Beach, about 3 miles southwest of Station 9.

Residents were worried that the loss of those resources would lead to a lag in response times nearby, something that fire officials acknowledged could happen.

In the city memo released late Monday, LBFD Chief Xavier Espino said that the best location for a temporary site would be the old site of Station 9 located at 3917 Long Beach Blvd.

To relocate there, the old station will have to be demolished and the city would have to prepare an environmental impact report to place temporary structures there while the city pursues a permanent location. The environmental analysis is expected to be completed by June, according to Espino, but it won’t be until after completion of the EIR that a timeframe on relocating resources to that site could be discussed.

The council has allocated more than $1.5 million toward the temporary site, which would take about 160 days to construct.

Espino’s memo also noted that the city is pursuing the purchase of a plot of land about a third of a mile north of the old Fire Station 9 site to build a new permanent station.

The cost of building a new station has been projected anywhere from $13 million to $20 million, with the cost of purchasing land not included. Previous city memos have estimated that building a new station could take anywhere between two to three years, depending on the scope of the project.

Keeping the new station on Long Beach Boulevard is a “huge” development, according to Councilman Al Austin, who represents the area that includes Fire Station 9.

“It’s a perfect location, it’s a suitable location and it may be an even better location,” Austin said.

The building that the city is looking to acquire is the W.A. Rasic construction building. If a deal is reached between the two parties and the city takes over the site, it doesn’t intend to knock it down and start over. Austin said the building has features that would make it possible to renovate rather than rebuild which could speed up the construction timeline.

While none of this is a done deal, Austin said he felt it was important for the city to put out this memo so that the community knows that the issue is being worked on in earnest.

“It’s important to our entire district, not just Los Cerritos,” Austin said. “Losing Station 9 has created a void and we’re working aggressively to find a new location.”

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Jason Ruiz has been covering City Hall for the Post for nearly a decade. A Long Beach resident, Ruiz graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. He and his wife Kristina and, most importantly, their dog Mango, live in Long Beach. He is a particularly avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the UCLA Bruins, which is why he sometimes comes to work after the weekend in a grumpy mood.