City takes next step in possible transfer of Queen Mary land to Harbor Department

The Long Beach City Council on Tuesday gave unanimous approval for the city to begin negotiations to transfer control of the Queen Mary and surrounding land, known as Pier H, to the Harbor Department, which oversees the Port of Long Beach.

City manager Tom Modica said the negotiations could take a few months or up to a year as the city and port hash out terms including how to pay for millions of dollars in critical repairs for the aging ocean liner. The plan would then come back to the council and harbor commission for final approval.

The city has already invested $23 million in bonds and tidelands funds for ship repairs, and a report in April determined the Queen Mary would need at least another $23 million in critical repairs to remain viable in the next two years.

Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, said at Tuesday’s council meeting that he looks forward to “engaging and collaborating” with the city.

A key plan for the city is developing the land surrounding the Queen Mary to bring in more tourism dollars, and city officials have said the harbor commission is better positioned to handle the project.

The most recent Queen Mary operator, Urban Commons, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January following financial problems. It gave up the lease in bankruptcy court in June, giving the city of Long Beach control over the ship’s daily operations for the first time in more than 40 years.

The Harbor Department is part of the city but has its own budget. If the transfer is approved, the commission would then be responsible for overseeing the Queen Mary’s lease obligations for any new leaseholders, and it could face tough decisions on the ship’s future.

Cordero has said there is the potential for a Pier H development comparable to Ports O’ Call Village in San Pedro (which closed in 2018), but the Port of Long could face significant costs for the project and Queen Mary repairs. Critics of the plan have noted that the port is already committed to more than $1 billion in capital improvement projects.

A city-hired engineering consultant, Moffatt & Nichol, is expected to release a more detailed report on the ship’s condition in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, the Queen Mary is expected to remain closed until 2022 as the city works on urgent repairs.

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].
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