Revisions requested by Coastal Commission could push Belmont Pool hearing out of Long Beach

Long Beach officials’ push to have the revised plans for the Belmont Pool project included on the February agenda for the California Coastal Commission hit a small snag earlier this month when the commission told the city its application was incomplete.

A multitude of clarifications from the city were requested by the commission regarding the project plans including impacts from proposed lighting, parking impacts and analyses on visual impacts, sea level rise and potential alternatives including putting the pool at the Elephant Lot in Downtown.

Because of the tight scheduling window the city is trying to thread and the revisions requested by the commission it’s unlikely that it will be able to have the item before the commission at its February meeting.

The city was hoping to add it to the agenda for the February meeting which is scheduled to run from Feb. 12 through Feb. 14 because it’s being hosted in Long Beach at the Bob Foster Civic Chambers.

However, a Coastal Commission spokesperson said Thursday that was unlikely to happen because of the commission’s agenda already approaching the point of being full and the city’s application still being incomplete.

The city still needs its planning commission to approve the changes to the application scheduled for Dec. 19. That meeting had been the subject of a brief cancellation which the city attributed to a technical error that sent out an email alert to residents but is still scheduled to take place.

In emails posted along with planning documents on the city’s site there were conflicting accounts from city employees regarding whether the cancellation was due to a glitch or not having enough commissioners able to be present at the meeting to legally vote on the item.

A new elevation map of the revised Belmont Pool project shows the design from the north without the dome that had dominated earlier renderings.

If the planning commission advances the project to the City Council it will get its chance to weigh in on the changes sometime in January before it would even be eligible for Coastal Commission review. The city would also need to make the necessary changes to its application before it can progress to the commission’s agenda the spokesperson said.

The commission which meets once a month on at rotating sites along the California coast wouldn’t meet locally again until May when it’s scheduled to meet in Orange County. The next closest meeting to Long Beach after that would be its July meeting which is scheduled for San Diego.

The pool project has been stuck in the varying stages of the planning process virtually from the time that the original structure was closed due to structural deficiencies that the city said made it unsafe in 2013 and torn down in 2014. New plans were revealed to the public in April 2016.

Litigation and the price of the structure have held up the project with residents suing to block it because of the environmental and aesthetic impacts it could have on the surrounding communities, and the decreasing price of oil—a large contributor to the city’s Tidelands Fund which will fund a majority of the cost of the new pool—and left the city with a funding gap in the tens of millions of dollars.

Earlier this month plans for a revised pool project without the translucent dome that had dominated earlier renderings of the proposed project were revealed. City officials said they believed the revisions would satisfy concerns previously expressed by the Coastal Commission and would cost nearly $60 million less than the domed version. That would shrink the funding deficit to around $25 million.

Now domeless, a revised $85M Belmont Pool project moves forward

The new proposed project has been pushed back closer to Ocean Boulevard to prevent sea level rise from inundating portions of the new pool by adding green space meant to be used as a sunset lookout point between the structure and the shoreline. The loss of the dome has also provided a less obstructed view of the ocean.

However the commission’s Dec. 6 letter still expressed concern over some of the aspects of the project.

The green space buffering the pool from the potential onslaught of wave activity in the future, the vehicle turnaround point and the existing temporary pool would likely be underwater in those situations. The commission wants the city to explain its adaptive measures if the facility ever is impacted by sea level rise.

How will the lights impact surrounding communities? How many parking spaces will be available if the new structure is built as proposed? How will the underserved communities that the newly proposed recreational aspects of the complex be contacted to make them aware of the facilities and how often will the public be able to access the pool?

Those are some of the nearly two dozen clarifications and requests for more information that the commission’s letter requested of the city.

Despite the letter the city is still forging forward starting with a planning commission meeting tonight where the city commission could approve zoning amendments that would forward the project to the City Council for a vote as early as January 2020.

A staff report recommends that the commission approve the amendments and forward it to the city council but it does not reference any of the concerns outlined in the Coastal Commission’s Dec. 6 letter.

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