Long Beach Fire Station 9. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.

UPDATE | Fire Station 9, which was forced to close due to mold last year, is moving back closer to its Bixby Knolls-area home base after the Long Beach City Council approved a temporary lease agreement Tuesday night.

The station, which had its resources redistributed to stations in East and West Long Beach when it closed last June, will now take over an old Boeing fitness center near Cherry Avenue and Wardlow Road.

The lease is for three years at about $10,000 per month, but the city can break from the lease early without penalty.

“Obviously this is not the optimal solution, we’d love to be able to say we have a permanent station secured, but that is still underway,” said Councilman Al Austin, who represents the district where Station 9 is located.

The anticipated move-in date for the temporary location is at the beginning of October. City officials had previously looked at setting up a temporary station on the site of the original station but that process likely would have taken multiple months as it would have required environmental review and certification.

“This was the quicker building for us to get into,” said City Manger Tom Modica.

PREVIOUSLY: Fire Station 9 could move closer to home under new temporary lease

7/8/2020 AT 3:21 p.m. | A new temporary home for Fire Station 9 that could both improve response times and lower the amount of investment needed by the city could be approved next week by the Long Beach City Council.

The new interim location for the station could be at an old Boeing employee fitness center building located at the intersection of Cherry Avenue and Wardlow Road. The lease, which will require council approval next Tuesday, could set the station there for the next three years.

If the lease is approved, it would put the temporary Station 9 about 2 miles away from its old location. A memo from Long Beach Fire Department Chief Xavier Espino said that moving to the proposed location could improve response times by one and one-half minutes for the station’s engine and two and one-half minutes for the station’s rescue unit.

“This is huge step in the right direction,” said Councilman Al Austin, who represents the area that Station 9 serves. “This is a temporary site that will improve response times significantly.”

The station’s engine had previously been relocated about 3 miles to the east to Fire Station 15 in East Long Beach and the rescue unit was moved about 3 miles southwest to Fire Station 13 in West Long Beach.

Under the new lease, they would be brought back under the same roof closer to the neighborhood they were intended to serve.

“Fire Station 9 is an integral component of the City’s service delivery model and the relocation of these resources from Station 9 has impacted the Fire Department’s ability to provide optimal response times within its service area which includes Bixby Knolls, North Long Beach, and neighborhoods on the Westside,” Espino wrote in the memo.

The announcement of the potential temporary home for the station comes over a year after mold forced the closure of Station 9, which stood at 3917 Long Beach Blvd. since its construction in 1938.

A monthly rent of about $10,300 and utilities in addition to some indoor and outdoor enhancements to the new building could put the cost of using the facility at about $700,000 over the course of the three-year tenancy.

The city is still trying to secure a permanent home for the fire station. In January, the city announced it was in preliminary negotiations to purchase a site at the southeast corner of the intersection of Long Beach Boulevard and San Antonio Drive.

City officials have said their goal is to secure a location near the original location of Station 9 to try and restore its response times.

The cost of building a new station has been projected to be between $13 million and $20 million excluding the cost of land. That process could take as long as three years according to estimates by the city.

Austin, the recently appointed chair of the city’s Budget Oversight Committee, said that despite a budget deficit for this year projected to be in the 10s of millions of dollars, he’s confident that the new fire station will be built.

“I can tell you that I know our city manager, our fire chief, and the City Council are pretty resolute and unanimous in their support to find a permanent location,” he said.

Last year, the City Council allocated $1.5 million toward the construction of a temporary site and an additional $6 million to go toward the construction of the permanent new station.

Finding funding in the future, particularly from Measure A, which is dependent on sales tax, could be tricky as businesses have been forced to close or operate at reduced capacity for months. In May, the city estimated that the shortfall for this year could be as high as $41 million with projected gaps in the coming years as well.

The city had previously looked at demolishing the original Station 9 and erecting a temporary site on that land, but that process would have required an environmental impact report, which would have likely added months to the construction of the temporary site.

The council is expected to vote on the terms of the lease during its next regular meeting scheduled for July 14. The city would be able to exit the lease at any time with a 30-day notice.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.