Old Fire Station 9 site could be up for sale in the coming months

The old location of Fire Station 9 in Long Beach could be up for sale in the coming months as city staff is recommending that the site that’s been closed since 2019 due to recurring mold be designated as surplus property and sold.

A memo from Economic Development Director John Keisler to the mayor and City Council this week outlined how a request for proposal process could be initiated and the types of projects the city might consider in the space if it’s sold.

The station at 3917 Long Beach Blvd. was closed in July 2019 after recurring toxic mold continued to endanger the firefighters that were housed there. This prompted the city to relocate the station’s assets to two other locations in the city which negatively impacted response times to Station 9’s typical service area, which includes Bixby Knolls.

Station 9’s assets were moved closer to home at the end of last year after the city took control of a site that it’s leasing for up to three years while it works to build a permanent home for the station.

Depending on if the building is designated as a historic structure, it could be retrofitted for adaptive reuse for office space or other commercial uses, or it could be leveled to make room for passive recreation space or a new structure, according to the memo. But everything is preliminary right now, Keisler said Monday.

“We actually don’t know what the market will bear,” Keisler said.

Keisler said that the city is unsure what the private market would want to put in that space, if anything, but that the city’s RFP process could open the space up to creativity.

Any entity that buys the property would have to navigate the issues raised in the initial environmental impact report circulated by the city last year.

Tearing down the building to make way for a new development or a park would require remediation for lead-based paint, mold and potential asbestos in the walls.

Keeping the building intact for reuse would eliminate the total loss of a potentially historic building but would require steps to ensure that the persistent mold that closed down the fire station was eliminated. But the building being reused is unlikely to happen.

Christopher Koontz, deputy director for Development Services, said that it’s likely that the building will be demolished because of the persistent mold issues. The city has also indicated that it will not declare the building historic which could make any future development of the site easier, he said.

“The mold keeps coming back in the building and to remediate that you’d have to remove the entire exterior which would then see the building lose all of its historic value,” Koontz said.

While a final EIR still needs to be made public by the city and an RFP process has yet to be formalized, the memo from Keisler asked city management to declare the location of the old fire station surplus property, one of the first steps to eventually sell it.

Before an RFP process can begin the city must first have negotiations with any parks or housing authorities or any affordable housing providers who show interest in the site after it’s declared a surplus property.

Those groups would have up to 60 days to respond to the notice and would have a minimum of 90 days to negotiate with the city to purchase the property.

The parcel falls just outside of the city’s recently adopted inclusionary housing policy, however, the memo said that the city would require a minimum of 15% of units to be set aside for low-income households if a developer chooses to build housing at the old site of Fire Station 9.

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