The recommended design for the new Belmont Pool. To view the full presentation, click here.
Long Beach residents packed a cramped auditorium at Will Rogers Middle School Wednesday, September 17 for a presentation from the City on the results of a stakeholder advisory committee’s suggestions for the rebuilding of the Belmont Pool facility.
Deputy City Manager Tom Modica and Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price hosted the event where attendees were updated on the progress of the pending design and were also given the opportunity to form break-out groups to further discuss the design and offer feedback of their own.
“The bottom line is we are going to build a facility that meets the needs of the city within the financial parameters that we have and that allows us to have a world class pool and facility that we can be proud of as a city,” Price said as she addressed the audience at the beginning of the meeting. “What that means is some people might not get everything they want to see in this pool, some people will not be happy because it’s too much pool, but we’re going to have to come to consensus as a community the best we can. That’s what this process is all about.”
That process started last January when the Belmont Plaza Pool was closed after it was deemed seismically unsound, with engineers suggesting that a moderate earthquake of around 5.0 in magnitude could potentially collapse the structure. In February 2013, City Council authorized the installation of a temporary pool as well as approving a preliminary plan for a replacement facility with an estimated cost of $62.1 million.
The advisory committee, which was comprised of representatives from the swim community as well as residents of the third district, was assembled over the summer to provide the Council and engineers with guidance as to which direction the community wanted to see the pool project go. Modica discussed how the selection process of the committee was scrutinized to make sure that members were both residents, but residents that didn’t stand to gain financially from the construction of the new facility.
“It was very important for us to have people who are not just outsiders that represent these interests, but having people who represent you and are part of this community and will live with this decision,” Modica said.
The thirteen members of the committee met three times between July and August to arrive at the concept for the new Belmont Pool facility. The selected plan, which was unveiled to the public at the meeting Wednesday night, features both an indoor and outdoor pool that are oriented in a North/South direction, a 17.5 foot diving well, an outdoor recreational pool (dubbed the Mickey pool because its resemblance to Disney’s infamous rodent) multiple whirlpools and indoor seating. The recommended design is estimated to be just over 90,000 square feet but would still be contained within the footprint of the original pool structure.
The indoor pool would also include a moveable bottom, which can moved to change the depth of the pool to accommodate a variety of activities whether they be competitive or recreational.
“It allows for different depth profiles for the entire length of the pool to be accommodated,” said Paul Graves, a part of the design team and an aquatics consultant. “You can have starting blocks at both ends. You can have starting blocks everywhere and have 3 meter deep water or you can raise that up and have 18 inch water or three foot water and different user groups can be using that at different times of the day.”
The location of the pool complex presents several challenges to the engineering team. Not only does the team have to take into account seismic issues, potential liquefaction of the sand and the risk of global warming eventually raising sea levels, but it also has legal mandates to manage which are handed down from the California Coastal Commission.
“In terms of just the site location, we do have a challenging site,” Modica said. “In terms of building materials and where you’re building, it’s probably one of the most challenging sites that a project team like this has done anywhere in the country.”
The Coastal Commission, which was established in 1972 to “protect, conserve, restore and enhance environmental and human-based resources of the California coast” stipulated that the design of the pool should not be primarily for private use and should also prioritize free or low-cost access to the public. To satisfy the Commission, the new structure must also maintain visibility corridors to the beach (Termino must stay unobstructed) and the building’s footprint had to be minimized.
“The pool can’t just be a pool,” Modica said. “It needs to enhance the beach.”
The $99 million budget, a total that has risen from the original estimated figure, will not come out of the general fund. Modica explained that the money allocated for the pool project will not come out of the general fund; the entire amount will come from the Tidelands Capital Funding, which is dedicated to improving the coastline. In total, construction of the two pools will cost about $66 million with costs for seating, a separate dive well, the moveable floor and other amenities making up the remainder of the projected cost of the project.
Despite the plans being preliminary and still being subject to change, which was one of the goals of the public comment section of the meeting, some attendees couldn’t wait until the public comment section to voice their displeasure with the preliminary layouts.
Kurt Schneiter, who represents a company developing a retail space adjacent to the new Belmont Pool complex, accused the engineering team of not releasing conceptual drawings of the proposed floor plan (including elevations) despite a large allocation of funds ($7 million) for engineering purposes which should include renderings.
He cited the plans to raise the facility seven feet, which in the engineers’ eyes would help improve views of the coastline from the facility as well as ensure that rising tides won’t engulf the structure in the foreseeable future, stating that it would negatively impact the retail space, and in turn, weaken the community’s economy.
“By being seven feet up, it’s over all your heads,” Schneiter said of the “mini acropolis affect” described by a member of the design team. “Seven feet is high, you have to go up a lot of steps. In retail, the effect is simple. Even if there’s one step to go up, your probability of going in is much lower. I’m developing the retail adjacent to it and this will hurt us.”
The comment was rebutted by Michael Rotondi, an engineer on the team commissioned to resurrect the Belmont Pool facility.
“It’s a problem that has to be addressed in a creative way,” Rotondi said. “There are many aspects to this problem and that’s not the only one, nor is the only consideration being made is what’s going to benefit your retail space. You’re not the only citizen in this town.”
Modica stressed that Wednesday’s meeting was the first, and certainly not the last, in a line of public forums to address what will eventually become of the Belmont Pool.
“We’re in the middle of that public outreach process,” Modica said. “You haven’t missed it. It’s not like this is the last one. There’s a lot more to come.”
Have an opinion? Express it at www.speakuplb.org.
Editor’s note: this article originally stated there will be proposed indoor and outdoor seating; there is only indoor being proposed at the time of this article.
Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz__LB on Twitter.
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