The Long Beach Cruise Terminal is about to get bigger.
The Planning Commission approved plans at its Thursday, Nov. 7 meeting to add 657 new parking stalls, fill an abandoned 450-foot-long tunnel between Windsor Way and the parking structure, and reconfigure the traffic lanes within the 45-acre area.
But those plans weren’t the source of controversy that attracted dozens of residents to the meeting. The commission also approved a city analysis that found the terminal improvements wouldn’t significantly harm the environment.
Many of the residents who showed up to Thursday’s meeting were concerned about that document and argued the project — and the larger ships it would accommodate — deserved a more robust environmental review.
One of the primary beneficiaries of the expansion will be Carnival Cruise Line, which plans to bring bigger ships to Long Beach than the current terminal can handle. One such ship is scheduled to come to the city next month.
But some residents pointed to Carnival’s environmental record as evidence that a deeper study of all of the project’s impacts is warranted.
Jerilyn Lopez-Mendoza, a senior policy advocate for the Coalition for Clean Air, said Long Beach should be cautious, given recent accounts of Carnival violating environmental laws.
“I do think this is the kind of project that requires a full environmental impact report,” she said, “and I would think the city of Long Beach would want to do that because of the reputation of the port as a green port.”
Carnival, for its part, has said the new ships — though larger — are becoming more and more environmentally friendly.
The company had its share of champions to share that message in the audience on Thursday.
Ernie Chavez, the operations foreman at the terminal, said that not only is Carnival providing jobs and pouring money into the local economy, but it’s committed to being a good steward of the environment.
“I can assure you that Carnival cares about our local environment and is leading the industry,” Chavez said. “Each new ship that Carnival builds is greener and more environmentally sound than the one before it.”
Although commissioners had some disagreement — the vote was approved 4-2, with Commissioners Mark Christoffels and Erick Verduzco-Vega dissenting — those in favor said they believed the terminal is headed in the right direction.
“I think a brand new boat built to the current environmental standards has go to be an improvement over what we’re running out of the port now,” Chair Richard Lewis said, “and I’m excited to see that large ship coming into Long Beach.”