Construction crews have taken over Marina Drive from Second Street to Studebaker Road between the Alamitos Bay Marina parking lot and the under-construction 2nd & PCH center.
Over the last three weeks, palm trees have been moved, medians, sidewalks and curbs reframed for new concrete and more. It's called a "complete street," and will include a single lane in each direction, sidewalks on both sides of Marina Drive and diagonal parking spaces on a portion of the road closer to Second Street.
And for those three weeks, one palm tree in the median at the eastern edge of the property has been cordoned off with an invisible 300-foot perimeter, with no construction activity allowed. There's a Great Blue Heron nest in that tree, with fledglings that haven't learned to fly.
That status may have changed by publication — the birds are being watched closely by a biologist hired by the city, and by environmentalists including the local chapter of the Audubon Society. It is against state regulations to disturb active nests.
Activists fought the street project for more than a year, appealing permits all the way to the California Coastal Commission, then asking the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to stop work after the permits had been granted. They argued the city — and CenterCal, the 2nd & PCH developer — had violated special conditions imposed by the Coastal Commission when granting the permit to move forward with the street construction.
Shortly after construction began, Ann Cantrell representing Citizens About Responsible Planning and Anna Christensen representing Protect the Long Beach/Los Cerritos Wetlands circulated pictures of a nest in a palm tree with herons in it, saying construction crews were destroying the nest. But no official action was taken.
Then a nest was spotted in the tree at the eastern end of the project. That nest was being protected, according to Public Works spokesman Joshua Hickman, despite claims to the contrary.
"The project is moving forward," Hickman said last week. "We have one median palm left to move. There is a buffer zone around it and the biologist is waiting for the birds to fledge (fly away from the nest). Once they do that and don't come back, the nest is considered inactive."
There also had been some reports of damage to palm trees on the development property. A spokesperson for CenterCal said the company declined to comment on the issue beyond noting that the city's biologist had been on site. Crews were visible planting other trees and adding landscaping this week inside the center.
A popular farmers market takes over a portion of the Alamitos Bay Marina parking lot on Sundays, and Hickman said the city has been opening the southeast-bound traffic lanes to create easier access to the market. During the week, drivers have to go down Pacific Coast Highway to the Studebaker Road stub east of the current shopping center to access the marina and to take Marina Drive on to Alamitos Bay Landing.
Construction will continue through August and September, although it isn't certain how long the road will be completely closed, Hickman said. The target is to have it complete in early October, before the 2nd & PCH center opens for business.