Belmont pool rendering

The new Belmont Beach Aquatic Center is further up the beach and completely outside.

A new design for the long-planned Belmont Beach and Aquatics Center has overcome its first major hurdle.

The Long Beach Planning Commission unanimously voted at its Thursday, Dec. 19, meeting to forward the project to the City Council for its approval next month.

The design is expected to be cheaper than the original, which the panel approved nearly three years ago, with the project now estimated to cost $85 million, as opposed to the former $145-million price tag. Some of the changes include putting everything outside, moving the facility farther north and adding a vortex pool, a zip-line, splash pads and other family-friendly elements.

A handful of folks spoke in public comment during Thursday’s meeting, both in support of the project and against it.

Concerns expressed included seismic safety, potential maintenance issues for an outdoor coastal facility and the noise impacts on the local neighborhood.

“One objection as to the location, and the part of the new plan that is not sitting well with anyone, is not having a roof on it,” local resident Corliss Lee said, “because that would disturb the neighbors in terms of light and sound.”

City staff addressed that concern, along with many others, noting that the project was designed specifically to prevent any noise from filtering out to the nearby community.

Eric Lopez, a bureau manager in the Public Works Department, said a glass soundwall will surround the property to dampen any noise inside. Speakers for competitions at the site, he added, will also face away from the neighborhood.

“The current outdoor pool didn’t have that,” he said, “so I consider that one of the lessons learned.”

Lopez also said the impact of the salty beachfront air on the current pool has been a “lesson learned.” Some of the materials there have rusted more quickly than was projected, so he said city staff will ensure longer-lasting materials are used in the final product.

The current pool — built as a temporary replacement in 2013 after the former Belmont Olympic Plaza Pool was determined to be at risk in the case of a major earthquake — will remain part of the new facility, according to the latest plans.

As for the seismic concerns, staff said any new facility will be built to conform to state standards.

Although the Planning Commission and the City Council both approved the former design in 2017, those plans hit a snag when community members and the California Coastal Commission expressed concerns that ranged from a lack of adequate recreational components to the potential impact of sea-level rise on the coastal property.

So city staff went back to the drawing board and retooled the project.

Some residents who spoke on Thursday were excited about finally seeing a new plan for the project.

“The reality is, we need this pool,” local resident Lucy Johnson said. “This is a great design. We need to move forward. It’s certainly going to be a lot cheaper than the original design.”

After confirming with city staff that residents’ worries would be addressed, it seemed that commissioners agreed with Johnson’s view.

“I really loved the previous design of the pool,” Commissioner Erick Verduzco-Vega said, “but I’m really excited about this design, as well.”

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