The expansion of the city’s beach bike and pedestrian path gained California Coastal Commission approval Thursday night, but not without some changes to address several — but not all — public concerns.

The city of Long Beach requested approval on a new 11-foot wide pedestrian path to be installed alongside the current 3.1-mile pedestrian/bike combination path. The new path would divide the pedestrian and bike traffic. The plan was first presented to the Coastal Commission with the new pedestrian path being built on the seaside of the current path, and with as much as 10 feet of sand in between the two, depending on the location.

After several hours of public testimony and deliberation, Commissioner Robert Garcia, who also is the Long Beach City Council Vice Mayor and First District Councilman, moved to approve the project with an amendment — the new path has to be built landside as often as feasible, and the sand’s length between the two paths should be as small as thought feasibly possible by Coastal Commission staff. Staff then said it was feasible to put the pedestrian path on the land side throughout, and that became the motion.

The amended motion passed unanimously, but not until a motion to continue the item, made by Commissioner James Wickett, failed 8-4. Wickett and several other commissioners said they thought there were still too many questions regarding the project — like future sea levels, environmental impacts to wildlife and the removal of 32 public parking spots at Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier.

Garcia said that he felt it was important to move the project forward during this meeting — and that his amendment would go a long way to allaying citizen and commissioner concerns.

“I also believe more public comment will happen when it goes back for (Long Beach City Council) discussion,” he said.

A somewhat split group of public commenters came before the Coastal Commission. Many residents and environmental activists asked for the plan to be scrapped, or at least heavily modified — and some complained that the city did not allow enough public input.

“The city of Long Beach is shirking their responsibility with this and moving it on to the Coastal Commission,” said Gordana Kajer, Long Beach resident and Sierra Club volunteer. “There was no public debate and comment allowed before City Council, which is where it should have happened.”

Eric Lopez, the city’s Tidelands Capital Programs Manager, said that there had been 15 public presentations where input was taken, including at a number of area neighborhood associations. He also said the project went before the Planning Commission for certification and the City Council as a budget item.

“The design of this project has had significant revisions as a result of those public efforts,” he said. “The main goal is to make this safer and more enjoyable.”

When Lopez was pressed about the space of sand between the two paths, he estimated that the space could be reduced maybe to 3 or 4 feet in many places — but that would have to be looked at more thoroughly for a definitive answer.

Long Beach Fire Chief Mike DuRee was present and in support of the new path. He said the current path produces about five to seven emergency responses a month, and that the new alterations could only help. Second District Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal also spoke in support.

Others spoke about the project with environmental and business concerns. A primary concern of the Surfrider letter of objection was putting the pedestrian path on the seaside of the current path -- an objection addressed with Garcia's amendment.

Belmont Brewing Company Owner David Hanson said he and others were concerned by the elimination of 32 parking spots near the Belmont Pier in order to accommodate a specific path reconfiguration there. Some commissioners expressed hope that Long Beach might take another look at that portion of the project.

Lopez also said the beach path changes should not have adverse impacts on the city's attempts at future reconfiguration of the breakwater to create more wave action on the beach.

Ultimately, now that the project has passed, it will again go before the City Council, where city officials and Garcia promised there would be more debate.

The Coastal Commission also unanimously approved:

• An amendment request that will expand Rosie’s Dog Beach in Belmont Shore to 4.2 acres — roughly 1,000-feet by 180-feet. Its western boundary will be moved 100 feet east and its eastern boundary will be moved 395 feet east — for a net gain of 295 linear feet of shoreline.

That shift east will move the dog zone closer to the Granada Launch Ramp, which staff said was a natural paved entrance to the dog zone. There will be two 10-foot high flagpoles to designate the two inland corners that make up the boundary, along with signposts that will have waste-bag dispensers and at least six trash containers.

• The installation of a 70-foot by 16-foot dock float using existing piles for use with the AquaLink. Currently, there is an existing 120-foot by 10-foot dock float that will be removed, and a new ADA-compliant 80-foot by 6-foot aluminum gangway will be installed between the waiting area on the shore and the new dock.

Landside improvements for the waiting area will include 1,270 square feet of new paving, bench seating, security lighting and a 7-foot tall informational sign.

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And with this decision a $5 million boondoggle project balloons by $1.25 million dollars. Why? It's those nasty storm drains. The public was told long ago that those 3-4 drains that run down to our beach are too narrow for the wider and so-much-more-safer path envisioned by City Staff. The drains are owned and controlled by LA County storm water folks and the county simply doesn't like people messing with their property. Pat West and Suzanne Frick explained months ago that this alternative, with it's epic LA County bureaucracy, would add years of delay to this project. Looking forward to hearing how they justify this cost, in public, in front of City Council and without crossing their fingers behind them as they speak.


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