Next Thursday, an Environmental Impact Review for the proposed Belmont Beach and Aquatic Center will be before the Long Beach Planning Commission.
A $103 million aquatic center with indoor and outdoor pools and a separate diving pool has been in the works since the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool was closed in late 2013. A seismic study had determined that the building was in danger of collapse in the event of a moderate earthquake.
A temporary pool has been installed in the parking lot near the site, and the City Council approved a replacement on Oct. 20, 2014. Since then, the pool design was completed by architect Michael Rotondi and the draft EIR completed and circulated.
While the design and permitting process went forward, the bottom fell out of the oil market (the money to build the pool was supposed to come from Tidelands oil revenue) and funding stalled at just more than $60 million, set aside in 2015.
“I am happy to see the project continues to move forward at a consistent pace,” said Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price, who has supported the new complex. “Although we have identified a substantial funding gap for project completion, we have not let that deficiency slow the process down. The entitlement and approval process is on-track.”
Planning staff had completed the EIR process and was prepared last September to go to the Planning Commission for approval. But a pool opponent discovered that the city had not installed a story pole to demonstrate the height of the building, so the hearing was postponed.
Once installation a pole was granted, Jeff Miller of Belmont Shore appealed that approval, causing another 60-day delay. The Planning Commission denied that appeal on Dec. 15, clearing the way for the pole installation.
Now the EIR apparently is ready to go to the Planning Commission. It is on the March 2 agenda, along with a 44-page staff report. Pool supporter Lucy Johnson is organizing supporters to attend in anticipation of testimony by opponents.
“This is a project that stemmed from great community and stakeholder feedback and I look forward to more of that as the project moves through the planning commission, Council and then the Coastal Commission,” Price said. “This pool promises to be a one of a kind recreational facility for all users in the city of Long Beach…
“Long Beach has churned out more Olympians in the area of aquatics than any other city in the Southern California region. This pool is what our student athletes need to learn, train and excel. They are the pride of our city and this pool is designed with the needs of every user so that it too can be a source of pride for those who call Long Beach home.”
The Planning Commission meeting starts at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 2, in council chambers at City Hall, 333 W. Ocean Blvd. Public comment will be allowed before any decision is reached.
Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.