A proposal to build an aerial tram system in downtown Long Beach will likely move forward early next year, as the developers behind the idea say they have secured private funding to conduct an initial study.
Clay Sandidge, a co-developer for the project, which has been dubbed “The Wave,” said in a phone interview this week that his team expects to begin a feasibility study and cost-benefit analysis by the end of March. The study will cost an estimated $500,000 and likely take 60-to-90 days to complete, Sandidge said, but “no more than six months.”
Sandidge and his team have been promoting the idea for years and now, he said, the group has enough buy-in from private groups and the city itself to kick off the years-long process of getting the project approved.
“We’re just anxious to get the feasibility study underway,” he said.
Sandidge said he’s hopeful that the Port of Long Beach will also provide grant money toward the project, in addition to the private funding.
Lee Peterson, a spokesperson for the port, said in an email that the agency has not yet received a formal funding request for The Wave. But, he said, the port does offer grants to help fund “the betterment of the local coast.”
The launch of the study will come two years after the Long Beach City Council gave the team the go-ahead to conduct the analysis — on the condition that the city itself would not be stuck with the bill.
“I really do think this is the prime time in the downtown,” then-Councilwoman and current State Sen. Lena Gonzalez said at the time, “to really start exploring these great ideas and really providing different avenues for transportation.”
While Long Beach — along with the rest of the world — is in a very different place economically now, because of the coronavirus, than it was two years ago, Sandidge said he does not believe the current recession will have a major impact on the tram system’s potential development.
“Hopefully by mid-summer or early summer, people are getting inoculated with the virus antibodies,” he said, “but quite frankly, no, we don’t anticipate any of the COVID aspects interfering with the project.
“We think it has a lot of potential to be an economic stimulus to the city,” Sandidge added, “based on all of the preliminary information we’ve gathered and all the work that’s gone into it over the years. We think it’s going to be a great project for the city.”
Along with determining the cost and timeline, the study will look into pinpointing more details of an actual proposal, like what stops an aerial tramway would make.
Sandidge has previously said the tramway would likely make four or five stops, including:
the half-mile span between the Queen Mary and Hotel Maya;
the Aquarium of the Pacific;
the Visitors Bureau; and
the Metro station at Pine Avenue and First Street.
Once the feasibility study is complete, multiple agencies, including the Long Beach City Council and the California Coastal Commission, will have to approve a more detailed proposal before the team can move forward. And it’s unclear at this point how long that part of the process might take.
“Depending on the results of the feasibility study, the project may require additional studies, lease agreements, development permits, and even financial support from the city,” Long Beach Economic Development Director John Keisler said in an email. “As such, it is difficult to know exactly what will be requested of the city or what role the City Council will be asked to play.”
Sandidge, though, is optimistic. He said he believes it will take 18-to-24 months to complete a study of the project’s potential environmental consequences — known as an environmental impact report — and obtain all the necessary permits. Then, he said, it will likely take 12-to-18 months to build the tram system.
“It’ll probably be some time in 2025,” he said, “if all things go according to plan, that we’ll have the project up and running.”