Concerned that meeting noticing requirements had not been met, the state Coastal Commission late Friday postponed a hearing about approval of the Belmont Beach and Aquatic Center.
The hearing had been scheduled for this Thursday, Dec. 7, during the Coastal Commission's regular monthly meeting. According to the project officer for the pool's engineering consultant, Dustin Blackwell with Ardurra, it likely will return in February for approval.
"While significant noticing of the BBAC project did occur in multiple formats, given the recent holiday, some forms of noticing were inadvertently posted outside the 10-day window," Blackwell wrote to stakeholders in an email Friday evening. "Out of an abundance of caution, and to ensure the entire community is aware of this important project, the hearing will be postponed until early next year."
The Coastal Commission does meeting notifications, with help from the project sponsor — in this case, the city of Long Beach. The requirement of notice 10 business days before the hearing was missed because the Thanksgiving holiday had not been factored in, officials said.
The $85 million Belmont Beach and Aquatics Center, planned on the site of the demolished Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool near Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, could get final approval at that hearing. The Long Beach City Council approved this design in January, after more than seven years of work, public meetings and one elaborate design killed. Coastal Commission staff raised significant questions about the first design, including its ability to withstand sea level rise.
The current design pushes the center further up the beach, puts all of the pools and other water elements outside, and lowered the height of a shade structure to lower than the original Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool. The Coastal Commission staff has recommended approval with some relatively minor modifications, primarily involving wording of the Local Coastal Plan changes.
This is the culmination of more than seven years’ work, since 2013, when the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool structure was determined to be at risk of collapse in case of an earthquake. An above-ground pool was installed in the parking lot there and has been used since December 2013 while the pool building was demolished.
The first design had been estimated to cost $145 million. The city had set aside about $60 million from Tidelands Fund revenue before the economic downturn and drop in oil prices stopped deposits to the building account.
One argument used by opponents is there is far greater need for swimming pools in other areas of the city, and construction of another aquatic complex on the East Side was not equitable. But Tidelands money can only be used in the Tidelands zone near the coast. Efforts to address equitability issues were strengthened under modifications from the Coastal Commission staff.