Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier long has been the subject of renovation, improvement or rebuild discussions among Long Beach officials and users.
Some work has been done in the last decade to upgrade electricity, lighting, restrooms and more. But use of the pier has remained light, with the snack shack and bait shop getting little business outside of special events like the Congressional Cup Sailing Regatta and the Fourth of July.
But last year, the pier was listed by Mayor Robert Garcia as one of eight major infrastructure projects to be done before the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. Efforts are underway to convince the Olympics organizing committee to move sailing events to the pier.
Now, according to Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price, it's time to get serious about planning. She is turning over her monthly Third District community meeting on Thursday, Feb. 20, to a presentation and workshop about the pier's future.
"Feb. 20 is just the first opportunity to explore the possibilities for the pier," Price said. "There's so much more that could be possible. I'd like to align the pier better so it is more of an asset to the businesses there. I'd like to find ways for it to be something different."
Piers in other Southern California beach cities are hubs of activity. Huntington Beach, for example, has shops at the midpoint of the pier and a restaurant at its end. Santa Monica has an entire amusement park on its pier. Seal Beach had a Ruby's Restaurant at the end of its pier before a fire destroyed it.
Activity had begun picking up at Belmont Pier in 2016, with Long Beach Transit's Aqualink — a boat traveling between downtown and Alamitos Bay — making regular stops and a mooring area just off the end of the pier. Then a major storm hit on Feb. 17, 2017, ripping off the floating docks serving the Aqualink and smaller boats.
The pier itself was ruled stable and reopened, but there has been no major work there since then.
Price said the cost to replace those docks would be about $2.5 million; the city only received $1.3 million in an insurance settlement. Debate continues over whether replacing the docks is worth the expense.
"It's estimated it would cost about $20 million to rebuild the pier altogether," Price said. "We have to look at what money might be available from the Tidelands, we'd have to visit with the Olympics organizers to see what money might be available there for infrastructure, and maybe other sources. And there's the question whether we should use the insurance money to put a design together."
While it is important to begin work soon if the pier is to be ready for the Olympics — plans would have to go through all of the permitting steps, including the California Coastal Commission — Price said she wants to see plenty of public involvement in planning. There will be at least three more meetings about design, and officials would go to residential organization meetings as well.
As discussions about the pier begin, another major construction project in the area is on its way to the Coastal Commission for final approval. Last month, the City Council approved plans for an $85 million Belmont Beach and Aquatic Center across the parking lot from the pier. That complex is designed as a replacement for the Belmont Olympic Plaza Pool, which was demolished in 2013.
That complex also is one of the eight major infrastructure projects to be completed in connection to the Olympics. The current design would allow for Olympic diving competition.
About $61 million has been set aside so far for the pool project. Acting City Manager Tom Modica has said staff is exploring options for the rest of the money now.
"Both projects are separate," Price said. "You could say they are on parallel paths, because there are some connections due to location. But they aren't dependent on each other."
The Pier Visioning Workshop is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, at the Recreation Park Community Center, 4900 E. Seventh St. That's the building on the south side of Seventh Street sometimes known as the Bruins Den.