A green construction fence blocks off Allin Street and the western entrance to the parking lot next to the Belmont Plaza Pool.
Inside the enclosure, the pavement, concrete islands and the rest for 129 parking spaces has been removed and ground is being prepared for a temporary above-ground swimming pool.
If all goes according to plan — and the Myrtha Pool is shipped in a timely manner from Italy — that pool could be open by the end of October, according to Assistant City Manager Suzanne Frick.
It is the first phase of what likely will be several years in and around the historic pool complex, which was closed permanently last January. An engineering study concluded that the building housing the large indoor facility was in danger of collapse in case of even a moderate earthquake, prompting the closure.
That decision prompted a scramble to accelerate plans to replace the pool, which had been the subject of a study. Because a complete replacement will require a full Environmental Impact Report and approval from the state Coastal Commission, along with at least two years of construction, the City Council approved spending about $5 million for a temporary pool to serve the displaced swimmers.
This pool will be 50 meters long, 25 meters wide and range from 4 feet to 6.5 feet deep. It will be surrounded by a deck. Swimmers will continue to use the existing showers and locker rooms in the part of the permanent pool complex that hasn’t been closed until demolition of that building begins.
Frick said the closure of the east end of Allin Street is temporary, with the street expected to reopen when construction is done. All the businesses along the street are still accessible, although nearby parking has been limited to on-street.
“We don’t see an impact on businesses with the temporary pool,” Frick said. “However, with the permanent replacement, we may have to take another look. There’s been some consideration of closing that street.”
Preliminary plans for a permanent replacement envision an outdoor pool to the north of the current building, including a diving well. The grassy area in front of the current natatorium definitely will be gone — the city doesn’t want to encroach any further on the beach at the other side of the pool.
While the City Council has approved the new pool complex in concept, the actual design and construction still is several steps away, Frick said. Consultants LSA Associates Inc. have prepared an initial study pointing out areas of emphasis for the Environmental Impact Report, but a contract to do that work can’t take place until there are preliminary architectural plans.
“We’re doing some preliminary work like soil studies and such,” Frick said. “But we need to have an architectural team on board. First, we have to hire a project manager, then their first job will be to prepare an RFP (Request For Proposals) for the design team. We hope to have a project manager on board by Oct. 1.”
That manager also would be responsible for completion of the temporary pool. It typically takes about a year to complete an EIR, and then another six months to a year to get approvals from the city and state before construction can begin. Costs are estimated to be around $60 million.
No mitigation or compensation is being considered for Chuck’s Coffee Shop or other businesses in the area at this time, Frick said. La Palapa, a restaurant operating on the west end of the permanent building as well as a large meeting room on the eastern end, has been notified that their annual lease would not be renewed, Frick said, but that the city was willing to continue the lease on a month-to-month basis until demolition actually begins.
In another development unrelated to the pool, but impacting the area, the parking lot between the pool building and Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier is slated to lose about 30 parking spaces soon, as well. That work is related to the addition of a second pedestrian path next to the beach bicycle and walking path.
Frick said that because of a Coastal Commission ruling that the second path had to be on the land side of the existing path, there was no option but take the parking spaces. There is no date for that work to begin.
Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at email@example.com.