Coastal Commission Acts on Aquatics Center

Bill Pearl

Following up on previous Beachcomber coverage, after a nearly seven-hour Feb. 11 Coastal Commission hearing, Long Beach 7th District Councilman Roberto Uranga (who's simultaneously a Coastal Commission member) made a series of motions that gave Long Beach city management what it wanted: Coastal Commission approval of a downsized version of the initially proposed Belmont Plaza pool rebuild, redubbed the "Belmont Beach Aquatic Center."

However, at the urging of several other coastal commissioners, the commission added what city management didn't want: a requirement that the city return with specifics on its promises to implement equity/environmental justice measures to accommodate users from less affluent parts of the city.

The net effect isn't full project approval. It requires future approval by a majority of the coastal commissioners themselves (not just the agency's executive director) of City Hall plans to implement environmental justice actions.

Commissioner Uranga's motions passed unanimously on 10-1 votes. Alternate commissioner Shelley Luce, president of Heal the Bay dissented.

A commission majority showed it was willing to advance the project despite testimony from multiple opponents that it isn't "coastal dependent," a threshold requirement under the Coastal Act. Long Beach attorney Mel Nutter, a former coastal commission chair, bluntly called the project irresponsible and inconsistent with the Coastal Act's coastal dependent requirement since pools can be built anywhere.

The next step is city staff getting City Council voted approval to actually fund the Aquatics Center. But at what total cost and from what sources?

City management, with previous council approval, has planned to tap Tidelands funds for $60+ million of the roughly $82-$85 million estimated cost, but that's an old cost estimate that city staff will have to update to current cost figures. And it could be higher.



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