Long Beach Planning Commission Votes Unanimously to Proceed with the Belmont Pool and Aquatic Center

8 Mar

An audience of less than 100 attended the Long Beach Planning Commission of Thursday, March 2.  Photo by Barry Saks

With public comment of more than an hour, in front of an audience of less than 100 people, the Planning Commission of the City of Long Beach on Thursday, March 2, voted 7-0 to recommend to certify the Environmental Impact Report, to approve the Site Plan Review, the Conditional Use Permit, the Standards Variance and Local Coastal Development entitlements for the construction and operation at 4000 E. Olympic Plaza for Belmont Beach and Aquatic Center.

Mark Hungerford, planner, presented the project for the Belmont Beach and Aquatic Center.  He provided a history of the former pool and said, “The (pool’s) building was closed to the public in January 2013 after studies found major seismic and structural deficiencies that were deemed an eminent threat to public safety.”  Hungerford, besides describing how local residents were notified of the meeting, he said the staff received 173 written testimonies, in which 161 were in favor and 12 were against the construction of the new pool.

Assistant City Manager Tom Modica said, “The City Council has a demonstrated commitment to the aquatics community…. The pool, if you’ve ever been out there today, is very heavily utilized.  It is a wonderful facility but it is not come close to meeting the demand we have not only from our residents but also from the entire region.  Because it is in the state’s tidelands we need to serve the region we also need to serve the state and we do but it is undersized.”

One person who supported the project and who attended the Planning Commission meeting was Parks Wesson.  Wesson said he lives about a half a mile from the pool and has been a swimmer almost all his life.  He said there should be pools in the other council districts in Long Beach and that there are.  Wesson said, “Swimming was great for me when I was a kid…. I think it is great for the community to have a pool like that.”

Another person who supported the project and who also attended the meeting was John McMullen, 65.  McMullen said he lives in the 3rd District about five or six miles from the pool.  McMullen said, “I actually was selected by the City Manager to participate in the stakeholders’ committee to determine programmatically how we should build the pool and that I was an at-large member.”  He then added, “My father was a seasonal Long Beach lifeguard.  I was a seasonal Long Beach lifeguard.  Both of my children were employed by the City of Long Beach as seasonal lifeguards.”

Another person who supported building the project is Debby McCormick, who is the head coach and owner of McCormick Divers, on the board of the Aquatic America Foundation and a member of the Long Beach Century Club.  McCormick said, “I put my heart and soul into this project…. The entire world of diving is totally supportive.  They want to come.  Everybody loves Long Beach.  They’re going to have the greatest facility in the world.”

Not everyone at the meeting supported the building of the pool.  Gordana Kajar didn’t.  Kajar, who spoke during public comments said she lives in Belmont Heights and added, “I’m here today municipal pools for residents and recreation.  I do not support a sports facility that is designed for aquatic competition and spectator tourism in my neighborhood.”

Another person who spoke against the project was Mel Nutter, the former chair of the California Coastal Commission.  Nutter said, “The variance approval must be based on unique conditions that place a property at a disadvantage when compared with other sites.  This is not what we have here.  Instead, the city is faced with zoning and LCP (Local Coastal Planning) rules that this project violates.  It appears that the city is, in effect, treating the variance procedure as if it were a get out of jail free card.”

Another person who spoke against the project was Anna Christensen, who represented the Long Beach Area Peace Network.  She said the issue is about environmental and economic justice.  Christensen said, “The Belmont Beach and Aquatic Center is a poster child for race and class privilege…. The Belmont Beach and Aquatic Center exasberates inequities.”

The ratio of speakers for and against the project was about 3 to 2.

Gene Simpson, who spoke in favor of the project, responded to the unanimous decision of the commission in favor of the project.  Simpson said, “It was really nice to see.  It was surprise, 7-0.”

To see the meeting notice, click here.    To see the meeting agenda, click here.  To see the video of the meeting, click here.

2 Responses to “Long Beach Planning Commission Votes Unanimously to Proceed with the Belmont Pool and Aquatic Center”

  1. Anna Christensen Thursday, March 9, 2017 at 10:31 am #

    Barry, Thanks for this article. Two points. First, Mr. Hungerford’s up or down numbers are misleading, more than twelve people expressed legitimate concerns re the BBAC and their comments can be found in a public survey conducted as part of the EIR, records of community meetings, and written responses to the Draft EIR. The Planning Department has failed to address real problems which, irrespective of how many people realize and comment on them, deserve to be aired and resolved Second, re my statement, I actually said that the BBAC “exacerbates” inequities, not “exasperates” them. Maybe you could correct this in your post. Also the Facebook page Shrink the Belmont Beach and Aquatics Center – Build Community Pools Instead has background info re the project and will continue to update the public as it goes before the City Council and the Coastal Commission. Anna Christensen


    • Barry Saks Thursday, March 9, 2017 at 2:21 pm #

      Anna, Thanks for your correction. I changed exasperates to exasberates. Barry


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