Progress is continuing to be made on the Belmont Pool project in California. The city managers are deep in the planning phases of the project and are working with the architects and engineers to create a premium aquatics facility that will accommodate both the city residents as well and national and international competitions. The proposed design is scheduled to be released sometime in early 2016.
The old Belmont pool was one of the most historic pools in the United States, having hosted multiple high-level club and NCAA meets, including the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1968 and 1976.
Just before the start of the American Swim Coaches Clinic two weeks ago, an update/progress report was requested by the project manager and city staff for the construction of the new facility. After a number of emails were exchanged between those involved in the project, the Long Beach Assistant City Manager, Tom Modica shared the most current information (with the design survey results and comments).
“As you know, what we are trying to accomplish at this site is very special. It will be both a premium aquatics facility, and a building that is an incredible addition to the City’s rich architectural fabric, all while ensuring that the facility fits within the context of the site and its surroundings. It has to accommodate the unique program that was recommended by the Stakeholder Committee and approved by the City Council, which as you know is complex and presents challenges from a design perspective. The building will need to accommodate very tall features such as a diving tower, while preserving views, accommodate 5 bodies of water, the restaurant, the outdoor space, and incorporate all the community feedback we have heard over the course of this project. Additionally, the building must meet very high standards for environmental design, and accommodate and address several potential impacts such as light, noise, traffic, modifications to the current open space, seismic standards, air quality, water quality, and impact on the surrounding residents. Finally, the building needs to be designed in mind that the California Coastal Commission will have several goals that need to be met and we will ultimately require their approval. And of course the architect must select materials that work in a coastal environment, achieve the goals of the community, and ultimately meet the budget set by the City Council.
I’m providing this level of detail as I hope to impress upon you how difficult this is for the architect to incorporate, while still providing the City with what we requested – world class architecture and a unique facility that is truly impressive. We have hired a premier architecture firm to undertake this assignment, and they are very much up to the task. However, they have let us know that this project is an incredible challenge, and will require intense work to create a design that meets all these goals. There will be one proposed design that will be released for public input and for review under CEQA. It will go through several intense review processes to ensure its compatibility with the goals. Parks staff will work to ensure the design meeting Parks and Recreation needs, Planning staff will work to ensure it is compatible with our planning objectives, mobility elements, design standards, and building safety. Public Works will ensure it meets their criteria for public infrastructure. The community will provide comments on the building design and the impacts it has on the environment through the EIR process. And four public bodies will review it in open session for the public to attend and give input at the Recreation Commission, Marine Advisory Commission, Planning Commission, and ultimately City Council. Along the way feedback will be given and modifications made as appropriate. This is the tried and true process for dealing with complex projects that have multiple stakeholders, and has worked very well, incorporating both community input and the technical input needed to make projects a success. However, this does not mean that the design process is finished once the EIR is released; rather, input continues to be gathered from all stakeholders and design changes are likely going to occur throughout the process. The ultimate project must be something that the community as a whole can support – however, recognizing that in every project there will always be those who do not like the building design, are opposed to the project, or have other ideas.
Councilwoman Price has been very clear that community input is important to her, which we fully agree with and support, and she has asked that we incorporate even more community input into this design, which is why she requested the additional meetings and online mechanisms to solicit even more input and provide that to the architect. The architect has taken that input to heart and is working hard to incorporate the comment provided into the design. Attached is a copy of that survey input so everyone can review it.
Finally, it is important to remember that there are those who continue to have significant concerns about the facility. They are worried about how it may impact their neighborhood, their quality of life, traffic, light, noise, the environment currently at the site, and other concerns. It is very important that they also have opportunities to review and comment on the project, and get detailed information on the impacts the facility will have. By releasing a proposed design at the same time as the EIR document, the full information on the project will be provided to everyone all at once, those in support and those in opposition, with a wealth of information to make informed comment. We believe that is the fairest approach for all involved, and has been a process that has worked time and again not only in Long Beach but throughout the State for development projects of all different kinds.
Thank you and the all the stakeholders for being involved in the process, and we very much look forward to your further participation when the proposed design and EIR are released in early 2016.”
The full 38 page City Survey Report can be found by clicking here.