On July 17, 2018, the Honorable James C. Chalfant, Judge of the Superior Court, presiding over a trial regarding the Belmont Beach and Aquatics Center (Project), issued a ruling in favor of the City and determined that the Project approvals did not violate the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and that the City Council had properly granted the height variance for the proposed pool project. The trial was held on July 5, 2018. Judge Chalfant delayed any consideration of the claims made regarding the City’s Local Coastal Program and the State Coastal Act until the California Coastal Commission has an opportunity to consider the Project, which will likely occur sometime in 2019.
The ruling determined that the City appropriately studied and addressed any environmental impacts, adequately identified and reviewed alternative locations and alternative formats for the project, and addressed the issue of the building’s height within existing legal authority.
On May 16, 2017, the City Council approved the Project to replace the former Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool facility, which had previously been demolished due to seismic concerns. On June 14, 2017, a group called Citizens About Responsible Planning (CARP), filed a lawsuit against the City contending that the approval of the Project violated the CEQA and that the City Council had exceeded its authority in granting a height variance for the project. CARP also alleged that the Project approvals were inconsistent with the City’s Local Coastal Program and the California Coastal Act.
The Belmont Beach and Aquatics Center Project will involve the construction and operation of an approximately 125,500-square-foot pool complex that includes indoor and outdoor pool components. The Project will provide world class recreational and competitive swimming and diving opportunities for city residents, visitors as well as various recreational groups and educational institutions.
Throughout the course of the lawsuit, the City continued to make progress on the entitlements related to the development of the Project. At the recommendation of the City Attorney, the City had postponed the submission of the permit application until the trial court ruling was issued. During this time, the project team spent significant time and effort understanding the Coastal Commission staff’s technical comments and questions regarding the project, specifically as it relates to sea level rise, erosion, height, alternatives analysis, view corridors, recreational components, and access to the entire city, state and region as well as encouraging use by disadvantaged communities.
In response to those questions, over the last year, the City has created special studies to address sea level rise through an innovative sand replenishment program, developed technical answers to questions, provided further information on the City’s review of alternatives and reasons for the selection of the proposed site, and developed a robust outreach plan to ensure the facility makes direct connections to disadvantaged communities and encourages participation through programming and opportunities for all to visit and enjoy the facility.
The project team will finalize the permit application, and anticipates submission within two weeks.
Question regarding the trial court ruling or the litigation can be directed to Assistant City Attorney Michael Mais at (562) 570-2230. The legal aspects of this litigation were undertaken by the City Attorney’s office in collaboration with outside legal counsel Kathy Jenson and Peter Howell of the law firm of Rutan and Tucker.
About the City of Long Beach
Home to approximately 480,000 people, the multiple award-winning and innovative City of Long Beach offers all the world-class amenities of a large metropolitan city while maintaining a strong sense of individual and diverse neighborhoods nestled together along the California coast. As a full-service charter city, Long Beach is home to the Queen Mary, Aquarium of the Pacific, several museums and theaters, a highly-rated school district, Long Beach Airport, the Port of Long Beach, as well as many award-winning City departments such as Health, Parks, Recreation and Marine, Development Services and more. The City also has a highly-respected university and city college, two historic ranchos, five hospitals, five golf courses, 170 parks, miles of beaches, marinas, bike paths, and a Bike Share program.