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Belmont Shore

Affectionately coined by locals as simply ‘the Shore,’ the beach and bayside community is made up of charming, Spanish-style bungalows on a tight, post-oil boom grid tied together by back alleys. This hood’s ever-changing storefronts and booming bar-crawl scene consistently keeps Second Street on outsiders’ maps of must-visit lists.

A recent environmental report opens discussion to the public on the next step for revitalizing long-time Long Beach landmark, the Belmont Pool.

By: Brooke Becher, Assistant Special Projects Editor

April 20, 2016

Crisp 5 a.m. mornings at the Belmont Pool were a day-in and day-out commitment for Cal State Long Beach alumna Danielle Scharer during her Wilson High School water polo heyday.

The water was heated and for once, parking was a breeze in Long Beach.

What wasn’t so glorious was swimming with occasional ceiling debris throughout their 3-hour practices.

“It was always an ongoing joke with my teammates and friends during high school about how bad of shape the pool was in. Tiles were falling off the sides [of the outdoor pool], the heater was sometimes broken and lane lines were starting to crack,” Scharer said. “I had a friend tell me they had a piece of the ceiling fall into the pool during practice one day. It didn’t surprise me.”

The now-demolished white pillars of the modern-Greco architecture are best remembered for their role in the Olympics. The coastline plaza, the facility that housed the Belmont Pool, was built in anticipation of the 1968 U.S. Olympic swim trials, which took place just 15 days after it opened its doors.

In 1974, at its second Olympic trials event, attendees saw Greg Louganis qualify for the Montreal Games after a successful heat, before becoming a four-time gold medalist.

Though the old aquatic center extended its late ‘60s legacy to millennials of Wilson High School athletics, or those initially introduced at a younger age through the Junior Lifeguard Program like Scharer, the Belmont Pool Revitalization Project looks to makeover the site for the next generation.

On Wednesday, the City of Long Beach released a Draft Environmental Impact Report “to provide both the public and local and state governmental agency decision makers with an analysis of potential environmental consequences to support informed decision making.”

From 9 to 11 a.m. last week, the City of Long Beach met with a design team at the Golden Sails Hotel to amend their proposal of the Long Beach Revitalization Project and to release the Draft EIR.

The report revealed tentative plans for five overall alternatives within its 84 pages, including one “No Project/No Development” alternative, for the renovation of the Long Beach landmark.

All five alternatives in the report either require no necessary mitigation measures or offer routes of action in order to create a “less than significant” level of impact across the board.

Rachael Tanner, a program specialist at the city manager’s office, explained that the intention of the released report is to invite community entities to sound off.

“At this time, the public is welcome to engage through the Draft Environmental Impact Report,” Tanner said. “Members of the public may submit comments and attend planned study sessions regarding the project.”

This document is the latest installment in the three-year narrative of the facility since its official closure in early 2013 when engineers deemed the natatorium seismically unfit for a moderate, 5.0-level earthquake. Onsite demolition ensued almost two years after the call to close the pool was made.

Elegantly roofed by a light-filled, lightweight architectural design, the proposed $103.1 million aquatic facility features two 50-meter pools, one located indoor and one outdoor, according to the project’s website.

A movable floor will be at the base of the indoor pool, granting a multipurpose, adjustable profile for both shallow-bottom, recreational activities as well as all-deep competitive events. A separate dive well and training pool are also included in the blueprint.

Parallel to the north-south facing building, the outside floor plan includes a recreational pool, public restrooms, a small café area and a park just under the size of a football field.

Past plans noted the amount of indoor seating doubled from 600 to 1,200 in order to accumulate revenue for the city by drawing in a larger crowd, adding $4.1 million to the initial $99 million budget, according to feedback from a Stakeholder Advisory Committee in 2014.

Revenue from food purchases, hotel bookings and event hosting would ideally pay for the added cost as well as add to profit margins in the long run.

In regard to the budget, Tanner said that project funding comes from the Tidelands Capital Budget, which is funded entirely by oil revenues of the city.

Due to the dependent relationship between oil revenue and the price of oil, the project’s construction timeline and budget plans may have to cope with unforeseeable fluctuations as the tentative 2020 date of completion approaches.

The window for public comment extends from April 13 to June 16. All comments must be submitted in written form to the city’s senior planner Craig Chalfant at craig.chalfant@longbeach.gov before the deadline.

As for Scharer, she will be looking forward to the 18,000 square foot increase in pool space. She recollected the competition for space and time slots amongst aquatic sports teams across differing league levels that relied on the community facility.

“The pool renovation is definitely necessary,” Scharer said. “Long Beach deserves it.”