On Thursday, the Coastal Commission approved an appeal of a City of Long Beach coastal development permit for construction of a swimming pool complex with indoor component, cafe and public restroom covering 5.8 acres of beach space on Belmont Beach. The project raises important environmental justice, coastal access and beach preservation issues. First, the site is directly on public beach space. Second, the site will be subject to sea level rise hazards in the coming decades. Finally, the location of the public facility would be easily accessible to high income coastal residents but less accessible to lower income residents from inland neighborhoods. Many local residents, along with the Surfrider Foundation and Citizens About Responsible Planning, raised concerns with the project. Commissioners expressed concerns about the environmental justice implications of the project location but were generally satisfied with the City’s proposed public transportation plan. Ultimately, the Commissioners approved the project with the caveat that the City complete a robust public transportation plan to be presented to the Commission - other concerns with sea level rise and beach access were largely unaddressed. The vote was 10-1 with Commissioner Shelley Luce the lone dissenting vote against the project.
Why You Should Care
AppealNobody opposes building a new public pool. But the proposed location is clearly the wrong place - on the public beach and far from low-income communities that may benefit the most from this massive public investment. Competitive swimming is not a coastal dependent use. We must not sacrifice our open beaches and public coastal recreational opportunities as sea levels rise threatens to drown our remaining beaches - especially for activities that can occur elsewhere. While the City’s public transportation system may help some inland residents to access the pool, the distance will still be a barrier for many.
Negative Conservation Vote
Commissioner Effie Turnbull-Sanders led the discussion about the importance of baking environmental justice into the City’s project, rather than sprinkling it on top with an undefined public transportation plan. She suggested that the City include a program to help elevate inland swimmers to the elite competition level and to include more community services that will ensure the entire City can benefit from the pool. The City promised to incorporate those suggestions leading a majority of Commissioners to approve the project.
Local residents, Surfrider Foundation
Approval with conditions