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Money For Making Waves

Published 7/25/2007 on LBReport.com

Council Votes 7-1 For First-Phase Study On Reconfiguring Breakwater, Funded With Up to $100k in Tidelands Funds

New LB Harbor Comm' President Mario Cordero Pledges He'll Support Asking LB Harbor Commissioners To Allocate $50k Toward Initial Study



(July 25, 2007) — As first announced within minutes on our front page (www.lbreport.com), the LB City Council voted 7-1 (Yes: B. Lowenthal, S. Lowenthal, O'Donnell, Schipske, Andrews, Gabelich, Lerch; No: DeLong; Absent: Reyes Uranga) on July 24 to approve funding a reconnaissance study to determine federal interest in reconfiguring the LB Breakwater using up to $100,000 in city Tidelands funds.

At the Council meeting, newly-elected Long Beach Harbor Comm' President Mario Cordero came to the speaker's podium and announced that he'll support asking LB Harbor Commissioners to allocate $50,000 toward the study (with a caveat that Port support will be limited to the first-phase reconnaissance study).

The reconnaissance study, done under federal rules, is meant to provide information on which federal authorities can decide whether there's a federal interest to justify proceeding with a feasibility study on reconfiguring the breakwater.

The Council item, agendized by Councilmembers Patrick O'Donnell and Rae Gabelich, sparked roughly two hours of public testimony and Council discussion.

"This item shows that democracy is alive and well in this city, it's a great day," said agenda item co-author Councilman Patrick O'Donnell. "This is a watershed moment for water quality in Long Beach…As a Council we have a chance to stand up for the health of our beaches. We should not be afraid of seeking information or making change to improve the health of our water quality…What we seek to do is gather the information necessary to answer a significant public policy question: will reconfiguring the Long Beach Breakwater resuscitate the health of our beaches? Fearing a study is fearing the facts," he said.

Several speakers cited the lack of surf as a major reason for LB's often near-deserted beaches and lack of visitors. (Regarding visitors, two speakers cited destruction of the original tourist-drawing Pike and its legendary roller-coaster).

Some spoke openly of their unwillingness to swim, or let their children swim, in LB's ocean waters.

Councilwoman Gabelich quoted from a booklet produced by LB's Convention and Publicity Bureau, distributed by the LB Chamber of Commerce…in 1932. It called LB a "balanced city" with business, industry, an amusement zone "and the West's finest bathing beach." In text and pictures, LB's then-business and political leaders cited "Eight miles of gently sloping sandy beach along the ocean front…[that has earned] for Long Beach the well deserved title, 'Bathing paradise of the Pacific,'" Councilwoman Gabelich noted.

The federally-built Breakwater was built to calm waters for vessels entering the now gone LB Naval Shipyard /Naval Station, which has since been replaced by the subsequently expanded Port of LB. Over the years, a new crop of LB officials — backed by an increasingly Port-dominated Chamber of Commerce — used public money (including Tidelands revenue) to slice off and pave over Long Beach's formerly "long beach," creating landfill for developers with promises of improved recreation for the public.

Two speakers attributed LB's poor water quality in part to the Port's construction of Pier J, which spread the Port from West LB into the area now directly offshore in downtown LB. One speaker said Pier J blocked a breakwater inlet that had allowed some surf at the former Linden Beach (former LB lagoon surrounded by the former Rainbow Pier).

Downtown LB Pine Ave. restaurateur John Morris (Smooth's Sports Grille) went further, arguing that the decision to divert the exit of the L.A. river leftward (eastward) had given the Port clean water for ships…and dirty water for LB visitors and families. Mr. Morris argued for returning the L.A. river to its original course…into the Port.

The president of the Alamitos Bay Beach Preservation Group, the neighborhood group of the Peninsula, said the group didn't oppose a reconnaissance study but did oppose a "useless study funded with city funds be they Tidelands or otherwise," arguing that Congress had refused to fund the study (showing its disinterest) and City Hall had other more pressing uses for the Tidelands money.

Later in public testimony, a speaker favoring City funding for the study opined that some Peninsula and Naples area homeowners might not want more visitors on beaches near their pricey homes.

Councilman Gary DeLong said he supported clean water and didn't oppose a reconnaissance study…but didn't support using City funds to pay for it if other funding sources were available. He also mentioned that increased beach visitors could produce the unintended consequence of worsening the beach area's already chronic lack of parking.

2nd district Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal said she supported a reconnaissance study but asked whether environmental benefits alone could demonstrate the federally required cost-benefit ratio necessary to justify reconfiguring the breakwater.

Councilman DeLong made a substitute motion, ultimately seconded by Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal, to limit City Tidelands funding to $50,000 and see if other funding sources become available within 30 days, and if not the City would fund up to $100,000.

Councilman O'Donnell argued against DeLong's substitute on grounds multiple funding sources could invite outside entities to influence or control the study. DeLong's substitute failed 3-5 (Yes: S. Lowenthal, DeLong, Lerch).

After the Council voted 7-1 (DeLong dissenting) to proceed with the reconnaissance study, LB Surfrider chair Gordana Kajer emailed LBReport.com:

"Gary Delong goes down in history as voting against this study. No one cares about the substitute motion. It will be simply that he voted against the city's funding of this Reconnaissance Study. What a shame."

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