“SAVE BERTH 55″ CAMPAIGN COMES TO CITY COUNCIL TO FIND IT MUST COME BACKBy Sean Belk
A small contingent of of the Save Berth 55 campaign brought its case before the Long Beach City Council tonight, but when the related agenda item came up—an hour or so after the grassroots group laid out its impassioned positions during the meeting’s public comment portion—the council voted, 8-0, to delay discussion for a week.
Save Berth 55′s mission is to save a fish market, Queen’s Wharf restaurant and Long Beach Sportfishing—fixtures on the small landing since the early 1970s—from an order by the Port of Long Beach to be off the premises by mid October.
Since 2008, the Port has been planning in conjunction with the City of Long Beach’s police and fire departments to build a fireboat station on the site of Berth 55. Officials say existing Fireboat Station No. 20 must be relocated due to the Gerald Desmond bridge replacement project. In April, the Port gave the existing businesses 180 days to vacate.
However, Item 22.1 on tonight’s Council agenda—a recommendation to approve the Harbor Department’s fiscal year 2013 budget—held the potential to spring a different kind of deadline on the businesses, some six weeks before those 180 days expire. The Harbor Commission adopted that budget on June 4, and it allocates funds under the presumption that the businesses on Berth 55 will be gone.
But when City Clerk Larry Herrera called for Item 22.1, Mayor Bob Foster immediately called upon 3rd district council member Gary DeLong, who immediately moved that the item be postponed. He said the delay was requested by Harbor Commissioners.
“They said they aren’t ready,” DeLong explained. “They said they need more time.”
The campaign to Save Berth 55 has come together over the past several months, formed by loyal customers, Port workers and local community and business groups. They describe the small landing, located adjacent to the “back channel” and off of Pico Avenue, as the last public access point into the Port of Long Beach and the inner harbor. They claim to have more than 3,000 signatures on a petition opposing the Port’s plan.
They also note that the Port’s plan for the site of Berth 55 appears to have changed.
Officials now say the businesses are being evicted to make way for what they call a “Port security campus,” which may include plans for corrosion services, a police vessel and a fireboat facility. Despite the eviction deadline imposed upon the businesses, the Port has yet to plan the project, conduct an environmental review or receive approval from the Long Beach Harbor Commission.
Mike Redlew, general manager of Long Beach Sportfishing, contends the Port is evicting the businesses “prematurely,” and also cites the Port’s shifting description of its plans.
“It appears the Port cannot get [its story] straight, has no idea what they are
building there and has done nothing to help the businesses they are displacing for something they are not even sure what it is,” Redlew said in a statement released Tuesday.
Redlew says the Port’s plans would be funded by federal stimulus dollars that were intended to create jobs—and notes the irony that the project for would eliminate small businesses and permanent jobs in the process.
“I do not believe stimulus money was intended to send good jobs or small business to the unemployment line, and certainly not without reparations,” states Redlew, who did not attend Tuesday’s city council meeting, citing a scheduling conflict.
Councilmember James Johnson was there, however, despite the fact he is a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC. Johnson participated in the City Council meeting via teleconference.
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