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Council Backs Revised Harbor Plan in Concept : Development: Queen Mary would remain in place and 18 acres of Shoreline Aquatic Park would be retained. Aquarium is called linchpin of plan.

August 19, 1993|EMILY ADAMS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

LONG BEACH — The plan to create a tourist harbor and aquarium over the bones of an old landfill moved one step closer to reality this week when the City Council approved the plan in concept.

The project, intended to link downtown with the shoreline and attract more visitors, had been revised to leave the Queen Mary where it is. The proposal still calls for excavating much of Shoreline Aquatic Park and its lagoon, but it would be replaced with smaller greenbelts. The wetlands in the park also would be replaced.

Voting 8 to 1, the council agreed to the plan in concept. Only Councilman Warren Harwood opposed the Queensway Bay development, saying the plan is not "fleshed-out enough to know what we're getting into here."

Harwood's biggest complaint was the lack of an economic feasibility study. Queensway Bay is expected to cost $550 million to build over about 11 years, and Harwood said he could not vote for the development until he knew where the money was coming from.

But City Manager James C. Hankla answered that a financial study was impossible until the council agreed to the concept and staff could find financial backing.

"For me to suggest to you that we could prepare a cost statement today--well, sir, it wouldn't be worth the money that it was printed on," Hankla said.

As now envisioned, the project includes a pier at the foot of Pine Avenue, where an aquarium would be built. The pier would be flanked by parks and a marina.

Across Queensway Bridge would be about 600 boat slips, a park, the Queen Mary, a parking area and five berths for cruise ships.

Tuesday's vote authorizes Hankla to begin studying the environmental effects of Queensway Bay and seek private funding for the aquarium, which Hankla calls the linchpin to the entire development.

Indeed, it was the proposed aquarium that caught the imagination of most council members and residents.

"For me, what's crucial is that we spend time on this aquarium," Councilman Alan S. Lowenthal said. "That is our destiny."

Councilman Jeffrey A. Kellogg agreed. "I look forward to having an aquarium, instead of just a building with marine life painted on it," Kellogg said, referring to a mural of whales circling the arena.

Even former opponents to Queensway Bay seemed to warm to the idea during discussions. One of the most vocal development naysayers, activist Craig Humphrey, said he is happy to see compromises in the project's new incarnation.

"Mr. Eckstut's latest plan looks encouraging," Humphrey said.

As revised by principal architect Stanton Eckstut, the development will retain 18 of Shoreline Aquatic Park's 40 acres, and parks will be added nearby.

The California Coastal Commission has indicated that the park and lagoon may be removed to create the tourist harbor as long as an equal amount of parkland and lagoon habitat is created elsewhere. The park and lagoon are not natural but were created with landfill.

The plan calls for the city's 14-acre man-made lagoon to be replaced by two smaller wetlands on the banks of the Los Angeles River. Eckstut contends that the location, where the river would flush the wetlands more often, will increase the wildlife in the wetlands, but Humphrey disagreed.

"They say the (current) lagoon is dead, but that's not true," Humphrey said. "Sandpipers and brown pelicans feed there, and poor people from downtown fish for shrimp there."

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