The Long Beach Harbor Commission voted to temporarily move the port’s headquarters to a site about 11 miles from the city’s downtown-harbor area.
The commission intends to construct a permanent, seismically-sound, green headquarters building in downtown Long Beach. However, this specific plan was not included in the motion approved Monday, and the idea will be put aside for now, according to the commission. The motion slated to receive its second and final reading on Nov. 12.
All five commissioners agree that their top priority is to relocate the more than 350 staff members as soon as possible from the current building, constructed in 1959 before modern seismic standards were established.
The decision as to where house a permanent headquarters has been a source of controversy between the port and City Hall, and within the harbor commission itself. Mayor Bob Foster vetoed the port’s original plan, saying the projected cost of $220 million to build a new structure close to the existing building was too expensive.
Discussions turned ugly within the commission earlier this year when one commissioner accused two others, who supported a plan to move to the World Trade Center in downtown Long Beach, of choosing to do so for illegal personal gain. That accusation was never proven.
As it stands now, the port will purchase a building east of Long Beach Airport, formerly occupied by Boeing. Port staff intends to stay there for at least three years. Meanwhile, the port will search for a site in the downtown-harbor area, where a permanent headquarters will be built.
Commission Vice President Thomas Fields voted against the motion, noting it doesn’t make sense to relocate the port staff, even temporarily, to a building more than 10 miles from the harbor, where much of the staff work takes place. The move would be inconvenient for port staff and port customers, Fields said.
Local real estate executives said that with the direction of commercial real estate prices uncertain, it is not wise for the port to pay $14.25 million for the former Boeing building, spend an additional $9 million to renovate the building and add the necessary security features, only to sell it in three years.
They also questioned the ability of the port to find a location in downtown Long Beach, design a new headquarters and construct the building in three years. The executives said the process could take five to 10 years.
Commissioner Rich Dines, who voted in favor of the temporary move, offered a motion that would commit the port to seek a suitable permanent location in the downtown-harbor area, but he then agreed to withdraw his motion until the decision to move to the temporary site is approved in a final reading.