To read more about the Port Master Plan Update, the update process, and the Program EIR meeting scheduled for Sept. 4, visit polb.com/masterplan.
The last time the Port of Long Beach updated its entire Port Master Plan, the year was 1990, the Port handled a then-record container volume of 1.5 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) and the largest container ships calling at the Port carried 4,000 TEUs.
In 2018, more than 8 million TEUs crossed the Port’s docks; and today, the largest container ships calling at the Port carry up to 18,000 TEUs and megaships with a 21,000-TEU capacity are on order. Cargo growth, technology, Long Beach’s Green Port Policy, the Alameda Corridor and improvements to the Port’s rail network, and post-9/11 security are among the forces and developments driving a new comprehensive update of the Port Master Plan.
“Our Port is the custodian of more than 3,500 acres of land and 4,600 acres of water,” said Board of Harbor Commissioners President Bonnie Lowenthal. “We have a responsibility to plan ahead and manage these resources for the economic, recreational and environmental benefit of all our communities into the future.”
The Port Master Plan guides the Port’s long-range policy, planning and development. Since 1990, the Port Master Plan has been amended a dozen times to incorporate specific projects such as the Middle Harbor Terminal Redevelopment Project, but the Port is now updating the full plan itself to reflect new laws, regulations and policies adopted over the last three decades. The Port released the draft of the pending update in mid-July for public review, and the comment period extends through Sept. 30.
Prior to releasing the draft Port Master Plan, the Port held more than 20 workshops, briefings and focus groups to get input from industry, labor, residents, environmental groups, the California Coastal Commission and anyone else interested in the Port’s future. The legwork is reflected in the proposed update’s four overarching goals:
- Accommodate forecasted demand for diverse cargoes: Ensure the Port is ready for the next generation of ultra large container vessels bringing a higher volume of containers, as well as anticipated growth of liquid bulk, dry bulk, break bulk and roll-on-roll-off cargoes. Container throughput for the San Pedro Bay ports is projected to top 41.1 million TEUs by 2040, up from 17.5 million TEUs in 2018.
- Develop modern terminal facilities with efficient operations: Modernize terminals, the rail network and other facilities and systems to increase the Port’s operational efficiency and the safety and security of cargo operations.
- Integrate the Green Port Policy and land-use planning: Incorporate the Port’s commitment to improving air quality, water quality, sediment management, sustainable energy initiatives and habitat protection into every aspect of the Port Master Plan. Also update the document to reflect environmental justice considerations and strategies that address the effects of climate change, such as sea level rise and extreme weather.
- Protect and enhance the coast for the benefit of all Port users and communities: Ensure the Port remains a competitive international trade gateway while protecting and enhancing the coastal environment for the enjoyment of visitors to the waterfront. Under California law, the Port is charged with ensuring its resources are used for commerce, fisheries, navigation, ecological preservation and recreation.
The draft document identifies eight plan elements that establish a policy framework for future development throughout the Port: public access and recreation, environment and sustainability, climate change adaptation, transportation and circulation, navigation, terminal operations, rail operations and oil operations.
“The Port Master Plan is our roadmap for balancing operational excellence, public access and sustainable environmental practices and initiatives based on the best available information about trends affecting international trade and goods movement,” said Port Executive Director Mario Cordero. “It ensures we are proactive about making the best use of the valuable coastal property in our charge while maintaining our competitive edge.”
Like its predecessor, the draft Port Master Plan ensures that compatible land and water uses are grouped together and establishes a safe buffer between recreational and industrial activity. The pending update differs, however, by reducing the number of planning districts to seven, down from 10. Three districts are located in the inner harbor north of Ocean Boulevard, three others are located in the middle and outer harbors south of Ocean Boulevard, and District 7 encompasses the Queensway Bay recreational and cruise terminal area.
The draft document identifies 24 ongoing projects allowed under the current Port Master Plan. These include the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project; the Middle Harbor and Pier G container terminal redevelopment projects; the Pier B On-Dock Rail Support Facility and rail network improvements; demolition of the former administration building, two new fireboat stations, and the Deep Draft Navigation Feasibility Study and Channel Deepening Project. Large projects extend across more than one planning district.
The draft Port Master Plan also lists five possible future projects envisioned for the outer harbor area. Since the updated Port Master Plan will guide planning and development over the next 20 years or longer, the Port has yet to commit to implementing these projects, but including them establishes they are consistent with the updated plan should the Port pursue them down the road. The anticipated projects include Pier T and Pier J terminal container redevelopment projects; a new container terminal in the West Basin; a protective boat basin for port pilots and other harbor craft; and a confined aquatic sediment disposal site. The latter would consolidate two existing clean sediment underwater storage sites under a single designation. Each potential project would be subject to environmental review and relevant agency approvals.
The Board of Harbor Commissioners is expected to consider a final draft of the Port Master Plan in early 2020. Comments during the Aug. 26 public hearing, as well as written responses to the draft, will help shape the final document.
The Board is also expected to consider a draft environmental impact report that examines the Port Master Plan Update in a separate process. The draft environmental document is circulating for public review and comment through Oct. 3. A public meeting on this EIR is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 4, at 6 p.m. at the Cesar Chavez Park Community Center, 401 Golden Ave., Long Beach. The EIR is available for review at www.polb.com/ceqa.
If approved by the Board, the updated Port Master Plan will be submitted to the California Coastal Commission for final certification.