Members of the Long Beach City Council at their meeting on Tuesday, September 14, voted to begin negotiations to transfer control of Pier H and the Queen Mary to the Department of Harbor.
Now the city manager’s office and the Harbor Department will begin detailing how to move the 40 acres of parks, cruise terminals and parking lots around the pier and the Queen Mary. After the departments are negotiated, the city council will have to approve them at a subsequent council meeting.
“The port is a department of the city,” Vice Mayor Rex Richardson said at the meeting. “We are a city family. It’s important to work together.”
Now that council members have voted yes, the City and Harbor Department will negotiate issues including the maintenance and long-term conservation of the Queen Mary, the management and budget and staff organization of the pier’s other tenants, the city’s staff report reads. Economic Development Director John Kessler said at the meeting, both departments will begin to set a timeline and long-term feasibility plan for the Queen Mary.
“Hopefully together we can come up with some answers in terms of options,” said Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach.
The port of Long Beach is part of the city and the port commission members are appointed by the mayor, but the port largely operates as an independent entity and manages its own budget. According to a staff report, details that must be worked out before the Harbor Department can take over Pier H include:
- An overall transition plan, which will include the organizational structure, proposed budget and other logistical concerns.
- A transition plan for Pier H tenants, including Carnival Cruise Lines and Catalina Express.
- Maintenance and improvement plans.
- How to Reopen the Queen Mary Hotel and Event Space.
Only one speaker, Jessica Alvarenga, opposed the transfer of Pier H and the Queen Mary to the Harbor Department.
“This is a venture that has failed consistently for 40 years,” Alvarenga said during the public comment portion of the meeting. Alvarenga is the government affairs manager for the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, a shipping association that has long opposed keeping the Queen Mary in Long Beach.
She argued that the Queen Mary was a sinking ship and that supporting it would cost too much.
In fact, the city would have to spend a lot of money to preserve and save the ship. Preserving the ship would cost tens of millions of dollars just to get into shape and then $5 million a year – up to a total of $175 million over 25 years.
However getting rid of the ship would also be costly. That same analysis showed the city would cost at least $100 million to choose from—including deconstructing it.
Urban Commons Queensway regained control of the World War II-era ship after surrendering its lease after claiming bankruptcy and questioning how much progress the company had actually made in repairing the Queen Mary.
For the first time in more than 40 years, Long Beach now controls the day-to-day operations of the ship, which will be transferred to the Harbor Department when negotiations are approved.