Long Beach may soon take another step towards handing over control of the Queen Mary and the 40 acres of surrounding parks, cruise terminals and parking lots to the Port Department, with city council due to vote next week on whether to begin negotiations on how which would work. .
The vote scheduled for Tuesday evening, September 14, would direct the CEO’s office to begin negotiations with the Port Department, which oversees the Port of Long Beach, to operate and control Pier H and the Queen Mary. According to a staff report, city employees are expected to ultimately work out the details of how the transfer of ownership and the city council should approve the terms.
Long Beach Port spokesman Lee Peterson said he had no comment on Friday morning but would consider the matter once the vote takes place on Tuesday.
The potential start of negotiations is the latest milestone in the city’s efforts in recent months to ensure the legendary Queen Mary remains the top tourist attraction since arriving in Long Beach in 1967.
The WWII ship has long been in need of repairs, with a 2015 marine survey showing the total cost of repairing the Queen Mary between $ 235 million and $ 289 million. A year later, the city entered into a 66-year lease with Urban Commons Queensway to take over day-to-day operations.
But several inspections since then have called into question the progress Urban Commons Queensway has made in this repair work. More recently, an April inspection found there were over $ 23 million in “immediate repair needs”.
Then, in June, Urban Commons Queensway gave up its lease in an ongoing bankruptcy case the operator filed earlier this year, along with more than two dozen other related companies.
This returned control of the Queen Mary to Long Beach for the first time in over 40 years.
But a month later, city council learned that keeping the ship in place would cost tens of millions of dollars just to refit it, then $ 5 million a year, which would cost up to $ 175 million. in total over 25 years.
The city staff report lists the maintenance and long-term preservation of the Queen Mary, the management of other jetty tenants, the budget and staff organization, all as matters to be negotiated if council members vote yes.
The city then began to consider returning control to the Harbor Department and the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners, due to their experience in overseeing port infrastructure. The Port Department operated the Queen Mary and Pier H until 1993.
The members of the harbor commission are appointed by the mayor and although the port of Long Beach is technically part of the city, it operates largely as an independent entity.
According to a staff report, details that need to be worked out before the port department can take over Pier H include:
- A comprehensive transition plan, which would 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 spaces.
“This is an incredible opportunity for us to be in control and to see this pier become a gem in Long Beach,” City Councilor Cindy Allen said by phone Friday morning.
Councilor Cindy Allen, whose neighborhood includes Pier H, has externally supported the city to regain control of the Queen Mary. And now, Allen said, she’s hoping the Port Department can help make Pier H and the Queen Mary a better money generator for Long Beach.
“This is an incredible opportunity for us to be in control and to see this pier become a gem in Long Beach,” Allen said by phone on Friday morning September 10. “We will make sure she is well taken care of.”
But not everyone thinks the Queen Mary is worth saving.
John McLaurin, president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, has long opposed the continuation of the Queen Mary.
In a letter sent to city council ahead of its Tuesday meeting, he urged panel members to vote no on the transfer – arguing that the Queen Mary wastes money.
“The transfer of the Queen Mary (and we assume the abandoned Russian submarine is rotting next to the Queen Mary) to the port department,” he wrote, “is simply the transfer of property from the city into bankruptcy from one department to another ”.
McLaurin referred to a partially submerged B-427 “Scorpion” submarine alongside the Queen Mary. It would cost millions to remove it.
The maintenance of the Queen Mary would indeed be costly. But it would be the same to get rid of the ship. The same July analysis that showed the cost of repairing the Queen Mary also indicated that it would cost at least $ 100 million, regardless of which option the city chose, including its deconstruction.
The Queen Mary and the land it sits on, meanwhile, has a lot of potential value as well.
Allen, in July, said the ship has traditionally attracted around 1.6 million visitors and $ 94 million in economic impact.
And a July real estate appraisal estimated the 43-acre Pier H to be worth around $ 77 million, with a market rental value of around $ 5 million per year, according to a staff report.
If you are going to
What: City council meeting
When: 5 p.m. Tuesday, September 14.
Or: Civic Chambers, Long Beach Town Hall