Tuesday, November 6, 2012

LB Port Board Approves HQ Move

The Port of Long Beach has taken a big step toward moving out of its current aging, seismically deficient headquarters.

The port’s Board of Harbor Commissioners on Nov. 5 voted 4-1 to approve the purchase of an office building at 4801 Airport Plaza Dr., just east of the Long Beach Airport, to serve as temporary headquarters for the Port of Long Beach administrative offices.

The port’s administrative staff, about 350 people, expected to move to Airport Plaza sometime in 2013.
The Board stressed that the move is temporary, and that discussions are expected to begin soon on building a permanent headquarters in or near downtown Long Beach.

“I am relieved that we have identified and agreed upon a secure, safe, temporary home for the port (staff) while we go forward with locating the space where the port presumably will be for the next 50 years,” Board President Susan Anderson Wise said. “This is not my first choice; it was my hope that the commission could come together and lease the (Long Beach) World Trade Center, but I am glad we’ve reached this decision.”

Last fall, the five-member harbor commission twice deadlocked on a 2-2 vote whether to purchase the Long Beach World Trade Center. Commissioners Thomas Fields and Nick Sramek voted for the extension and commissioners Rich Dines and Doug Drummond against. The fifth member, Susan Wise recused herself from the issue because she and her husband both have office space in the building.

Wise, Dines, Drummond and Sramek voted in favor of purchasing the Airport Plaza building. Board Vice President Fields voted against, citing complaints by port tenants and other stakeholders regarding the 11-mile distance between the temporary HQ and most terminal operations on the docks.

“In the business sector that I came from, the customer is always right,” said Fields, an advertising executive who was appointed to the Board in December 2009. “And when I listen to our stakeholders … and they tell us the harm they will suffer, the inconvenience they will suffer by moving out of this area, I have to take that with a great deal of heat. To me, moving out of the downtown to the airport does not make sense.”

The purchase price for the vacant building, which was once occupied by the Boeing Corp., is $14.25 million. There’s also an annual ground rent payment of about $255,000. Additionally, the port says it expects to spend another $9 million in renovations.

The eight-story building was built in 1987. Closing date for escrow is Dec. 27.

The current seven-story administration building, built in 1959, is overcrowded and does not meet current seismic standards. The Harbor Commission has placed a priority on moving port staff out of the current location because of overcrowding and safety concerns.