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Spring Defends Need For Warm Water Pool

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday July 11, 2006

When Councilmember Dona Spring proposed that the Berkeley City Council ask voters to complete bond financing for a new warm pool two weeks ago, the issue died for lack of a second. 

But that doesn’t mean the councilmember has given up on the pool, used especially by people with disabilities, the elderly and others who need to exercise in very warm water. 

Spring will bring the question of the pool back to the council at tonight’s (Tuesday) meeting, at which the council will also hold a public hearing on the Landmarks Ordinance revision and address public financing of elections. Also, a group has organized a rally to support the Berkeley Housing Authority. 

“Many people’s well-being depends on this pool for regular exercise,” Spring said, noting that often people with short-term disabilities are directed to the 92-degree pool by physical therapists. 

In 2000, voters approved bond financing for the $3.2 million rehabilitation of the warm pool at Berkeley High. But the work was never done (and the funds were not collected) because the school district decided not to remodel the old warm pool but to employ the warm-pool space for other uses. 

The school board, however, has said the city can build a new warm pool on the east side of Milvia Street where there once were tennis courts. 

Spring said that it is critical to put the measure on the ballot now because the school district is planning to demolish the old warm pool some time next year. 

“If we wait ’til 2008, it will be destroyed,” she said. “The school board has given us half the tennis court area. If the future of the warm water pool is thrown into uncertainty, somebody will find another use [for the land].” 

The longer the city waits, the higher construction costs become, she added. 

Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, however, says because there’s already a $20 million school bond measure on the November ballot, it is hard to ask homeowners to pay for the warm pool bond measure. 

“Gas prices are high; people are struggling,” he said, proposing other solutions, such as use of one of the warmer pools at the YMCA or getting other local jurisdictions to help fund a new pool, since people outside the city use it, as well as residents. 

The cost to taxpayers for the $8 million project—$3.2 million from the previous bond measure and $4.5 million from the proposed measure, with the city’s general fund making up the difference—would be $5 to $8 per $100,000 assessed value, according to Deputy Director of Finance Bob Hicks, quoting estimates by the city’s financial advisor, Craig Hill, of Northcroft, Hill and Ach. 


Union organizing at West Berkeley bowl 

On the labor front, the council will address the question of support for “a fair process regarding union representation” for workers at the West Berkeley Bowl.”  

Several councilmembers said they had hoped to tie their support for the West Berkeley Bowl zoning changes to support for unionizing the West Berkeley Bowl workforce, but the city attorney said that was not legal.  

So Councilmembers Laurie Capitelli, Max Anderson, Darryl Moore and Kriss Worthington are asking the council to support an “open process and rights of employees to organize,” according to the resolution. 

Moore said he hoped the resolution would spur both sides to “accomplish this expeditiously, without rancor and without cost.” 


Creeks ordinance flows slowly 

City staff wants to come back to the council at the end of November rather than September with a revised Creeks Ordinance. That’s because, staff says in a report, that ordinance language needs to be written, and the Zoning Ordinance needs to be revised to include rebuilding after a disaster “by right,” which means with an administrative permit. 

The draft ordinance must be reviewed by the Creeks Task Force, the Planning Commission and the Public Works Commission before it goes back to the City Council for adoption. 

The council will also hear a presentation by the Berkeley Alcohol Policy Advisory Coalition on the city’s alcohol outlet policy and make policy recommendations regarding the overconcentration of liquor stores. 


Workshop: Developer fees 

When a developer creates a business, new traffic is generated. 

The city is proposing that developers pay a fee to offset the traffic they create, however the business community is concerned that the fees will be a deterrent to those who want to bring new business to Berkeley. 

The city will discuss this at a 5 p.m. workshop and hold a public hearing on the fees later during the meeting. 

At the same workshop, the council will look at whether to change its inclusionary housing fee rules so that condominium developers pay fees into the Housing Trust Fund that will be used for affordable housing instead of setting aside 20 percent of new condominium units as “affordable.” 


Gaia postponed 

Councilmembers won’t be taking up the proposed settlement of the Gaia Building’s cultural bonus space Tuesday night as the Planet reported Friday it would. The matter has been postponed until the fall.