Architects to Present New Design of Warm Water Pool

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday July 06, 2007

The Warm Water Pool Task Force will deliver a progress report and hold a public hearing on the the relocation of the Berkeley High School warm water pool to the Berkeley Unified School District Milvia tennis courts at the disability commission meeting Wednesday. 

The meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst at Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 

ELS Architects, the firm hired by the city, will present the commission with a proposed pool design that the task force has agreed upon. 

“Let’s just say the new pool is warm enough, big enough and deep enough for everyone and more applicable for disabled people,” said pool task force member Joann Cook. “At first we were wondering whether there will be one pool or two pools, but in the end we decided upon one pool which will have a number of features. We have tried to improve disability access and disability use as much as we could without raising the costs. We are being thrifty since we are trying to go for a new bond.” 

Funding for a new pool at the Milvia site is currently undetermined. Lisa Caronna, deputy city manager for Berkeley, told the Planet Thursday that the $3.25 million ballot measure approved by Berkeley residents in 2000 to reconstruct, renovate, repair and improve the existing warm water pool facilities, including the restrooms and locker space, could not be used. 

“As a result we have to put together a plan for construction of a new pool at the Milvia site which meets the need of the disabled community,” Caronna said. “But the city does not have money for a new pool at the moment. We would have to come up with a new bond initiative to fund it.” 

The existing warm water pool, housed in the Berkeley High Old Gym, is the only one of its kind in the East Bay. The School District proposed in its South of Bancroft Master Plan to demolish the old gymnasium that houses the warm water pool and build classrooms in its location. 

The planned new building at the Milvia site has a construction budget of approximately $8.25 million without a pool. 

Designed by renowned Bay Area architects William C. Hays and Walter H. Ratcliff Jr., the warm water pool and the gymnasium are both eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.  

The Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission failed to reach a consensus on landmarking the 85-year-old structure in May.  

Caronna said that Wednesday’s meeting would help solicit information from pool users about future pool requirements. 

“This will help the architects come up with a conceptual design,” she said. “It will help them come up with some real costs and real numbers and start looking at funding options.” 

A public workshop about future uses of the warm pool was organized by the disability commission and the warm water pool task force on May 9. 

Pool users spoke about pool temperature, variety of depths and community use. 

“People want a shallow as well as a deep end,” Caronna said. “The temperature should ideally be between 92 and 95 degrees. They also want the pool to be used by all kinds of people, not just seniors. Hopefully, Wednesday’s meeting will help us put all the pieces of the puzzle together.” 

Community members also want the Special Needs Aquatic Program, a therapeutic swim program, to continue. Longer pool hours, a cafe and a space for meditation are also included in the wish list. 

The hundreds of disabled seniors, adults and children who flock to the pool’s therapeutic waters within the Old Gym every day want to see the aquatic facility renovated and preserved. 

“That is still the common feeling,” Caronna said, “but they are also interested in the possibility of a new pool in case the school district does go ahead and demolish the building.”