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Warm Pool Plans Criticized For Parking Lack

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday July 13, 2007

Warm water pool users got a look at what the proposed warm water pool at the Berkeley Unified School District’s Milvia Street site would look like on Wednesday at the Disability Commission meeting.  

The preliminary design, presented by ELS Architects, was generally welcomed by the commission as well as pool users. There was, however, one big problem: The site has no parking. 

“There is absolutely no space for it,” said ELS architect Ed Nolen, as he explained the design during Wednesday’s meeting. 

Deputy City Manager Lisa Caronna said that school district parking could not be used. “They already have a parking deficit,” she said. 

ELS was hired by the city to develop a design for the relocation of the Berkeley warm water pool after the school district approved the Berkeley High School South of Bancroft Master Plan in January, which proposed demolishing the Berkeley High old gym and its warm pool in order to build classrooms and sports facilities. The plan provided for the option for city use of part of the Milvia Street property to rebuild the pool. 

Although the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) landmarked both the old gym and the warm pool last Thursday, the school district, which is not legally bound by local landmark laws, proposes to go ahead with the demolition. 

A contingent of warm pool users have opposed the demolition of the 83-year-old gym, which houses the pool, but have said they are open to alternatives if the school district tears it down. 

The proposed design, put together with input from the Warm Water Pool Task Force, is a one-story, 12,000-square-foot structure which includes a pool, deck space, lockers and equipment storage rooms. 

Berkeley residents approved a $3.25 million ballot measure in 2000 to reconstruct, renovate, repair and improve the existing warm water pool facilities. Caronna said the most recent cost estimate for pool construction was $8.4 million. 

“Depending on what the school district does, it could cost $2 million to purchase the site from them,” she said. 

Disability Commissioner Madelyn Stelmach, who was absent from the meeting, said that lack of parking was a big drawback. 

“I want to look at how to maximize making the warm pool a reality,” she wrote in a letter. “I believe any option for the warm pool will require additional funds through a bond measure. The way to improve the chances of a two-thirds voter approval is to broaden our interest base and join with those advocating an ‘aquatics center and/or refurbishing of the local pools’ ... I would encourage everyone to consider applying this plan to various settings and not just stick to the parking lot site.” 

Warm pool users said that parking problems would prevent the idea from becoming a reality. 

“Parking as an afterthought is totally illogical,” said Gary Marquard, a pool user. “It’s really more important than anything else. At present we have 18 designated parking spots which are restricted to after-school hours.” 

“As part of the negotiation with the school district, whether we purchase the land or use it, we need to discuss parking,” said John Rosenbrach, Berkeley’s warm water pool project manager. 

Disability Commissioner Dmitri Belser told the Planet that it was important to look at other sites where the pool could be relocated. 

“I just don’t know how realistic it [the proposed plan] is,” he said. “I don’t know whether it is sustainable or whether a two-thirds bond measure will help pass it. We should look at lots of different options instead of just focusing on this one answer which may not even be the answer.” 

According to Nolen, the proposed pool would be one-and-a-half times the size of the current pool, which is 75-feet long and 37-feet wide. 

“We listened to what pool users had to say about the pool,” said ELS architect David Petta. “Depth and water temperature was a big issue. We looked at a number of different options and we decided that one pool which merges the uses of two pools together is better than two different pools. We twisted and turned the design in almost every way we could and we finally settled on this plan.” 

The proposed pool entrance is on the Milvia Street side since it is a strong bicycle street.  

Water temperature would be between 94 and 95 degrees and there would be a shallow as well as a deep end. An aerobics class for kids and adults would also double up as an area to socialize. Pool steps would be wide enough for people to sit on them, and a typical pool-lift and a dry ramp would help the physically challenged with pool access. 

Petta said that it was important to build a non-corrosive structure and one that could be easily ventilated. The facility with its high ceilings and window space would help to bring in light and fresh air. The proposed plan has six individual showers and two dressing rooms for private or assisted dressing.  

“We also want it to be energy efficient,” Petta said. “Something that would leave a green footprint. The final step of the report would be to put a number to it, do a little more work on the elevations and deliver it to the city council in September. The council and the public can then decide what they what to do with it.” 

Rosenbrach added that the ballot measure would go before Berkeley voters in November 2008. “Bidding and construction would take a couple of years,” he said. “The pool will be operational in 2010.”