Warm Pool Bond Might Make November Ballot

By Judith Scherr
Thursday July 10, 2008 - 09:54:00 AM

A revamped proposal to place a $15 million bond on the November ballot for a replacement warm pool got thumbs up from warm-pool users at Tuesday’s Berkeley City Council meeting. 

The enthusiasm dwindled, however, when Mayor Tom Bates took a straw poll of the council on the draft bond plan he had hammered out with school officials and released during the meeting. The draft plan lost 5-3, with Councilmember Dona Spring absent. Spring is a strong warm-pool supporter.  

In support of the draft were Bates and councilmembers Max Anderson and Kriss Worthington. 

The proposal, which Bates could modify, will be back at next week’s meeting for a formal vote. 

A new twist in Bates’ proposal—to be considered by the school board at a special mid-July meeting—designates the Berkeley Unified School District’s West Campus as the likely location. To date, discussions of replacing the deteriorating pool used by disabled people and seniors at Berkeley High School has generally focused on building a new pool on the former tennis courts, now used for parking, east of Milvia Street. 

Several councilmembers said they feared that if they placed another bond measure on the ballot—along with a fire tax and library bond—voters would turn down all of them. (In May, consultant Shannon Alper of David Binder Research, however, told the council that multiple tax measures on the ballot are not likely to impact one another.) 

While one pool advocate congratulated the mayor for “pulling a rabbit out of a hat,” Councilmember Laurie Capitelli took the metaphor and said “I’m concerned it might be road kill … I feel people will vote ‘no’ down the ballot.” 

Councilmember Darryl Moore pointed out that the West Campus neighborhood had not been given an opportunity to weigh in on the question. “That’s missing in this document,” Moore said, adding that it might be better to wait for the 2010 election. 

But School Board President John Selawsky and representatives of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers said they strongly preferred that the city put the question before voters in November. That would speed up the process to demolish the pool and replace it with needed classrooms and a new gymnasium.  

And warm pool advocates told the council they feared that waiting until 2010 would mean there would be a period of time with no facility in which the disabled could swim.  

“We can’t countenance a planned closure of the pool,” said JoAnn Cook, who co-chairs the advocacy group One Warm Pool. 

Bates’ bond proposal leaves out the other three outdoor pools in the city, all of which need repairs and refurbishing. The outdoor pool users and One Warm Pool group had wanted to partner for a $22 million bond to get a new warm pool and other pools refurbished. 

Outdoor pool user Robert Collier of the Berkeley Pools Alliance called on the city to place the outdoor pools at the head of the list if the city gets funds from an East Bay Parks District bond measure that will be on the November ballot. 

Also included in the mayor’s draft proposal is the establishment of a city-school committee under the mayor’s auspices to develop comprehensive plans for all the pools. (All four city-operated pools are on BUSD land.)