City of Berkeley officials are getting ready to release the citywide pools draft master plan by Friday to the Pools Task Force, which will look at rehabilitating and in some cases replacing the city’s existing public pools and aquatic programs, said Deputy City Manager Lisa Caronna Tuesday.
A joint collaboration between the city and the Berkeley Unified School District, the master plan will be developed by a 16-member task force comprising city staff, school district officials, warm-water pool users, competitive swimmers, pool neighbors, city commissioners and community members by February, following which it will be sent before City Council for approval in March.
Councilmembers will vote on whether to put it on the November 2010 ballot, pending the council’s adoption of the plan and environmental review.
The master plan includes relocating the warm-water pool, which is currently inside Berkeley High’s Old Gym—slated for demolition in 2011 to make way for new classrooms, gyms and bleachers—and repairing the three other neighborhood pools, at Willard and King Middle Schools and West Campus, which were all built in the 1960s and are in urgent need of repair.
Last year, the city spent $250,000 from the $1 million set aside by late Councilmember Dona Spring and Councilmember Kris Worthington—meant to assist the $3.25 million bond measure passed by Berkeley voters in 2000 to repair the warm-water pool, but which never actually happened because the school district declared the gym seismically unsafe. The money was used to hire ELS Architects to develop a new $16 million warm pool design at the school district’s Milvia Street property.
The council has asked city staff and the school district to develop a task force to develop a comprehensive plan for all public pools.
An additional $300,000 from the $1 million is being used to fund the plannning and environmental analysis and to assist the task force—which has been meeting since September—with completing the master plan.
After evaluating the current pools and programs, assessing aquatic needs, and considering various sites for relocating the warm pool—including King, West Campus, Willard, the West Berkeley Senior Center and Berkeley Iceland—the task force presented eight master plan options at a community workshop in November, of which five were estimated to cost around $25 million and three approximately $18 million.
In December, the group decided to focus on three citywide options in greater detail, all of which included constructing a new outdoor competition pool at King, repairing the pool and locker rooms at Willard and relocating the warm-water pool to West Campus, but with three different alternatives.
The community has been invited to comment on the draft master plan at the James Kenney Recreation Center on
JoAnn Cook, a member of One Warm Pool—a group fighting to save the warm pool—and the Pools Task Force, said that she feared that planning improvements for the city’s other pools was drawing attention away from the warm-water pool.
“My main concern is that the original task given by the city and the School Board was to locate a site and submit a plan for the warm pool and possibly other pools,” she said. “Now we are being shown slides of all kinds of other pools with fancy slides and other equipment—it’s like choosing from a candy store. The focus is shifting from the warm pool, which we need immediately.”
Caronna said that although there were a lot of different opinions floating around on the task force, the warm water pool would always be given priority.
Charlie Altekruse, who sits on the task force and is a member of Berkeley Aquatics for All, agreed.
“Taking that holistic approach and realizing that all the pools are dated is a challenge,” he said. “The second challenge is the tough economic times. Maybe if we had done what we are doing right now five years ago it would have been better. We don’t have a solution yet because we are still grappling with all the issues.”
John Caner, another task force member who also belongs to Berkeley Partners for Parks, said that the ideal
solution should address the needs of warm- water pool users, children from less -affluent families and lap swimmers, including the Berkeley Barracudas, a local competitive swim team.
“Neighborhood pools are the fabric of a city,” said Robert Collier, a former foreign affairs reporter with the San Francisco Chronicle and an advocate for Berkeley’s neighborhood pools.
“They are wonderful neighborhood resources, but they are living on borrowed time. They all need repair, especially the changing rooms and pool houses.”
Collier said it was equally important for Berkeley, the birthplace of the American Disability Rights Movement, to have a good-size therapy pool.
“The elderly and the disabled deserve a first-class pool. They should be allowed the programs they need and not just a token bathtub,” he said. “In the 1960s, the city invested real money in building the pools and they have lasted for 45 years. It’s time for us to invest in the next 45 years.”
The final of four community workshops will be held Saturday, Jan. 24, at the James Kenney Recreation Center, 1720 8th St., 10 a.m.–noon.)
A regularly updated project website (www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=28522) includes the information produced for the master plan to date. The website includes a schedule of meetings and a link for public comments. More than 80 written comments have been received.
An update will be presented to four commissions this month—the Commission on Aging, the Disability Commission, the Youth Commission and the Parks and Recreation Commission.
The Draft Master Plan will also be placed on the project website and in libraries and city offices. Written comments can be submitted by letter or email. Comments can be sent to Tina Stott at firstname.lastname@example.org