City Releases Draft of Pools Plan, Asks for Input

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday January 28, 2009 - 07:22:00 PM

The public is now able to comment on the Berkeley citywide pools master plan, which was released on Friday, a week later than it was originally promised. 

The master plan seeks to renovate the crumbling infrastructure at the Willard Middle School lap pool and build new pools at King Middle School and West Campus, including a warm-water pool for the East Bay’s disability community, which currently uses the warm pool at the Berkeley High School Old Gym. The Old Gym is scheduled for demolition in June 2011 to make room for athletic facilities and 15 classrooms. 

A task force put together by the City of Berkeley and the Berkeley Unified School District, as part of a resolution to find a site and draw up plans for the warm pool and possibly other pools, came up with three options for the master plan, all of which include new pools at King and West Campus—the proposed site for the new school district headquarters—and renovated facilities at Willard Middle School. 

The draft states that, while preparing the plan, the task force was determined to maintain the current distribution of neighborhood pools, particularly in the underserved neighborhoods of West and South Berkeley, since a “reinvigorated neighborhood pool system would contribute to a more close-knit community.” 

It adds that the new and renovated pools would also stimulate the city’s economy by bringing in revenue. 

The proposed improvements at King and Willard are the same in all three options. The West Campus site would have different pool dimensions and configurations in each of the following options. 

• Option 1 would provide a new 25-yard by 25-meter competition pool at King, a renovated lap pool and a dive pool converted into a shallow play pool with a slide at Willard and a 2,790-square-foot, 92-degree indoor pool at West Campus for a total cost of $19.5 million. 

• Option 2 proposes the same idea for King and Willard but throws in a 2,600-square-foot, 86-degree indoor lap pool along with the warm pool. The total cost for this plan is an estimated $26.3 million. 

• Option 3 keeps the King and Willard plans intact, but decreases the size of the warm pool to less than half—1,200 square feet—and increases the lap pool to 4,190 square feet, for a sum of $26.7 million. 

At King, all three options would include removing the existing instructional and dive pools and constructing a new competition pool in its place, upgrading the locker rooms and adding new decks, fencing, outdoor lighting and landscaping for $4.8 million. 

According to the draft blueprint, one of the reasons the task force opted for King as the site for a new competition pool was because Berkeley Unified hopes to provide, and potentially expand, swimming programs at King and Willard middle schools. 

It also states that the new state-of-the-art facility will open up opportunities for the city to host swim meets and allow the Berkeley Barracudas and other local swim teams to train in competition-size pools. The city is investigating off-site parking requirements for King since the school district lacks additional sites for on-site parking. 

If the final master plan is approved, Willard will get a renovated swimming pool and convert its existing dive pool into a shallow play pool with a waterslide, an idea the task force feels will attract more children and create a welcoming environment for families. Lockers and decks on the campus will get a facelift, and new underwater lighting will be installed. Capital costs for this project are $4 million. 

At West Campus, all three options developed by the task force include demolishing the existing instructional and dive pools and constructing a new, LEED-certified building to house the indoor pools, which would include an energy-efficient lobby and administrative office, common changing rooms and privacy shower cubicles, assisted dressing rooms, and abundant deck space for viewing, wheelchairs and attendants. 

Task force members explained that, since West Berkeley was a relatively neglected part of the city, a new pool in addition to the warm-water pool would help neighbors to get involved in exercise and recreation programs. 

Capital costs for a new single warm-water pool, as proposed in the draft master plan’s Option 1, would cost $10.6 million. It would be used primarily by seniors and the disabled, unlike entire pool complexes, which would attract a more diverse crowd. The total cost for a new warm pool and an additional lap pool, as proposed in Option 2, is estimated to be $17.4 million. The third option for West Campus, which reduces the size of the warm pool and expands the lap pool, would cost $17.9 million. 

The cost of operating all the pools is still being chalked out, city officials said. 

After including community feedback in the draft master plan, the task force will forward it to the Berkeley City Council and the Berkeley Board of Education in March for approval, following which it will be subject to environmental review. 

The city’s Disability Commission, Youth Commission, Commission on Aging, and Parks and Recreation Commission will also weigh in on the plan as part of the environmental review process, which is expected to last from May 2009 to Jan. 2010. 

Once the City Council and the School Board adopt a final citywide pools master plan—expected to take place in January and February 2010—the City Council will probably put it on the ballot for the June 2010 election in an effort to fund pool improvements. 

To view a copy of the citywide pools draft master plan visit: www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=28522. 

To view an earlier story on the pools draft master plan visit: 


Comments will also be accepted in writing and via e-mail through Feb. 2 at tstott@ci.berkeley.ca.us.