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Public Comment Begins for Pool Plan Study

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday September 10, 2009 - 12:15:00 PM

The City of Berkeley announced Sept. 1 that the public could weigh in on the Citywide Pools Master Plan environmental initial study for a 30-day period ending Oct. 2. 

The master plan proposes to expand or modernize three of the city’s existing public pools—King, Willard and West Campus—and addresses the relocation, to West Campus of the warm water pool in the seismically unsafe Berkeley High School Old Gym, which is slated for demolition in 2011 to make way for classrooms,.  

The pools at King, Willard and West Campus were all constructed in the 1960s and are in dire need of repair and upgrades. 

According to the master plan, the City of Berkeley spends around $880,000—the net income generated from user fees—every year to operate the existing swimming pools. 

Additionally, the Berkeley Unified School District spends $200,000 annually on heating and maintenance for the warm water pool, costs that will become the city’s responsibility once the pool is relocated to a new site. 

A 10-member aquatics task force completed the master plan in April 2009, recommending a preferred option, which includes constructing a 25-yard by 25-meter outdoor competition pool at King Middle School, a 2,790-square-foot indoor warm water pool, and a 3,510-square-foot indoor lap pool at West Campus and renovating the pool and locker rooms and converting the dive pool to a children’s play pool at Willard for a $29,231,000 total price tag. 

The Berkeley Board of Education recently approved 1,900 square feet of additional land at West Campus for the warm water pool as part of the preferred plan.  

Berkeley Unified is planning to start construction at West Campus to convert an old adult school classroom building into the district’s administrative headquarters. The project is not expected to clash with the pool construction. 

At an April 21 workshop, the Berkeley City Council asked city staff to design a “design variant” to the preferred plan that altered the size and configuration of some of the pools and lowered the total cost of the project by around $4 million. 

The plan includes a warm water pool similar in size to the existing pool (2,250 square feet) and a larger, outdoor recreational pool at West Campus, a shallower end with a slide at the King pool which would provide more opportunity for swim lessons and recreational and public use, and keeps the design for the Willard pool unchanged. 

The total cost of the alternative design comes to $25,370,000. 

On May 19, 2009, the City Council gave the city manager the green light to move ahead with environmental analysis of the preferred plan and design variant of the Citywide Pools Master Plan.  

Based on the initial environmental report, Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department Manager William Rogers has proposed a mitigated negative declaration instead of an environmental impact report, explaining that “although the proposed project could have a significant effect on the environment, there will not be a significant effect in this case because revisions in the project have been made by or agreed to by the project proponent.” 

The proposed project includes mitigation to ensure that construction of the pool enclosure at West Campus and replacement of the pool deck at King do not conflict with the Berkeley Creeks Ordinance, which states that all construction must be at least 25 feet away from the city’s culverts. 

According to the initial study, the construction at the West Campus pool site may be close enough to the Strawberry Creek culvert and that at King near a drainage swale. 

Pending completion of the plan’s environmental review and its adoption by the council, the city will start preparing a bond measure to fund pool improvements for the June 2010 ballot. 

The city’s Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department is currently asking community members to review and comment on the environmental initial study, which can be found at the Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department, the city manager’s office and all three pools. 


Project sponsor 

The project is being sponsored by the City of Berkeley. The city’s Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department is taking the lead in preparing the master plan and is responsible for constructing and operating the three proposed swimming pool improvement projects. 

All three pool sites are located on property owned by the Berkeley Unified School District, which was involved in the crafting of the master plan and will be a “Responsible Agency” in the project. 


Environmental review and pre-bond schedule options 

City officials have come up with two schedules for the next 10 months, which would ultimately lead to a “potential pools bond measure in June 2010.” 

The first option includes community surveys and a detailed cost estimate, while the second one does not have any community surveys and has a less detailed cost estimate. 

According to a notice on the Parks, Recreation and Waterfront website, these schedules were prepared based upon current circumstances and are subject to change “based upon council actions, unexpected impacts found during the environmental review process and other unforeseen circumstances.” 

The website says that it is ultimately the council that will make the decision on which schedule will be followed. 


Public meetings 

The city of Berkeley will be holding three public meetings in September to hear comments about the environmental initial study: 

Disability Commission Meeting, 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 9, North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. 

Parks and Recreation Commission Meeting, 7 p.m., Monday, Sept. 28., North Berkeley Senior Center, Multi-Purpose Room, 1901 Hearst Ave. 

Community Meeting, 7 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 30, Frances Albrier Community Center, 2800 Park St. 

Written comments about the environmental initial study must be received by Oct. 2 and should be addressed to William Rogers, Director, Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department, 2180 Milvia St., 3rd Floor, Berkeley, CA 94704 

  E-mail comments should be sent to 

The Citywide Pools Master Plan environmental initial study can be reviewed online at or in person at: 

• Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department, 2180 Milvia St. 

• Office of the City Manager, 2180 Milvia St. 

• King Pool, 1700 Hopkins St. 

• Willard Pool, 2701 Telegraph Ave. 

• West Campus Pool, 2100 Browning St.