The Berkeley Barracudas finally got their way at Tuesday’s City Council meeting when the council agreed to include the construction of a new competition pool at King Middle School as part of the June pools ballot measure.
At its Feb. 9 meeting, the council voted unanimously, 9-0, to approve a $19 million measure to renovate the city’s three existing public pools—King, Willard and West Campus—and build a new warm water pool at West Campus.
At least four councilmembers then were in favor of an alternative proposal that would add a new competition pool to the renovations and the new warm water pool, but the majority of the council ddecided that the cost—$22.6 million—was too expensive.
At that time, some councilmembers argued that it might not be prudent to impose additional taxes on Berkeley homeowners for an expansion, especially because of the state of the current economy.
But since then, the Berkeley Barracudas, a local competitive swim team with hundreds of members, has been lobbying the council to add a new pool for them.
The Barracudas—dressed in their signature blue tones—argued at the meeting that their current facility was overcrowded.
More than 50 people wrote letters urging the council to help them.
“I am embarrassed when we compete against another team and they make comments such as ‘you actually swim in this pool?’” wrote Laura Howard, whose five children are on the Barracudas team. “I must say that I started swimming over in El Cerrito and it was a bit of an adjustment to come to our pools. If I didn’t have children and the dire need of convenience, I would be tempted to go to a nicer pool.”
Howard complained about cramped lanes, a dangerous “L” shape in the shallow pool and other frustrations shared by swimmers.
“We are literally swimming on top of each other,” said a member of the Barracudas. “Advanced swimmers end up in the dive tank to practice.”
Others warned that a scaled-down bond measure would only chase a broad spectrum of voters away.
Councilmember Linda Miao said she had changed her mind after talking to supporters of a new pool at King.
Under the new price tag, Berkeley voters would pay $56 per year on taxes which could increase to $63 over the course of time.