Public Comment

Measure C, the Warm Pool, and Wedge-Issue Politics

By JoAnn Cook, Elizabeth Gutfeldt, Odette Larde, Anne Marx, Summer Raven and Mertis Shekeloff
Thursday May 27, 2010 - 04:44:00 PM

In the June 8 election, Berkeley has the choice of deciding whether to embrace all our city’s residents – old as well as young, disabled as well as able-bodied – or whether to succumb to conservative wedge-issue tactics that seek to divide us. 

Measure C will benefit all pool users in Berkeley, from the Barracudas youth team to young parents to neighborhood lap swimmers. But no one has higher stakes than the users of the Warm Pool. For us, it quite literally is our lifeline. 

Several of the writers of this article are disabled, and all of us need the Warm Pool’s 92-degree deep water to allow us to get exercise and gain the mobility that we don’t have on dry land. 

For Daily Planet readers who are able-bodied, it may be difficult to realize just how much a municipal pool can change someone’s life. But please understand that once in water – warm water, mind you, not just regular pool water – our battered bodies transform into new, mobile forms. It is physically, mentally and spiritually rejuvenating. 

We urge you to watch the Measure C campaign’s video, which is about all the city’s four pools but includes a very nice segment on the Warm Pool. The video is 10 minutes long, and we guarantee it will surprise you. It may even move you to tears – as it did for many of us as we watched the footage of the Parent-Tot class, or the class for Special Needs children. Please see the “media” section of the Measure C campaign website,

In 2011, the Warm Pool will lose its longtime home at the Old Gym at Berkeley High School, so the pool must be rebuilt at a separate location. Measure C provides a new home at West Campus, the site of the former Berkeley Adult School at Addison and Browning streets. For all of Berkeley, the rebuilt indoor Warm Pool will be a wonderful complement to the three outdoor pools at King, Willard and West Campus. And for West Berkeley neighborhoods, the Warm Pool will be a huge bonus – it will be operated year-round and will be a perfect place for parents with toddlers and young children during the cold-weather months when the West Campus outdoor pool is closed for the season. 

For all these reasons, Measure C is supported by every single elected official in Berkeley – the unanimous City Council, School Board and Rent Board, plus former Mayor Shirley Dean, State Senator Loni Hancock, and a wide variety of community groups. 

Unfortunately, Berkeley’s anti-tax conservatives are cynically trying to use the Warm Pool as a wedge issue against Measure C. Led by Marie Bowman, who seems to be positioning herself as a Berkeley hybrid of Sarah Palin and Howard Jarvis, they are making a series of wild and false claims that the Warm Pool is unnecessary and too expensive. 

It’s a fact-free zone. For example, they claim that the Warm Pool is Olympic size. In fact, it is only one-sixth of Olympic size. They claim that the UC Berkeley campus has a Warm Pool that could be an alternative for city residents. In fact, no such pool exists. 

Most absurdly, they claim that the Warm Pool’s 92-degree water is unhealthy for tots, children, the pregnant, arthritic, seniors and the obese. This claim is directly contradicted by aquatics facilities in the Bay Area and around the nation. The Berkeley Pools Task Force, which was convened by the City Council and School Board in 2008-2009, closely examined aquatics industry standards and guidelines for the Warm Pool, and finally recommended a 92-degree temperature. 

The Bay Area's two largest warm pools -- the Betty Wright Swim Center in Palo Alto and the Timpany Center in San Jose -- are 93 degrees and 92 degrees, respectively, and offer a wide variety of programming, from early swim classes for all ages to programs for the elderly and disabled. The Downtown Berkeley YMCA holds all its parent-child swim lessons and its preschool swim lessons in its small, 92-degree warm wading pool (which is too small for most adults and many children, however). The American Swim Academy has four 92-degree pools in Fremont, Newark, Livermore and Dublin, which offer a wide variety of swim classes for toddlers and children. 

Our opponents also claim that the Warm Pool does not need to be rebuilt because it could be retained and remodeled (“a greener alternative”) at Berkeley High School. But the School Board has decided unanimously that the Warm Pool must be removed from the High School to relieve the severe overcrowding on campus. This decision is wildly popular among Berkeley parents and students, and it is essentially irreversible. By pretending otherwise, our opponents are just trying to create animosity between Warm Pool users and school supporters. These wedge tactics do not change the fact that if Measure C is not approved, Berkeley will have no Warm Pool, period. 

But our opponents will stop at nothing. As a cover for the anti-Measure C campaign, Marie Bowman even has violated our privacy by launching a pseudo-Warm Pool website,, showing photos of many Warm Pool users without their permission. Several of us have written Marie, who is owner of the website, to demand that she remove our photos, but she has not responded. 

But this is par for the course. The anti-Measure C campaign is a callous effort by conservatives who would deprive our community of the pools we need to survive and would try to drive wedges between Berkeley residents. 

Berkeley deserves much better. Let’s save our pools, protect our health, preserve our quality of life, and unite our community. Please vote “Yes” for Measure C! 


The authors are Berkeley residents and users of the Warm Pool