Public Comment

Measure C: Fact vs. Fiction

By Robert Collier
Sunday May 30, 2010 - 03:28:00 PM

In recent weeks, the Measure C campaign has found widespread support for saving Berkeley’s pools. From the hills to the flats, from young parents to the elderly and disabled, enthusiasm is high. But our opponents have made a never-ending series of false allegations about Measure C’s financing and other details. No matter how often we rebut the false claims, they keep popping up with wilder embellishments and ever-more bogus numbers. Here is a voter guide with the straight facts: 






Berkeley does not need a 92-degree Warm Pool because the Downtown YMCA has two, and UC Berkeley has one  

The Downtown YMCA has one 92-degree wading pool that is 3.5 feet deep, too shallow for most adults, which is already at full capacity; it also has one 86-degree pool, too cold for many elderly and disabled, which is at full capacity in most time periods. UC Berkeley has no warm pool.  

The Warm Pool’s 92-degreewater temperature is dangerously hot for most users and is only suitable for a tiny minority  

Warm pools around the Bay Area are 92 degrees and have a wide range of programming for all ages, including early swim instruction for children. Examples include the Betty Wright Center in Palo Alto and the Timpany Center in San Jose.  

Instead of building new pools, the existing pools should be rehabbed, which would be greener and cheaper.  


The decision by the School Board to remove the Warm Pool from the High School campus was unanimous and is irreversible. Therefore there is no Warm Pool to rehab. Measure C would rehab Willard and West Campus outdoor pools, and would rehab and expand King Pool.  

The Barracudas youth team and Masters teams do not need a municipal pool because they could train and compete at the Berkeley High School competition pool.  

The High School pool is occupied by High School teams during most weekday hours, and it has no capacity for use by non-students.  

Another pools ballot measure can be tried in a year or two from now. There’s no hurry.  

The Warm Pool and Willard Pool are slated for permanent closure in the next year if Measure C is not approved, and citywide budget cuts will endanger programming, hours and maintenance at the remaining two pools. Measure C is the culmination of years of exhaustive public process about the pools, and it is virtually impossible to start again from scratch.  

Measure C would increase pools maintenance costs by $3.5 million per year, adjusted for inflation.  

Measure C provides $980,000 annually for programs, staffing, hours and maintenance, adjusted for inflation, largely to offset projected budget cuts. Measure C’s total expenditure by 2040 is capped at $3.5 million, most of which is the normal repayment of bond principal and interest.  

Funds are likely to be siphoned off to the rest of the city budget and not spent on the pools  

Measure C funds must be used exclusively for the purposes described in the ballot statement – for repair and rebuilding of the pools, and program and operating costs. Any use of the funds for non-pools purposes would be illegal.  

Berkeley’s debt is skyrocketing and it cannot afford more.  

Despite the budget crisis, the city’s finances are in solid shape. By law, the city must run a balanced budget, and its projected deficit is being closed with budget cuts. Berkeley has an AA+ bond rating from Standard and Poors, in the top 1 percent of all cities nationwide.  

Measure C’s Mello-Roos financing structure is unusual and risky.  

Mello-Roos Community Facilities Districts (CFDs) have been used by hundreds of California cities and school districts for new facilities and programs. Berkeley’s Mello-Roos CFD #1 was created by voters in 2000 to pay for earthquake preparedness equipment purchases by the fire and police departments. Measure C would create Mello-Roos CFD #2.  

Measure C borrows money for operating expenses. This is irresponsible budgeting.  

Measure C has two halves – the bond measure for capital costs, and an annual tax for pools operations to guarantee the pools’ hours and programs despite the budget crisis. No bond funds can be spent on operations.  

The $22.6 million cost is way too high. More competitive bidding could save millions.  

The $22.6 million cost was calculated by Cummings Corp., a well-respected project management company. As the city does with all bond projects, it will put Measure C projects out to fully competitive public bid.  

Measure C would pay $40 million in interest to financiers. This is too high.  

Total interest payments are projected at $17.6 million over 30 years.  

Berkeley’s tax burden is much higher than any other city locally  

In February 2008, the City Manager conducted a detailed study of the property tax burden in Berkeley, Oakland and Albany. It found Berkeley’s taxes were above Oakland’s but below Albany’s. Since then, Albany’s tax increases have outpaced Berkeley’s.  

For more Q&A, please see the Frequently Asked Questions list on the Measure C campaign website: 

Robert Collier is a co-chair of the Yes on Measure C campaign. See and