Public Comment

City of Berkeley Should Take Over Warm Pool Building in Trade with BUSD

By Terry Cochrell
Sunday July 11, 2010 - 04:42:00 PM

Warm-pool users at BHS read with interest the online letter by Mr. Henrik Bull, FAIA, who is interested in matters familiar to us: the value of upgrading and altering the old-gym complex where the City of Berkeley (COB) operates the therapeutic, highly valuable warm-pool. 


Mr. Bull was awarded the designation of “Fellow” by a local chapter of the AIA, a high honor in the architectural profession. The term, “FAIA” denotes a designer, planner and firm-operator of great skill and wide accomplishment. 


We 700-800 warm-pool users should feel grateful to have such a master on board and sympathetically advising us about warm-pool and old-gym at BHS. 


As well, the city and public school district should feel honored to obtain pro bono advice and actual planning schemes from Mr. Bull re the architecture and planning in question. 


In his letter he discusses the successful effort to “…landmark the Old Gym…”:  


Landmarked buildings may not be demolished by law to be replaced by new construction for any functional purpose with the single ironic exception of classrooms, this according to the person most responsible for landmarking of old-gym complex at BHS. 


Landmark status in fact may be quite valuable to the district. 


Mr. Bull notes that the stadium “architects were assigned to design a new bleacher/ stadium …This would be built before the classroom/gym building.”: 


Before the new BHS stadium was to be built, BUSD hoped a new parking structure might be built nearby. 


This writer advocates that the city, COB could do exactly that in exchange for title to the existing warm-pool 2-room building, and as a public service to teachers and students at BHS. 


Bull discusses the charette, “Many interesting ideas were generated in this brief study session and a report was presented to the BUSD. They were not interested…”: 


With little if any discussion or media attention, BUSD dropped all ideas and suggestions in the circular files; the donated time involved was worth thousands of dollars; thanks BUSD. How sweet! 


BUSD had been ordered by a judge to implement this study group and examine the suggestions generated. What judge and why? 


A lawsuit (re: the EIR for the new BHS master-plan involving demolition of old-gym) had been begun in response to what seemed to some a careless, abbreviated writing of the environmental impact report ( EIR). The suit had to be dropped for financial reasons. The judge, however, wanted BUSD to seriously study the ideas of outside designers. 


The BUSD felt intimidated, one imagines, or at least inconvenienced. 


Working with the city bureaucrats to replace the warm-pool roof in the late 1990’s may have left BUSD feeling somewhat intimidated or at least inconvenienced. BUSD provided roof-upgrade design-documents that were less than succinct, mostly boilerplate, Alex Tara, city architect told this writer, upon seeing a set of specs. 


BUSD got in a hurry there, flew by the seat of their pants, then administered construction, then discovering that the specs, specification documents gave contractors insufficient instructions; this then required delays and triple funding to complete properly the work; 


The city was justifiably annoyed by the resulting need to cough–up more funding. 


Working with the superintendent’s warm-pool users-committee and the city’s departments to organize seismic-upgrades and much-needed alterations after the bond issue was passed for existing warm-pool also left the BUSD feeling overwhelmed and maybe intimidated; BUSD in any case refused to sign an MOU with COB for bond-funded upgrades. 


One wonders if this was the climax in the drama after which BUSD decided: “out, damned warm-pool.” 


One who witnessed the behavior of the city in some meetings with the district about those matters understands why the BUSD may have felt put-upon, intimidated. 


It’s is unwise of the city to build on non-COB property, this writer, a designer, believed and believes, and this may be near the heart of the matter; who would be liable for faulty construction? …and so on. 


The standing of BUSD may be brought somewhat into question by imposition of design and construction standards from outside as may seem necessary to the city and as may in some cases be much more professional, when remodel or new construction on BUSD and non-COB property is involved.  


Standing is both a legal and psychological concept of considerable importance. 


BUSD is under pressing financial constraints generated by the prop 13 consequences as well as by the economy-meltdown due to “wars” overseas; shortcuts tempt any organization under such pressures and are only to be expected. 


BUSD had a small, probably insufficient staff with lack of detailed education, experience and expertise in essential areas of planning, design and construction, 10-12 years ago. (Also, janitorial staff at BHS was about half that mandated by the state back then; endless problems resulted re: keeping restrooms in order.) 


This writer has always expressed doubt about COB building on BUSD property, either across from Milvia or at West Campus. 


This writer advocates that warm-pool room and north-pool building title be given to COB, the building be severed from old-gym and upgraded / remodeled by COB, all in trade for some equal property to BUSD from COB. 


Alternatively, BUSD should give $8 million to the city to build a new warm pool on COB property, maybe adjacent to Iceland. Voters probably would go along with such a proposal in November, given the interminable mess inflicted on all parties by the spat. 


Mr. Bull discusses “$3 million which the voters approved…”: 


As well the then city council soon voted another million dollar gift toward the same goal which million was recently redirected by Mayor Bates after no discussion with the pool-users’ committee, and it was soon chewed up by the mayor’s task-force to jawbone the upgrade of all city pools in Berkeley. 


Others and this writer feel this was illegal and unethical and must be redressed. 


In the event that BUSD continues to find intolerable the presence of the warm pool etc on BHS campus, the least they can do to make up for their really quite bizarre, unacceptable behavior is to hold-off dumping us in the nearest ditch until 1) private or public funding is secured, 2) a truly appropriate site is found, 3) proper title is given to COB or suitable non-profit body, 4) an agreeable designer and design is arrived at, 5) a reputable contractor is found, and 5) a facility is constructed. 


This could easily take more than just a few months that BUSD has budgeted prior to their outrageous plan to demolish buildings worth tens of millions of dollars, which as Mr. Bull points out can easily be saved and re-used,, as classrooms or what-have-you. 


We 700-800 pool users beg the rational members of the public school board at BUSD to swallow their pride, to listen to expert advice from Mr. Bull and others, to reconsider the bumbling South-of-Bancroft-Master-Plan, to at the very least work with COB and coordinate timelines, rather than behaving like distasteful, petty tyrants.