Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dear Neighbors,

Berkeley’s pool bond will be on the June 8th ballot. It proposes to replace the indoor warm pool at the Berkeley High School (without identifying a new location), renovate the West Campus and Willard pools, and construct a new multi-purpose (competition) pool at King, at a construction cost of $22,500,000 PLUS annual maintenance of $3,500,000 indexed to the highest rate of inflation.

Berkeley has 15 pools located at schools, universities and membership facilities, not including the boys pool at the BHS. We Berkeleyans like to swim, and we generously support our city, schools and community recreational facilities. We approved $30 million dollars in new taxes in November 2008.  

We currently subsidize every warm pool swim by $20, NOT including subsidies from the BUSD and each regular swim by $10.  So let’s make reasonable choices that benefit everyone, including swimmers.

It’s the new pool construction -- by far the largest share of this bond -- that doesn’t make sense.
The greenest facilities are the ones already built; demolition and construction burn fossil fuels, choke landfills and waste resources. Rehabilitating all existing pools would require only 1/3 the cost of building new.

The BHS warm pool, as part of a nationally landmarked district, should be reused and not demolished. If rehab is off the table, let’s give those swimmers free passes to either the YMCA’s three pools- regular, (80-82 degrees F)  warm (84-86 degrees F)  and therapeutic (90-92 degrees F) or UC’s community program for the disabled--Cal Stars at the Recreation Sports Facility (RSF), which also operates a warm pool. Just like BUSD uses the YMCA warm pool for its own disabled students. Free memberships for Berkeleyans, who use the  BHS warm/therapeutic pool and need a therapeutic pool would be less than 1% of the bond’s maintenance cost, let alone the enormous construction cost.

The YMCA and UC pools are available to our community, meeting the needs of nearly all warm water pool swimmers: children, adults, pregnant, obese, arthritic, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy,  in accordance with the Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA), the world’s largest certifying organization for aquatic fitness programming. *The AEA does not recommend the use of pools above 86 degrees except for limited functions, as there is a risk of overheating, stroke or heart attack. In fact, the AEA makes the following water temperature recommendations for these populations:

Competitive Swimming, 77-82.4 degrees F
Resistance Training, 83-86 degrees F
Therapy & Rehab 91-95 F (Aquatic Therapy & Rehab Institute/ATRI, Low function program, cooler temperatures may be more appropriate for higher intensity programs and specific populations)
Multiple Sclerosis, 80-84 degrees F
Pregnancy, 83-85 degrees F
Arthritis, 84-88 degrees F, (Arthritis Foundation)
Older Adults, 86-90 degrees F (Low function program. ATRI)
Older Adults, 83-86 degrees F, (Moderate to high intensity)
Older Adults, 86-88 degrees F, (Low intensity)
Children fitness, 83-86 degrees F
Children swim lessons--varies with age, 84-89 degrees F (when available)
Obese, 80-86 degrees F

Pools with a depth of 3-5 feet will accommodate nearly all heights of participants in a water fitness class. The AEA’s guidelines are incorporated into the City of Berkeley’s Citywide Pools Master Plan.

So who should be using a pool at 92 degrees, like the bond would replace? Very Few. And those few, can swim in the YMCA pools as they have in the past, when the BHS warm pool (more accurately, hot/therapeutic pool) has undergone repairs or during school closures or the UC warm pool.

If Berkeley needs an additional warm water pool, should it be at the proposed 2,250 square feet, a Jr. Olympic sized pool, kept at an energy-consumptive 92 degrees? If you answer yes to that question, why not make it a regional pool, sharing the costs as we did in the development of the Gilman sports fields? Palo Alto did just that. In 2007, Palo Alto’s warm pool received $5,274,346 from public and private partners. City taxpayers only paid $40,356. And we have invested in other regional facilities before, such as the BART and Tilden/East Bay Regional Parks.

As for the need to build a new competitive pool, one already exists at Berkeley High School, and Willard formerly served as one for middle school swimmers.
In the 50’s, our Civic leaders envisioned City and School recreational facilities would be shared. In the 70’s Berkeleyans approved Measure Y, a ballot measure which reaffirmed our rights to use school recreational facilities for recreation, outside school activity times. Nationally, all other school districts let the public use their pools during non school usage. Public funding equals public use.

Why can’t the middle school competitive swimmers use the BHS pool? It’s the very pool they will use in high school, and getting used to it now will give them a competitive edge then. Additionally, the Willard pool was designed as a competitive pool.

Rehabbing Willard to once again be a competitive pool would reduce the overall cost by approximately $2,500,000.

Our financials are already stretched too thin.
Berkeley’s unemployment is at a 10 year high of 11.3%.
Berkeley municipal debt is skyrocketing--$4 million this year, $15 million next year. Council proposes to raise fees to bridge the gap.
The BUSD will be asking us to support a capital bond measure of $208--$220,000,000 and possibly a  maintenance bond of about $45,000,000 this November.
This will cost approximately $130-170, per 100,000 of accessed value.
Federal, State and County governments will also be issuing new fees and taxes.
Can we afford this?

The City and BUSD need to rethink their priorities:

Maintenance for this bond has grown by 380%.

Our parks, recreation and waterfront programs are being reduced by 25% over the next two years due to staff increases, PERS obligations and loss of State funding, yet the maintenance fee on this bond represents a 38% recreational tax hike for just pools.
Our parks and recreation programs benefit everyone. Is it fair that they get a huge cut and that the pools get the lion’s share of our recreational tax dollars? The City still hasn’t acted responsible to prioritize our essential services first--services that are critically viable to our community’s very existence.
This measure needs to be re-written to better serve Berkeley’s needs.

Let’s keep Berkeley swimming with better, greener, sustainable alternatives. A legacy we can be proud of. Vote No on C.

We have less than a month to go and are down to the wire on the last, yet important aspects of the campaign. We need your help to educate our fellow voters on the many reasonable options available to support pools in Berkeley without sinking us further in debt or short changing our parks and essential services. We want recreation for all and fiscal responsibility.

Please go to and volunteer/sign up to help. Financial contributions are always welcomed as campaigns are expensive. If you can make a contribution, please take a moment to do so on the site, at the Donate button, located on the home page, lower left hand side or mail a donation to: BCDB, P. O. Box 823, Berkeley, CA 94701.

Thank you in advance for helping to get the word out and to making this campaign a success.
Marie Bowman

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