Berkeley Pools in Deep Water As Latest Funding Attempt Fails

Photo: Willard Pool on Telegraph Avenue sits empty in the summer heat after closing on June 30, 2010.
Anna Vignet/Staff
Willard Pool on Telegraph Avenue sits empty in the summer heat after closing on June 30, 2010.


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Following myriad failed attempts to keep the city of Berkeley's four public pools open, the option of including funds for the pools in a previously approved Nov. 2 school bond has also proved unfeasible, leaving supporters with increasingly limited options.

Pool campaigners will now explore other options at a Friday night meeting, including crafting a new pool bond for 2012. Until then, the supporters hope to find an interim solution to keep the warm-water pool at Berkeley High School open after renovations begin next summer.

Mayor Tom Bates floated the idea to include funds for Willard Pool's restoration in the $210 million bond measure at a City Council meeting last Tuesday. Councilmembers Linda Maio and Kriss Worthington agreed that the pool's supporters should lobby the Berkeley Unified School District to include funds for the pool.

Though the bond measure has already been written - containing funds for the seismic retrofitting of school buildings, additional classrooms and science labs - Worthington said the language could be modified to include funds for the pool.

But the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education did not modify the bond at its Wednesday meeting. And with the board out of session for the summer, allocating money for the pools in the November bond measure is nearly impossible, said Julie Sinai, the mayor's chief of staff.

"Now it is too late for (the school board) to consider it, unless they call a special meeting," she said.

Though including the pools in the bond initially sounded doable, Board President Karen Hemphill said the change would come too close to the November election and confuse voters.

"We already told voters what the bond was paying for," Hemphill said. "We can't expect them to approve the measure if they don't know what's going in it."

According to Hemphill, the board did consider including funds for the Willard Pool when it crafted the bond in April, but eventually decided other educational needs were of a higher priority.

Still, the Berkeley Pools Campaign and Willard Neighborhood Association continue to explore alternate ways to keep the local pools afloat, even in the wake of the Willard Pool closure Thursday.

Robert Collier, co-chair for the Berkeley Pools Campaign, said the campaign is actively working on an alternative plan, which might include another bond measure in 2012.

"Though (Berkeley High's) warm pool is set to close next summer, we're still pursuing an interim solution to keep that from happening," he said. "We would love it if the school district kept it open for a little while longer."

Collier added he realized it was unlikely for them to do so, acknowledging Berkeley High School's over-crowding situation.

George Beier, president of the Willard Neighborhood Association, said he understood the school board's line of reasoning in leaving the pools out.

"It's always difficult to take money away from one thing and fund another," he said.

Still he said, the association will meet with other pool advocates next week to continue the effort.

"We are stubborn; we need an alternative," he said.

Tags: , BERKELEY HIGH SCHOOL, WARM WATER POOL, WILLARD POOL, BERKELEY POOLS CAMPAIGN


Contact Leah Moskovic at [email protected]



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