Commentary | Aquatic center or community pool?

More public input is needed for the expansive pool plan.

As one participant suggested at Tuesday’s pool workshop, there should be more 10-year old kids in the room. Lap swimmers and the swim teams are well served by the new design, getting a great new lap pool with 12 lanes, replacing the six they have now.  On paper it looks like kids are too — the current little pool (1240 square feet) is 26% of the total pool area (4700 sq ft) whereas the new little pool is 3750 sq ft, 36% of the total (10,400). But that comparison does not account for the current big pool which accommodates both aquatics and play. Probably 1000 sq ft of the current big pool is at shallow depth and permits kids to play without treading water – the pool worked for Marco Polo and water polo. Now the new big pool is set to a fixed 8-ft depth for water polo – no more Marco Polo in the big pool. Nor senior programs either. And when you consider that the new little pool will be for toddlers, swim lessons, and senior programs, the availability for kid free water play is probably diminished.

And speaking of water polo, can they get by with a 25 x 25 yard pool? Coach Savage said they would play that way at one of the workshops. That pool size would save a lot on energy costs and carbon emissions, a real problem for this design. At Tuesday’s workshop, Coach Savage had concerns about lighting which raises the question — with the new pool, are the swim teams going to once again be resigned to practicing at night? That’s not good for students who should be practicing after school lets out. That’s not a design issue but an access issue that will hopefully be rectified by the Recreation Department.

And speaking of the Recreation Department, just what do they plan to program in this building? Renderings at the workshops show a café, cardio room, weight-lifting center and dance studio in the building. Resident Dick Carter raised concerns that this was getting beyond the scope of the UU bond measure but PAC Chairman Roland felt these uses were within the bond measure language. That’s debatable and when you look at these programs, none of which require access to water, this facility starts to look more like a recreation center than an aquatic center. It looks like the pool facility is morphing into the Recreational Activity Center (RAC), a proposal that was floated 25 years ago to expand recreation services. That expansive project was rejected for the impacts it would have on the center of town.

And speaking of impacts to the center of town, the City is seriously considering filing for a categorical exemption to avoid an environmental impact report for this project. The doubling of the aquatic facility and expansion of programming at the facility will obviously increase the amount and hours of traffic to the Civic Center and school zone. That impact alone should warrant an EIR and it would be terrible planning not to do so.

The City needs to conduct more public workshops on these use issues now before bidding the pool project. For more information on the pool project, click HERE.

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3 thoughts on “Commentary | Aquatic center or community pool?

  1. True the current pool not perfect for water polo but a community pool needs to do what’s best for the greatest number. When presented with a design that was regulation, the coach did indicate the team would practice at 25 yards so there would be “warm down” water. Why not return to the stretch design presented during UU, making the stretch part shallower so kids could use it and players warm down? That would meet the needs of players and kids.

    Curious what your thoughts are on afternoon versus evening practice.

  2. The statement that the current pool “worked for both Marco Polo and water polo” is completely inaccurate. As the parent of a former PHS water polo player, I can attest that PHS is the only school in the Bay Area to play in a home pool with a shallow end. Since players are not allowed to touch the bottom and must tread water the entire time, 8 feet is the standard depth. Tournaments could not be held at the current pool for this reason. And yes, some schools do have a 25 x 25 pool in addition to one or more regulation size 8 foot deep pools, but the regulation pools are where games and practices take place. It seems very disingenuous and out of context to quote Coach Savage saying “we could have a workshop in a 25 x 25 pool” and position it as an endorsement of confining water polo to a smaller pool. Piedmont is very lucky to have amazing, dedicated water polo coaches and many players who have gone on to play for renowned college programs as a result, in spite of the substandard facilities. Let’s make sure we build a pool that meets the needs of the next generation of players.

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