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Council Votes to Move Ahead in Process to Replace Aging Pools

But how the city is going to pay for it is still unknown.

At a special joint meeting with the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Commission on Monday, the City Council voted to accept recommendations to improve aging pools at Clarke Memorial Swim Center and .

The council didn't select a specific option, and the question of how the city will pay for the $25 million in improvements of the half-century-old pools remained unanswered.   

While council members and commissioners acknowledged the importance of improving the pools, much of their discussion Monday focused on the cost.  The council's main focus in the meeting was to include the pool improvements in the city's 10-year Capital Investment Program. Now, the council will analyze whether the current options for the project are feasible and if the necessary funds can be raised. Even though the council agreed to include the pool projects in the CIP, this does not guarantee that they will get the funding to be completed. 

PROS Commissioner Carla Ludwig said that before considering which of four options to select for improving the swim centers, the city needs "to see what level of support they would receive to get to close the ($25 million) needed for the pools.”

The meeting featured a discussion of the Aquatics Needs Assessment Report, prepared by the Sports Management Group, a Berkeley-based consulting company. The report suggested the following new pools be built and that improvements be made at Clarke Memorial Swim Center. 


Clarke Swim Center:

  • 50 meter pool
  • 25 meter x 25 yard pool with a bulkhead
  • Six lane x 25 yard lap and instructional pool
  • Family recreational pool 
  • Renovated and upgraded bathhouse. The council decided to build a new bathhouse instead of upgrading the current one because of its poor condition.


The estimated cost for the project is $22.4 million. 

The group offered four options for Clarke swim center; they differ according to how the new pools would be arranged within Heather Farm Park. Options 1, 2 and 3 would arrange the pools on the current site of the swim center. The fourth option would build the pools on what is now the playground area at Heather Farm, while keeping the current pools at Clarke open during construction.

The different projects do not include an increase in parking.

There is only one option for improving Larkey Park Pool: 

  • Renovate the six lane x 25 yard pool
  • Remove the baby pool
  • Add a large “sprayground”
  • Increase the lawn area
  • Operate seasonally 


The estimated cost for the project is $3 million.

About a dozen members of the public spoke at the meeting, the majority of whom were from the swimming community and use Clarke Swim Center. They represented a variety of ages. 

Speakers were from the Walnut Creek Aquabears USA swim team, the Walnut Creek Aquanuts synchronized swim team and the Walnut Creek Masters swim team. They expressed concern over where the teams would practice during the two years the pools were under construction. 

creekgal June 07, 2011 at 03:38 PM
Love how the title of this article and then the tag line just roll of the tongue.
Long Time Creeker June 07, 2011 at 03:54 PM
Sigh. This was predictable but it is still very, very WRONG!
SR June 07, 2011 at 04:43 PM
What I find troubling is Ms. Ludwig, Bob Brittan and other Cindy Silva campaign members are the same people that pushed the library through after the failed bond measure votes. Now, in a previous PATCH story, Mr. Brittan (with the mayor's support?), is suggesting a new bond measure. While I support residents having the ultimate say by voting on a measure there are serious unanswered questions here. Mr. Brittan for example declined to answer if he and the Mayor would respect the will of the voters if a new measure fails. This is an important question and one the media should ask of the Mayor. After the library measure failed twice it was still fully funded since as we are told over 50 percent of residents wanted it. Walnut Creek deserves to know if a measure fails will we accept the results or once again move forward with tax money we clearly don't have (like we did with the library). If so what is the Mayor's cutoff? 50% of the vote? 60%? Also if we use tax dollars what other services will be cut? The senior center? Will we close parks? Less street repairs? Cut more police officers? Cut support for the ball fields? Less money for the Downtown Business Association? These things should be clearly spelled out. The obvious choice is to begin setting aside 1-2 million per year from the current 13 million dollar annual arts budget for the pools. The investment and interest income would be enough to begin breaking ground in a few years-with no debt.
Paula Miller June 07, 2011 at 05:41 PM
SR, Your statement "the obvious choice is to begin setting aside 1-2 million per year from the current 13 million dollar annual arts budget for the pools" is right on the money. BUT, it will never fly because it is far too logical.
Eldee June 07, 2011 at 05:48 PM
SR and Paula.....if there was a "like" button to your replies, I'd push it. Great, logical thoughts onto virtual paper.
SR June 07, 2011 at 08:06 PM
It is more accurate to not call it the "arts" budget. It is the arts, RECREATION and community services budget. Seems like the perfect place for the funds to come from. I trust the council and our wonderful city staff can trim 1/12th of that budget for these needed upgrades. And of course no raiding the police or public works budgets like we did for the library.
JW (WC resident) June 07, 2011 at 09:30 PM
I was present through the entire meeting. I’m sorry to see this thread devolve so soon into political harangue. Regardless who is in whose camp, and what prior political connections & issues exist, I think it a fair conclusion that substantially all present believed replacing the Clark pools is a sine qua non. The principal issues are money and phasing, both of which received considerable airing. The council was clearly dialed-in, to the issues and public commentary. Regardless which option ultimately is chosen, it is a needed big-ticket item. Come on folks, let’s deal with what is needed and how to accomplish it; don’t dredge up emotional aspects that are unproductive.
Eldee June 07, 2011 at 09:43 PM
JW - Hate to be cynical but twice I voted against the bond measure to be used for the library. And the library happened anyway. So while I would love to see the Clarke Swim Center and Larkey Pool renovated, upgraded, replaced the funding for such worries me.
SR June 08, 2011 at 12:51 AM
JW, I need a new car car and bigger house but can't afford one at the moment. 20 plus million is not chump change and glossing over the issue by saying it is a needed big ticket item so deal with it is not exactly the most responsible course of action. Actions have consequences as we are currently seeing. Ygnacio Valley Road is falling apart but we have no money to fix it. We cut five police officers and most residents have little to no police coverage during Friday and Saturday nights. Our sidewalks and other non-pool facilities are in disrepair. Are these issues less important than swimming pools?
Jim June 08, 2011 at 12:57 AM
As someone that enjoys our pools and would like to see them replaced I admit it is time to start doing what is best for the entire city. We can no longer focus on small yet vocal groups to push agendas through when millions of dollars are involved. We need to prioritize better. As hard as it is for some we need to learn our lesson from the library debacle that back room dealing and lobbying by special interest groups is not the way to go. Let's do it right this time.
Long Time Creeker June 08, 2011 at 02:01 AM
Spend $24 million on "world class" swimming pools at community parks which is the most luxurious and expensive option available? The fact that repaving Ygnacio Valley Road is now five years overdue on a 20 year life expectancy that was estimated to also cost $24 million a couple years ago is IRONIC! But the fact that the Council doesn't recognize that repaving a vital regional traffic arterial is an economic necessity and that swimming pools are a pure luxury item is without excuse. Are these people smoking crack? Does anyone remember what happened when eastbound lanes of Ygnacio were closed for one day last year when a power pole fell? That was a disaster of a day for commuters and residents. PRIORITIES please! Let's find the money to repave Ygnacio BEFORE we make a luxury "world class" swimming facility!!!!!
JW (WC resident) June 08, 2011 at 02:20 AM
All rejoinders are fair and valid points. But, where were the voices behind such concerns at last night's public meeting? Apart from the general issue of money, I heard no citation to other priorities including Ygnacio Valley Road. There were probably 70-80 "public" there, and any who had comments were accorded opportunities to speak; fewer than 10 did. For now, council's putting the matter on the CIP does not ensure that anything definitive will occur on the pools (at least for Clark). That was clear, as reference was made to tens of other projects that long have been on the list. BTW, there will be a public meeting involving council in the main library next Tu, Jun 14 at 7:00; this will deal with the matter of fundraising -- not just for the pools work but for other items as well.
Jim June 08, 2011 at 03:52 AM
I work for a living. It is the council's job to separate the needs of the entire city from small but vocal groups that show up at meetings.
Justin Wedel June 08, 2011 at 06:09 AM
I was at the meeting and feel this was right decision by the City Council. They moved forward with accepting the consultant's findings and added the projects (Clarke and Larkey) to the CIP. They did not approve funding nor did they direct staff to "find" money. My major concern from the very beginning (which was confirmed during this meeting) was the way the consultants handled the "needs" / findings portion of this project. When I attended the community meetings where they collected opinions on the project options, staff and the consultants specifically stated the community could not comment on the cost of each option. We could only select the option we preferred, independent of cost. Now, if the city cannot "find" money to support this project, as provided in the consultant's findings, the city will have to pay the consultants even more money to come up with a plan-b. If this was handled correctly these type of discussions / options would have been included in this phase of the project. Additionally, without looking at costs throughout the process we are risking the entire project (at least in the short run) because they are too focused on long-term wants rather than the true needs of the community (a la other council projects in recent history).
SR June 08, 2011 at 04:27 PM
The most reasoned and responsible comments on this issue have come from council member Lawson. The rest of the council should be following her lead.

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