Friday, January 7, 2011

Berkeley's Willard Pool Choked with Mud

By Judith Scherr
Fri, Jan 7, 2011 at 10:59 AM

Berkeley's outdoor Willard Pool is now full of mud, and apparently is closed for good. "It wasn't safe to leave it" as it was, said city spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross. "The pool was in such bad shape it would have to be re-done." The city closed Willard Pool in June, after Measure C failed to garner the necessary two-thirds voter approval.

George Beier, president of the Willard Neighborhood Association, said it didn't have to close. Beier said refurbishing the pool could be affordable, if the city were willing to do the work in stages. "But now, I think the pool's closed forever," he said. "It's a tragedy for the neighborhood. A lot of kids in South Berkeley no longer have a place to swim."

Beier, who lost a third bid for city council in November, blamed closing the pool on high city staff salaries and benefits and also on the way Measure C, the June pools measure, was written. "Willard Pool was dumped in with the warm pool" and the other pools, Beier said, arguing that a measure refurbishing Willard alone would have won. Beier noted that the majority of Berkeley voters supported Measure C, which garnered 62 percent of the vote, but not the necessary two-thirds to win.

"Filling the pool with soil does not preclude its future repair and renovation," according to a mid-December letter written to the city council by City Manager Phil Kamlarz. Kamlarz noted that Willard was chosen to close because it was in worse shape than the other pools and needed $2.6 million to bring it to "acceptable standards."

Mark Coplan, Berkeley schools spokesperson, said the property remains under city jurisdiction, which will determine its future use, unless the city "relinquishes it back to the schools." Coplan said he hopes "at some point the city will run another [ballot] measure and it will pass."

The warm pool at Berkeley High is slated for closure in June.

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