Thu12182014

Pools should be included: Editorial

Los Altos residents should be receiving calls this week from city representatives conducting a survey to determine priorities for a revamped Hillview Community Center.

Notice that we did not say “civic center” – chastened by a lack of public support, the city abandoned its original plans for overhauling the entire 18-acre site. Still, the “change area” under discussion does include the soccer and baseball fields, the youth center and the police station, in addition to the community center buildings.

One of the survey questions addresses the inclusion of public swimming pools as part of the plan. It’s a safe bet that the question will not provide any context. If it’s your classic city-run pool, it’s usually heavily subsidized and a money loser. You may say no. If it’s a plan the Los Altos Community Pool Foundation is proposing, those of you on the fence may say yes.

That’s because the pool foundation, comprising avid local swimmers who have run other successful swim programs for years, are proposing a self-sustaining, financially solvent operation modeled after the pool center in Menlo Park.

The foundation is proposing a 20-yard-by-25-yard teaching pool, a 25-yard-by-25-meter lap and fitness pool, and a small water play area for toddlers. Also included are locker rooms, terraced seating and a snack bar. Costs are estimated at $5 million and up.

Many of the same people affiliated with the foundation have been trying for nearly 15 years to get a public pool built in Los Altos – especially after the Los Altos School District filled in the old pool at Covington School in 2001. Supporters would like the pool project to be part of a community center bond measure.

We think it should be part of the bond measure, too. Los Altos is the only local city without a public pool. Public pools continue to serve as the primary place for learning how to swim – a rite of passage for children (and many adults). With lifeguards, public pools are arguably safer places to swim than backyard pools, where drowning tragedies have occurred more often than we’d like to think. Best of all, public pools are community gathering places where friendships are forged.

The pools would get plenty of use. As it stands now, hundreds of children in Los Altos are using pools outside the city limits. And a program that doesn’t require taxpayer money beyond the bond makes the pool option a no-brainer for the community center. We encourage you to tell the survey people that, too.

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