Fri10242014

News

Group wants pool funding included in community center


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Some families have backyard swimming pools, but a local group is advocating for a public one.

A local group wants the city to include a public pool as part of its plans for a new community center, with the public funding at least a portion of the swim facility.

Kamrin Knight-Desmond and Maridee Charlton of the Los Altos Community Pool Foundation told the Town Crier that the best path to building a new public pool facility in Los Altos might be to include it as part of a future bond measure to replace Hillview Community Center. The pool foundation formed after the closure of Covington Pool in 2001 and originally sought to fundraise privately for a pool as part of the city’s original 2009 Civic Center Master Plan.

The group, slated to host a public meeting 7 p.m. today at Hillview Community Center, has proposed a facility that includes a children’s play area, a warm-water pool for seniors and beginning swimmers and a lap pool.

The city, meanwhile, is engaged in a 10-month effort to update and review plans to replace Hillview Community Center. The Los Altos City Council recently voted in favor of funding a public survey and an analysis on financing options for a new community center.

“I don’t think it’s all about the Community Pool Foundation raising the funds to have this pool for Los Altos,” said Knight-Desmond, who noted that a preliminary estimate pegged the cost for pool facilities at $5 million. “I think Los Altos needs to decide that it wants a pool and do what it needs to do with a bond to have a pool.”

She pointed to Menlo Park’s Burgess Swimming Pool as a publicly funded pool facility that could serve as a model for Los Altos. Originally funded through Measure T bonds and rebuilt in 2006, the pool is open all but five days a year and is financially self-supporting, according to Knight-Desmond.

Charlton noted that her group’s initial fundraising efforts during the city’s Civic Center Master Plan process in 2009 fell short for a variety of reasons, including the sluggish economy. The effort also may have lagged because of a perception that the facility would only serve one specific group – not the community as a whole.

“I think that was our downfall in the past,” Charlton said. “When we were doing this before, it felt too exclusive to people.”

Raising money – and support

Reached by the Town Crier, Councilwoman Jan Pepper said she supports the general idea of including a public pool facility as part of a new community center.

“I support it because I think there’s community support. … There’s been consistent support to have a pool, and I think this is the best location,” said Pepper, an avid swimmer.

She said financing the pool through a community center bond was “something to look at,” noting that the facility would provide added benefits like summer jobs for local teens.

Councilwoman Val Carpenter, however, said that while she was an ardent supporter of bringing a new community pool facility to Los Altos, lumping the project in with a community center bond might prove too much for voters to consider.

“I think I’m pretty confident we can get support for the community center,” she said. “I’m less confident if we start adding in other things people have suggested. My concern is that the total amount we’ll have to ask for will exceed the voters’ appetite.”

Although Carpenter said she wasn’t opposed to the idea of publicly funding a pool through a future bond, the project should ultimately stand on its own. She noted that the public feedback she’s received indicates that residents view a new community center as “a first concern.”

“I want to get the community center done,” she added. “I want it designed, passed (by voters) and I want to get it done.”

Still, Charlton said the pool could physically be part of a new community center – with shared amenities like locker rooms and more – or as a stand-alone structure on the civic center campus. She noted that the group will continue to engage the public in conversations – as well as elected officials in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills – to see if there’s adequate public support for the concept.

“We’re hearing people say, ‘We want a new community center. We want a new pool. We want the whole 18-acre (civic center site) developed,’” Charlton said. “We’re hoping to bring in more people to find out if this is true and, if so, how we can we get everyone on board.”

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