After eight years of adversarial discussions over the site and size of a community pool, the Los Altos City Council approved one pool at the Rosita site at its April 25 meeting.
The council voted 3-2 to adopt the Community Swimming Pool Task Force recommendation for one 25-yard-by-25-meter competition pool, including a water feature/wading pool. Councilmembers Val Carpenter and Curtis Cole dissented in favor of a two-pool complex.
"This decision is not an end point but a beginning to the process," said Councilman David Casas, who facilitated the task force.
With unanimous votes, the council agreed to three other task force recommendations: to affirm previous council direction on pool issues; to direct staff to construct a detailed timeline; and to direct staff to prepare a budget review of planned city expenditures - including a built-in reserve to cover shortfalls - for this and the next two fiscal years.
The fifth recommendation to "direct staff to investigate the steps required to add a focused addendum to the EIR for the final pool configuration and specific location" was deferred. According to City Manager Phil Rose, its immediate implementation might involve examining alternatives with expensive consultants before city parameters were set. For instance, the tennis court area is not all city property, so discussions with the Los Altos School District would be necessary before a final configuration is chosen.
The votes followed a detailed presentation from the task force chartered Jan. 24 when the council appointed a subcommittee of Carpenter and Casas. They formed the task force with Brad Elman and Susan Mensinger from the Rosita neighborhood, Kamrin Knight Desmond and Greg Hoberg from the swimming community, Leslie Crane and Amy Gaffney from Covington School and Wayne Grove from the community at large.
Responding to Rosita neighborhood concerns about financial risk, Carpenter said she had "a high degree of confidence that we can meet the cost … based on the task force report and the fact that it was done before." The original Covington Community Pool, which operated from 1947 until it was removed in 2001 for the remodeling of the school, operated without a deficit.
Dick Thomas, co-chairman of Swimmers Promoting Los Altos Aquatics, Safety and Health (SPLASH), said: "SPLASH will raise whatever funds are needed.
In spite of full chambers, reaction was subdued when Mayor Ron Packard cast the final, deciding vote.
"From our perspective, (this was) the better outcome between the two alternatives," said Mensinger of the Rosita Neighborhood Coalition. "If (they're) going to do a pool, do one."
Kathy Englar, SPLASH co-chairwoman, said, "Since 1999, every council has supported a pool." Even though the council rejected the two-pool proposal, she added, "We don't think of it as a loss. Five councilmembers wanted a pool - it was a landslide to us."
Depending on when you set the start date of the controversy, the Rosita Pool project has been under discussion for:
• Up to 7-1/2 years, counting from a 1998 bond measure, which assured that Covington School would be re-opened and the existing pool removed.
• Five years from Jan. 31, 2001, the last day of swimming before Covington pool was drained.
• Three years from the lawsuit filed Jan. 9, 2003, by the Rosita Neighborhood Coalition to force a draft EIR.
• Nearly a year and a half since the council, Dec. 22, 2004, added an aquatic center for the Rosita site to the 2004-'05 Capital Improvement Budget.
• Almost one year from Judge Leslie Nichols' decision, Aug. 16, 2005, that the city had complied with the court's requests.
• Seven months from the time the current council appointed its first task force.