City Council agrees to consider new proposal to reopen local pool

Michelle Kim/Staff

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After years of efforts to reopen Willard Pool in South Berkeley, City Council decided to keep considering a proposal to place a measure on the November ballot to restore the pool in a near-unanimous vote at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

According to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko, the proposal — which was put forth by Councilmembers Laurie Capitelli and Linda Maio — called for a combined parks and bond measure to be put before voters in November’s election. If placed on the ballot and passed, the measure would fund maintenance costs as well as new capital projects for several community pools and parks.

Mayor Tom Bates, who called the proposal a “gamble,” was the only member of the council to oppose the proposal at the meeting because the maintenance of the pool, he said, needs to be figured out this year.

The measure includes a $58 annual tax for property owners of average-sized homes. In late May, the council discussed a possible maximum bond of $25 million in capital funding and an operations and maintenance tax that would bring in $2 million annually.

On Tuesday, Maio said the proposal will place the pool at a bond at $4.5 million. The council is considering using the measure to fund the reconstruction and maintenance of Willard Pool, along with funding other community pools, basketball and tennis courts, and city landmarks such as the Berkeley Rose Garden.

Another option the council is considering is a 16 percent increase to the city’s parcel tax for parks, which would raise the tax to $43 for property owners of average-sized homes.

Willard Pool, located near Willard Middle School at Telegraph Avenue and Derby Street, was closed in 2010 after Measure C failed to garner a two-thirds vote to keep the pool funded. Measures N and O from the 2012 ballot, which attempted to reopen the pool, also failed to receive a two-thirds vote. In February, community members again voiced support for reopening the pool at a City Council meeting, and the council agreed to conduct a community poll on a parks bond tax increase.

George Beier, president of the Willard Neighborhood Association and a candidate for the District 8 City Council seat, noted that Telegraph Avenue can look “beleaguered.”

“Once we get that pool restored, it’ll give Telegraph a real boost,” Beier said.

John Steere, president of Berkeley Partners for Parks, said the pool was a former resource for community youth.

“There are no other pool facilities in South Berkeley,” Steere said. “For 44 years, it was a place for children to learn how to swim.”

On June 24, the council may decide which measures to put on the ballot, including the parks tax, according to Chakko.

Contact Jean Lee at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @missjeanlee.