The city made a splash with its decision to fund Berkeley’s West Campus Pool, located on the corner of Browning and Addison streets, allowing it to be open daily year-round starting in October.
Before 2004, there were four fully operational pools within the city of Berkeley: King Pool, the Berkeley High School warm pool, West Campus Pool and Willard Pool. However, after a series of city budget cuts, community use of the West Campus Pool and Willard Pool was limited to only five months a year — May through September.
In 2011, the Berkeley High School warm pool held its final day of operation, and in 2012, a bond measure to repair the Willard Pool failed, resulting in its permanent closure. This left West Campus Pool as the only pool serving West Berkeley, even though it was only operational five months out of the year. King Pool, however, continued to be open year-round. According to Mayor Jesse Arreguín, the issue of which pool is funded is a matter of equity.
“There are two public pools operating in Berkeley, King in North Berkeley, and West Campus in West/South Berkeley,” Arreguín said in an email from spokesperson Stefan Elgstrand. “It is only fair for the people of West and South Berkeley, which has a higher minority population compared to the rest of the city, to have the same opportunities as the people of North Berkeley.”
The city will pool an additional $292,000 for the swimming facility’s year-round use from the city’s general fund.
According to Arreguín, the shift was made after the community was “actively engaged” in getting the city to fund the pool to an extent that allows it to be open year-round.
“There have been a fair amount of residents that have been advocating for the opening of the West Campus Pool full time for many years,” said Scott Ferris, director of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department. “I think the council heard them and gave us an additional $292,000 to open it on a year-round basis.”
The schedule for the year will be finalized sometime in September, and until then there will be public input meetings, Ferris said. According to Ferris, every community member who attends will get time to talk. The new weekend hours will begin in August, although the full year-round schedule will begin in October.
Ferris also warned that some days may be limited. However, Ferris said he remains optimistic about the benefits the pool will give to the surrounding communities and Berkeley as a whole.
“It’ll benefit a lot of residents … but it will also serve residents all over the city,” Ferris said.