The Warm Pool Committee has received a copy of the final environmental impact report (EIR) commissioned by the Berkeley Unified School District. It consists of the EIR issued in September, copies of responses to that EIR, and the School District’s answer to those responses. Needless to say, their position regarding the warm pool is literally beyond belief. Their attitude is expressed in the following quote:
“If the closure of the pool were to occur, it would be a major disappointment and inconvenience to the group of people who use the pool, but would not constitute a significant environmental impact under CEQA.”
As we all know, with us it was never about environmental issues but more about being honest, decent and caring about the welfare, health and well-being of our children, seniors and disabled community. Approximately 400 people use the pool each week, ranging in age from 18 months to 88.
For the school district to trivialize our need for a warm pool is unconscionable, and to consider its loss to us as a mere “disappointment and inconvenience” reveals just how lacking they are in caring, compassion and understanding.
Though we realize they are a public business entity, in the above statement they have reduced our pain, suffering and desperate need for relief to a matter of insignificance. As long as no CEQA laws are broken, it seems as if they feel free to destroy the current warm pool without any moral responsibility to help us acquire a new facility such as the one proposed on the tennis court site.
In the late 1990s former BUSD Superintendent Jack McLaughlin was a very positive force. But since then there have been years of empty rhetoric, continuing all the way to the present time, despite out-going School Board Chairman Terry Doran’s repeated assurances that he and the School District would fight for the Warm Pool. Moreover, the BUSD never used any of the $3.2 million bond voted for in 2000, mandated to renovate the Warm Pool. Thus, this valuable sum of money, which cannot be used towards building a new facility, has so far been wasted. Their justification was that the structure was not seismically secure. The recent EIR, however, not only challenges this conclusion, but recommends that the building be retained and renovated as a historical landmark.
The BUSD often cites lack of funds to justify their intransigence, but they didn’t have a problem putting up money for the newly built cold water pool, which continues to remain underutilized, or for financing another two sports fields, one on Derby Street, the other on Milvia.
Why isn’t the warm pool worthy of the attention given to athletic teams, computer education classes, and the renowned jazz program? We believe that a lack of funds is not the only explanation for their behavior. The BUSD sees us as different than themselves.
They view us as the “other” and therefore not worthy of attention. But luck is all that separates us. A simple twist of fate. As Joan Baez used to sing, “There but for fortune go you or I … you or I.” If the superintendent and/or school board members took sick, got injured and needed warm water therapy, or if that happened to their spouses, siblings or children, I’m sure we’d have a completely refurbished Warm Pool, or a new one in a heartbeat.
The Warm Pool is the only heated public pool in the East Bay!
You would think that the school district would take pride in supporting this unique community, which is a lifeline for so many people. You would think that they would do everything in their power to provide for seniors and disabled who are always under-served, if not ignored. You would think that elected officials entrusted with the education of our students would model the ancient wisdom that we are all part of each other.
We all need to join together at the public meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 17 to assert our case. Even though one can easily surmise which way the wind is blowing we must let the BUSD know how irate and disappointed we are regarding their continuing lack of honesty. The pool-using community has endured years of duplicity, without any resolution. In the name of just plain, old, human decency, this charade needs to end. Enough is enough!
The main issues to keep in mind are the following:
• If the BUSD is determined to destroy the site of the present Warm Pool why won’t they negotiate in good faith with the City for the use of the old tennis court site? Are they willing to give us the land, lease it, or sell it?
• There needs to be an agreement that there will be no closure of the current pool until there is a new pool or at least one underway.
• There must be a reevaluation of how our tax dollars are spent. We must change our priorities, so that sporting activities, etc. are not given so much more importance than the health and well-being of the children, seniors and disabled members of the community that depend on the Warm Pool, in some cases, for their very survival.
Daniel Rudman and Juanita Kirby are warm pool users.