The November election is now long past, but the pools campaign is doing its best to use the political capital of having received 62 percent of the vote. We are moving pragmatically, piece by piece, rather than our strategy over recent years of trying to move all pools together simultaneously. First up is the "unfinished business" of the former Warm Pool. For the past few months, we have been working with City Council members on an initiative in which the Downtown YMCA would improve its hours, programming and conditions at Grace's Pool. At 89 degrees, about 1,700 square feet and up to seven feet deep, Grace's is the closest thing to Berkeley's former Warm Pool that we might ever see again. The deal is not yet finalized, and crucial details have yet to be set.
However, the City of Berkeley's Commission on Disabilities and the Commission on Aging have written a joint letter to the City Council describing key elements of the requested arrangement. In the final negotiations, we may not get the full package of these requests, but we should get most.
The Commission on Disabilities' letter was presented to the City Council at the April 2 Council meeting, and the Commission on Aging's virtually identical letter will be presented at the April 30 meeting. Here is the text of the Commission on Disabilities letter:
In the November 2012 election, aquatic Measures N and O received 62.4 percent and 60.0 percent support respectively. While they did not reach the required two-thirds, they showed strong public support for the pools and for the health and recreation needs of seniors and individuals with disabilities, many of whom formerly used the Warm Pool.
The City's inability to replace the Warm Pool after its closure in December 2011 and its subsequent demolition in July 2012, has resulted in a substantial unmet critical need among Berkeley residents who are persons with disabilities and/or elderly. This is "unfinished business," and the City needs to finish it -- or at least take practical steps in that direction.
The Commission on Disability is encouraged by recent cooperative discussions between the City and the Berkeley Downtown YMCA. This dialogue has the potential for effectively identifying ways to improve aquatics programming and facilities to address the needs of persons with disabilities and the elderly . Specific needs include these:
1) Increased contiguous blocks of hours in the afternoon and evening hours at Grace's Pool for Adult Open Exercise and Aqua Chi.
2) Validated parking for disabled and elderly users of the YMCA of up to three hours at the Standard Parking lot at 2020 Kittredge.
3) Increased air temperature at Grace's and the Shallow pools, and also in the hallway between those pools and the locker rooms.
4) An outreach program at senior residences, the City’s Senior Centers and through Ed Roberts programs to alert people to any new initiative and its benefits.
The Commission on Disability urges the City Council to take all necessary steps to continue the dialogue with an aim to establish and launch the aforementioned initiative.