Our town needs to make a decision about the pool project

I started freelancing for the Sun in 2005. The pool project essentially began in 2008. I became a full time employee in 2009.

Since then, I’ve covered the pool off and on. And on. And on.

I’m not getting any younger. Neither is the pool. I don’t know if I will live to see the project’s completion.

Starting in mid-2021, I spent spare moments (a couple of hours here, a couple of hours there) looking at Sun stories about the pool, public records I already possessed, and the minutes of council meetings from January 2009 to December 2021. (See the chronology) I didn’t find evidence of wrongdoing. I didn’t find evidence of a specific moment when the ball was dropped.

Based on years of observation and the above research, my own takeaways are:

• I’m glad I saved the 2008 feasibility study. I still check it regularly.

• The pool was never a community priority. Other issues came up, including (to name only a few): the residential height limit war (2008), the closing of Ruby’s Diner (2013), the fate of a pet pig (2013), the pier fire (2016), the suspension of a police chief (2016), and the decades-long fight over the development of the so-called DWP property. 

• Creating a council subcommittee or a citizen’s committee in the early 2000s might have focused enough attention on the project to bring it to a conclusion before now.

• The cost of building (or just temporarily fixing) the pool will likely continue to rise.

• The business that performed the community outreach on the project in early 2020 told the public the estimated costs of building either a 40 meter pool or a 50 meter pool. There was significant public support for the 50 meter swimming pool.

The outreach apparently gave some members of the public the impression that Seal Beach could afford a $20-million-plus project.

• I respectfully suggest that  future city contracts with outreach consultants include a phrase along the lines of, “Don’t make promises that the city budget can’t keep.”

• Some individuals advocate a competitive swimming pool as a way to generate revenue. If not for the competition, this would be a swell idea.

Unfortunately, Seal Beach does not have—nor will Seal Beach ever have—enough money to compete with the major aquatics center that is going to be built in the city of Long Beach.

In 2019, the Belmont Shore Aquatics Center project was estimated at $85 million. (Note: That was a reduction from the original price cost estimate.)

• Realistically, it seems to me that the council has three choices:

Fix the pool to extend its “lifespan”. Upside: Depending on cost, this could be a less expensive option than replacing the pool. Downside: That would only postpone the day when the city would—again—be looking at either replacing the pool or living without one.

Replace the pool. Upside: Once completed, the project would be over for many decades. Downside: It would probably increase the city’s debt. (Maybe the city could start a gofundme drive?)

Live without the pool.  Upside: This would cost zero dollars. And Seal Beach would probably not have to deal with any state agencies. Downside: There’s a need for a place for kids to learn to swim and for grandparents to have fun with their grandkids.

• In my opinion, the council ought to set a deadline to say go or no.

Tell me what you think.

More importantly, tell the City Council what you think—and CC the Sun so we can run your letters to the council in the paper.

• Joe Kalmick

District One (Old Town and Surfside Colony)

Email: jkalmick@sealbeachca.gov

• Mike Varipapa

District Three (Hill, Coves, Bridgeport and Heron Pointe)

Email: mvaripapa@sealbeachca.gov

• Thomas Moore 

District Two (Leisure World, College Park West and Rossmoor Center)

Email: tmoore@sealbeachca.gov

• Schelly Sustarsic 

District Four (College Park East and Town Center)

Email: ssustarsic@sealbeachca.gov

• Sandra Massa-Lavitt 

District Five (Leisure World)

Email: smassalavitt@sealbeachca.gov

Charles M. Kelly is associate editor of the Sun and a Seal Beach resident. His opinions are his own.