The McGaugh swimming pool is a Seal Beach icon. Grandparents have watched their grandkids splash in the same pool they used when they were young.
The project to replace or refurbish the pool began in 2008. The future of the pool remains unknown.
The city budgeted $40,000 for pool repairs in the 2021-22 fiscal year. [news analysis]
The following is a chronological history of the McGaugh pool. Most of the information comes from city minutes or Sun archives unless stated otherwise.
• The McGaugh Elementary School Swimming Pool was built. Source: City of Seal Beach website.
• The McGaugh Pool opened, according to “This Date in Seal Beach History” by Michael Dobkins.
• September: Rowley International Inc., recommended the demolition and replacement of the McGaugh Elementary School swimming pool.
“Rowley International Inc. believes that the best solution is to replace the existing pool facility with an all new 50-meter X 25-yard multi-use pool or a combination of competitive and recreational pools,” according to the September 2008 document.
The study estimated the cost of a replacement pool would be about $5 million.
The study put the cost of refurbishing the existing pool at $1.8 million.
The Sun kept a PDF of the Rowley study for future reference.
• January: At a joint meeting of the City Council and the Recreation and Parks Commission, the mayor directed City Manager David N. Carmany to proceed with relocating the proposed community pool to the Marina Park site, which was owned by Exxon/Mobil Corporation and Chevron.
Officials at that time were reluctant to spend $4 to $5 million on a pool that the city did not own.
• Feb. 2: District Four Councilman Gary Miller said he no longer had the same concern as before about renovating the McGaugh pool. He had spoken with the city attorney about whether the city could buy the site if the school district sold it as surplus property.
However, District Three Councilman Gordon Shanks said it was unlikely that the district would sell the McGaugh site as the district had already invested millions in the property.
• April 21-22: The City Council held a two-day study session on the proposed two-year budget.
The city policy required 20% to 25% of the budget to be held in reserve. The estimated reserve was $5.9 million.
• Jan. 26: In a memo from Assistant to the City Manager Jill Ingram to City Manager Patrick Importuna, there was a slim chance that an agreement to lease land for a pool site on Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach would be approved.
District Five Councilman Michael Levitt told the Sun that NWS officials did not think the community pool would be “a good mix” for the base.
According to the Sun, Tim Kelsey, of Community Services, said the contractors who repaired McGaugh pool in 2009 gave the pool five to seven years before there was another major issue with the equipment.
• Feb. 22: The City Council members were concerned about gallons of water draining out of the McGaugh pool.
District Two Councilman David Sloan requested a letter be sent to the school board expressing support for saving the McGaugh tennis courts.
• March 22: The city’s recreation manager gave the council four options for the McGaugh pool:
1. Replace pipes only at an estimated cost of $330,000.
2. Replace the pipes and mechanics at $840,000
3. Replace pipes, mechanics, and deck at $1.3 million.
4. Complete demolition of the pool: $200,000.
The Orange County Health Care Agency had apparently raised concerns about the piping system at McGaugh.
Suggestions from five members of the public included buying the McGaugh pool and tennis courts from the school district, and doing a land swap with the owners of what was then called the DWP property.
Councilman Gordon Shanks made and withdrew a motion to permanently close the McGaugh pool.
• April 12: Assistant to the City Manager Jill Ingram reported that Commercial Aquatic Services had put the cost of repairing McGaugh pool at less than $100,000.
Tim Kelsey told the council that the repair would be a six- to seven-year fix for the pool.
• Oct. 11: The council considered a request by Councilman Gary Miller to send a letter to Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach to discuss the possibility of leasing NWS land for a community swimming pool. Miller also proposed forming a NWS swimming pool site advisory committee. No committee was formed at the time.
• Also on Oct. 11: The city’s Redevelopment Agency approved a staff request to seek a $5 million grant to buy land for a pool site. Marina Drive was being considered as a possible pool site.
District One Councilman Charles Antos cast the dissenting vote, arguing that there should be community meetings about the project before the city sought grant funds.
• Oct. 26: The City Council voted unanimously to send a letter to the Navy base to begin discussing the lease of land for the proposed pool.
A majority of council members at the time did not support the formation of an advisory committee for the project.
• Jan. 10: The director of Public Works told the council that there were six potential sites for a swimming pool: Zoeter, First Street and Marina, First Street and PCH, the end of Adolfo Lopez Drive, the Boeing parking lot (at Apollo Drive and Westminster Avenue) and Lampson Avenue at the Old Ranch Golf Course.
The Public Works director said the city would need a minimum of 1 acre of land for a pool.
Councilman Gordon Shanks recommended a joint City Council and Recreation and Parks Commission study session on the pool project.
Councilman Gary Miller asked staff to find out if the school district would be willing to lease or sell the McGaugh site.
• March 14: Councilman Gary Miller repeated his request to have the McGaugh pool site be part of the joint Parks Commission/City Council study session concerning the community pool project.
• February: The city of Long Beach closed the Belmont Pool, according to Swimming World. Multiple news reports described it as an unsafe structure. Swimming World reported that the Belmont Pool was 45 years old.
The McGaugh Pool, which was slightly older, remained open to the public.
• April 8: The City Council, the Recreation and Parks Commission, and a consultant discussed the Parks & Community Services Master Plan, set for adoption on May 28.
The Master Plan (currently available online in PDF format) said: “The continued joint use of the aquatic facilities at McGaugh Elementary School grows to be highly problematic, as that aged facility is nearing the end of any public use.”
• June 6: The council held a capital improvement program study session. The council discussed the property on Marina Drive as a potential housing development. It was mentioned that the property was also being considered as a potential community swimming pool site. The city attorney said that if the city tried to buy the Marina Drive property, the property would have to be rezoned.
• Sept. 8: The City Council approved a maximum $238,930 contract with Westberg + White, Inc., an architecture firm, to determine the “most suitable location” for an aquatics center.
According to the contract (available on the city website) the consultant would provide public outreach and preliminary design services on the pool project. The text appeared as item A under “Recitals.”
(This language was confirmed in a 2020 staff report to the council, when the agreement with Westberg + White was amended.)
In 2014, District Four Councilman Gary Miller said consultants should focus on the location and funding for the swimming pool before community outreach.
• March 14: Recreation Manager Tim Kelsey gave the council an Aquatics Center Feasibility Update. According to Kelsey, the two most desirable locations for a community pool were determined to be the Naval Weapons Station and McGaugh Elementary School.
Frisco White, of Westberg and White, said that it was hard to determine a schedule for the Navy site. The council received and filed the report.
• July 25: Councilman Gary Miller wanted the city to go back to the community for new swimming pool concepts. Miller pointed out that the project began in 2008. He advised the council to pursue pool projects with both the Navy and the school district.
City Manager Jill Ingram said staff intended to track a potential pool at both locations.
According to the staff report prepared by Recreation Manager Tim Kelsey, the McGaugh pool was beyond its useful life.
Based on public input, McGaugh Elementary School and the Naval Weapons Station were determined to be “the most desirable locations” for the pool, according to Kelsey’s report. The report went on to say that the Navy requested a letter from the city formally starting the approval process to put the pool on Navy land.
At the time, 2016, the lease approval process was expected to take six months, followed by an estimated two to three years to execute the project.
According to Kelsey’s report, the city had spent $60,000 in administrative time addressing the Navy base option for the pool project. Staff recommended continuing discussions with Los Alamitos Unified School District.
• Oct. 18: During a strategic planning session, Recreation Manager Tim Kelsey reported that replacement of the McGaugh pool was years away, according to an article by Sun contributor Jeannette Andruss.
• Nov. 13: Staff told District One Councilwoman Ellery Deaton that the cost of the pool project was unknown until a location was chosen and a design was determined. Deaton said she did not want to borrow money from the pool fund for more police officers and expressed the hope that oil recovery money would fund both the pool and the new police officers.
According to the meeting staff report, steps to acquire lease agreements were underway for both the Naval Weapons Station and McGaugh Elementary sites.
Staff at that time, 2017, estimated it would be two years before either location could be confirmed and a lease executed.
• April 23: The council authorized City Manager Jill Ingram to begin exploring a potential lease of land at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach as the site for a new swimming pool.
Ingram was authorized to pay $70,000 to the Navy real estate division to cover administrative costs related to the exploration of such a lease.
• May 25: Jeannette Andruss reported in the Sun that the city was facing a budget shortfall. Then-Finance Director/Treasurer Victoria Beatley advised the council of this fact during the May 24 budget workshop.
• Feb. 8: The Sun reported that Naval Weapons Station Public Affairs Officer Gregg Smith said: “The city and the Navy have reached an agreement in principle on the community pool project, but a formal lease agreement has not yet been signed. We are currently working with the city in the creation of documentation (baseline environmental conditions, site surveys, etc) that will then be used to draft a formal lease agreement.”
• June 5: During the capital improvement program workshop, City Manager Jill Ingram said staff would meet with Navy base in a few weeks to discuss the pool project.
• June 5: Public Works Director Steve Myrter put the cost of the proposed swimming pool at $14.8 million.
• Dec. 3: A memo from Long Beach Public Works Director Craig A. Beck updated the Long Beach City Council on the proposed Belmont Beach and Aquatics Center. As a result of design changes, the projected cost of the project was reduced to “approximately $85 million.” The proposed project would include 92,000 square feet of green space, according to the memo.
• Jan. 13: Cost estimates for a new Seal Beach community swimming pool put the project at more than $20 million dollars, according to a consultant’s City Council presentation.
A 50-meter pool would cost more than $22.7 million and a 40-meter pool would cost more than $21.1 million, according to the slide presentation. (The Sun rounded the figures.)
“I know the numbers are staggering,” said City Manager Jill Ingram at the time.
The cost estimate did not include land costs. Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach Affairs Officer Gregg Smith confirmed in a Tuesday, Jan. 14, email that the Navy would lease the land to the city. The lease agreement was still being negotiated.
Ingram recommended that staff go back and see what a community outreach would look like.
• Feb. 13: City government held the first of two community workshops on proposed pool project.
A majority of more than 50 people appeared to favor a 50-meter long swimming pool. The other choices offered for consideration were a 40-meter pool and no pool.
According to a sign at the first workshop, the cost of a 50-foot pool was estimated at $22.7 million.
• Feb. 22: More than 100 individuals attended the second swimming pool project workshop. Votes in favor of the 50-foot pool: 110. Votes in favor of a 40-foot pool: none.
Votes against having a swimming pool at all: three.
Comments posted on a board appeared to support the pool, but some participants were concerned about the potential cost.
• Feb. 24: A Monday, Feb. 24, poll on the Nextdoor social media platform received 229 responses, of which 82% opposed raising the money for the pool project by either increasing taxes or by borrowing money.
On the same day, a poll on District Two Councilman Thomas Moore’s website drew 41 votes. Of that number, 25.42% favored a new pool while another 25.42% opposed a new pool.
Another 18.64% supported a pool if the cost were $12 million or less; 15.25% supported issuing a bond to support the project and 1.69% (one vote) supported a tax increase to pay for the pool.
• Feb. 24: The City Council approved an amendment of the contract with Westberg + White to provide “for additional Community Pool Preliminary Design Services,” for the project, according to the staff report. The services would be necessary regardless of the size of the pool project, according to the Feb. 24 staff report.
• March 19: California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order related to the pandemic. Shutdowns throughout the state put a pause on municipal projects throughout the state.
• Sept. 28: Staff told the City Council that a draft of the lease agreement between the Naval Weapons Station and the city for a community swimming pool site was ready to be negotiated.
• Feb. 11: The California Coastal Commission gave conditional approval to the Belmont Shore Aquatics Center project in Long Beach.
• March 31: At the Seal Beach strategic planning meeting workshop, based on cost concerns, City Manager Jill Ingram said she could not recommend going forward with the pool project.
Finance Director Kelly Telford projected annual costs for a $14 million pool would be approximately $1.4 million and annual costs for a $22 million pool would be almost $2.2 million. District One Councilman/Mayor Joe Kalmick asked about negotiating to build a pool at the McGaugh site.
District Three Councilman Michael Varipapa volunteered to participate in an ad hoc committee that would look at the swimming pool project. Kalmick and Varipapa served on the committee.
• May 25: During a budget workshop, Public Works Director Steve Myrter said a new feasibility study was required for the McGaugh swimming pool site.
“In terms of the pool project, if I had my way, knowing what I know now, I would take the pool off the list,” said District five Councilwoman Sandra Massa-Lavitt.
• June: “The citywide Fiscal Year 2021-22 Operating and Capital Improvement Budget for the City of Seal Beach is $61,954,300,” according to the adopted budget for that year.
• December: The city of Long Beach launched an online survey that sought public input on the Belmont Shore Aquatics Center.
• Feb. 24: In an email, District Once Councilman/Mayor Joe Kalmick wrote: “Another meeting is coming up in March. With a more accommodating attitude coming from the School District, I think we may take a more comprehensive look at exactly what is or isn’t beyond repair at that facility before committing to a start-over rebuild. It’s been several years since the existing pool was surveyed.”
• Feb. 25: “The Belmont Beach and Aquatics Center Project’s Coastal Development Permit was conditionally approved in February of 2021, and the City anticipates bringing the Project’s Equity Access Program report and recommendations before the Coastal Commission later this year,” according to an email from Dino D’Emilia. Dino D’Emilia is group leader for Project & Construction Management for the Long Beach project.
“In December 2021, the City of Long Beach contracted with S. Groner Associates to conduct in-person and digital outreach and has an online survey available. Please visit belmontpool.com to learn more,” D’Emilia wrote.
• March 2: The Seal Beach Community Pool Project Committee held a meeting. “As noted in the meeting, the City is looking to perform analysis at the McGaugh pool site and collaborate with a technical consultant to assist with project management,” wrote Assistant City Manager Patrick Gallegos in a March 2 email.
“City staff will take a contract to Council for consideration for professional services for this project,” Gallegos wrote in another March 2 email.
• April 25: The council approved a contract with Griffin Structures, Inc. to do a feasibility study of how the McGaugh pool could be “revitalized or re-envisioned.” Cost: a maximum of $58,700.
Jeannette Andruss contributed to this article.