Second swimming pool workshop draws more than 100 participants

The swimming pool at McGaugh Elementary School, pictured above, is drawing to the end of its life. City officials are weighing the benefits of having a community pool versus the economic costs of building one. Photo by Charles M. Kelly

More than 100 individuals attended the Saturday, Feb. 22, open-house style workshop on the proposed Seal Beach swimming pool project. An exact count wasn’t possible—not everyone who attended signed in—but the vast majority of Saturday’s participants appeared to support the proposed swimming pool project.

The workshop was originally scheduled to take place at the site of the swimming pool at McGaugh Elementary, the current community swimming pool.

However, a brief Saturday morning rain forced a rapid and unplanned relocation to the gym. No signs were posted and at least one person thought the event had been canceled. This may have affected the turnout.

This was the last workshop on the project. The Recreation and Parks Commission received an update on the project on Wednesday, Feb. 26, after the Sun’s editorial deadline for this week.

The city isn’t planning any more workshops. However, the city is still accepting email comments from the pubic at (A few Seal Beach residents expressed their concerns about the cost of the project during the public comment segment of the Monday, Feb. 24 City Council meeting.)

Participants in the Feb. 22 workshop cast 110 votes—in the form of blue dots placed on a board—in favor of having a 50-meter swimming pool. Three votes were cast against having a swimming pool at all. No votes were cast in favor of a 40-meter pool.

Comments posted on a board appeared to support the pool, but some participants were concerned about the potential cost. The current estimate for a 50-meter pool—which hasn’t actually been designed yet—puts the cost at $22.7 million.

However, a poll posted on the Nextdoor social media plat form is running strongly against the pool project.

As of 12:17 p.m., Monday, Feb. 24, the Nextdoor poll was had received 229 votes. Of those, 82% opposed the raising $20 million dollars by either tax increase or by borrowing money for a swimming pool. Just 17% cast votes in favor of paying more taxes or borrowing money to pay for the pool project.

Yet another poll posted on District Two Councilman Thomas Moore’s website. As of 12:20 a.m., Monday, Feb. 24, Moore’s pool poll received 41 votes in all—25.42% in favor of building a new pool, and 25.42% against a new pool. (That was a tie of 15 votes for and 15 votes against.) 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.

The Sun News also has a poll on its website. The results will be reported when the poll closes in a couple of weeks.

The proposed swimming pool would be built near the Seal Beach Boulevard entrance to Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, with the fence line moved to permit public access. The city and the Navy are still negotiating terms for the project.


Signs of the McGaugh pools advanced age are visible to the naked eye. Photo by Charles M. Kelly


As previously reported, McGaugh Pool is reaching the end of its functional “life” as a swimming pool. As previously reported, in September 2008, a consulting firm hired issued a feasibility report on the McGaugh pool that recommended it be replaced.

At the time, the report by Rowley International Inc. described the facility as two swimming pools—the L-shaped 25-yard by 25-meter pool that the community currently uses and a 20-foot by 30-foot children’s pool that was closed years ago. (It is currently fenced off.)

In March 2010, almost a decade ago, Recreation Manager Tim Kelsey told the City Council that the then-proposed repairs to McGaugh pool would extend the swimming pool’s lifespan by seven years.

Workshop participants who got to see the pool saw cracks in the decking and what appeared to be large rust spots on the decking. In one location, multiple cones had been placed to keep people away from a damaged section of the deck.

At this point, city officials have not discussed in detail how the project would be paid for.



District One Councilman Joe Kalmick said he does not believe the city can afford to finance a $22-odd million pool. He said the city should look at partnering with sponsors for the pool.

He also said the navy wants the city to pay for the removal and rebuilding of two storage facilities at the proposed site of the pool.

Seal Beach resident Michael Buhbe is also concerned about the cost.

“Number one, I want a pool for sure. And number two, I just have questions about the cost. And number three, children must have the opportunity to learn how to swim,” Buhbe said.

Los Alamitos resident Matt Tricano supports the project. “We hope that it passes; we are a swimming family.”

Gregg Smith, the public affairs officer (spokesman) for Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, put a yellow sticker on the board in support of a multipurpose community room.

“The Navy families are really looking forward to it,” Smith said.

He said it would be good for sailors to receive in-water training at the pool. The Seal Beach base does not currently have the ability to provide that training on-site.

He also said that while the Naval Weapons Station has a large physical area, it doesn’t have a lot of activity duty personnel and so the base doesn’t have a lot of services that larger bases have.

Hill resident Ed Hirsch was another supporter. “I think it’s a good asset to have in the community,” he said.

He said his main concern was the environmental impact of the project. He wanted to encourage the city to at least consider electrical and “net-zero” options.

Seal Beach resident Martha Zehnder, a member of the Deep Water Aerobics class, also supported the project.

“This is much more than an exercise class for us,” she said.

According to Zehnder, at least two members have been in the class for 20 years.

“We wall realize the pool very much needs to be replaced,” Zehnder said, apparently referring to McGaugh pool.

“We’re hoping that the council can find a way to make this happen,” Zehnder said.


Many supporters of the pool project came out to the workshop at McGaugh Elementary. Many opponents went on on social media to object to the costs. Photo by Charles M. Kelly

Comments posted on a board

Like the first workshop, the Saturday workshop was structured in an “open house” format, with residents interacting with consultants and local officials at various stations. At one station, participants put up sticky notes with their comments. Most comments were not signed, though there were a few exceptions. Some of the comments appear below. Quotations have only been edited for spelling and punctuation where necessary for comprehension. Some participants wrote their comments in all capital letters. These quotes have been changed to standard capitalization.

“1. Pool at base,” appeared on a series of stickies apparently written by the same hand on identical yellow notes.

“2. Don’t spend $ on fancy showers. 3. Charge extra $ for locker room use. 4. Pool size needs to be 50 [meters], then $ can be collected for Olympic training, water polo, etc. “Eliminate costs by sticking to basics, eliminate the ‘frills.’ Swim lessons and water safety are #1 priorities for a family beach city. Has been for over 50 years,” wrote the same author.

“Swim lessons for kids is an essential life saver,” wrote another participant.

“Our family really values a pool for this community! All six of our children learned to swim here. Three were in Jr. Guards; one became a lifeguard, another taught swimming at the YM/YW,” wrote another worship attendee.

“I have been swimming here since it opened in 1966 with a group of women during the noon hour when it wasn’t being used by PE classes. Now I use the pool for post-op physical therapy. Yes, the pool is important,” wrote another participant.

“There is no spot for [a] USA swim team. Seal Beach Swim Club has been at the pool since 1965 and would continue to rent the pool. We are 100% behind the pool,” wrote still another.

“Build the pool! A beach community needs a place for our young children to learn water safety. I’ve been using the McGaugh pool for 35+ years,” wrote one swimmer.

Another participant requested a cost analysis of using solar water heating for the pool.

“After multiple cancer treatments the pool allowed me to regain my strength and get ‘back to normal,’” according to a note written on a green sticky.

“I want a new pool because the old pool breaks down,” wrote an individual named Ella, age 8.

One participant wanted more information about costs. “I would like it clearly defined [and] communicated to us what the annual costs are to run the pool on an ongoing basis. That needs to be known to understand paying off the up-front construction costs. I would support a pool for the community but not at the cost being proposed. All proposed uses are not all possible with one pool. You cannot host the Olympics and have swim lessons in the same pool (the depth of the pool being the factor),” wrote that participant.

“We support a new pool for the community. We currently do not have one that drives a community together,” wrote another participant.

“I want a new pool because our pool is cold. I think a new pool is better,” wrote Olivia, age 6.

Seal Beach resident Joe Klein came to the event with a message printed on paper that he taped to the board. Klein supported the Navy base location for the pool and was among the supporters of a 50-meter pool. Klein wrote that he has been swimming at McGaugh pool for more than 40 years, as has his wife. His children and grandchildren learned to swim there.

“When the McGaugh pool reaches the end of its useful life and is closed, it would be a terrible loss to the community if there was not a new pool to replace it. Many young families would be denied the wonderful opportunity that we have had. Please build a new pool” Klein wrote.

“Current pool poses a security risk to the children,” wrote another participant.

“Provide options from a basic McGaugh replacement to the 50-meter aquatic center. Determine what we can afford. we need to improve communication to the public—that McGaugh pool will close and the ‘new’ pool is actually a replacement for a 60-year-old pool,” wrote the author of two other stickies.

“People are comfortable until they find out the funding will cause other necessary infrastructure items to be reduced or taxes will go up,” wrote one man. His note indicated people would favor anything they don’t have to pay for.


Sun file photo.

Public comments to the council

A few Seal Beach residents spoke out about the pool project during Monday’s council meeting. They were concerned about costs.

Local activist Elizabeth Kane said the community should call the community pool complex “the complexity complex.”

“I think the current proposal that we have been given by the consultant, that’s been conveyed to the community, that we all got to see, lacks in many ways,” she said.

Kane said that what she had been hearing from her friends and neighbors is that the choice the community has been given isn’t really a choice. “I remember sitting here in this Chamber last June when Vicky Beatley plugged in a $12 million dollar figure into the conversation and everybody audibly gasped,” Kane said. Beatley was the city’s Finance Department director until her retirement last year.

Kane questioned whether it was reasonable to ask for what she called a $22 million pool.

“I’m also clear that not long ago we asked the people and the voters in this town for a usage tax increase so that we could afford our police department because we didn’t have the budget and the money to afford it without that increase,” Kane said.

She was apparently referring to Measure BB, the city’s 1-cent sales tax increase which started last year.

“Did we suddenly find the $9 million oil revenues that we’ve been waiting on all of this time?” Kane asked.

She said the choices need to begin with a breakdown of the need to replace the McGaugh swimming pool and its current uses.

“What would that realistically cost and look like?” Kane asked.

She said the community and the council should get an itemization of the complex. She asked how much would be saved if a splash pool were removed from the proposal? Kane asked how much would a proposed community center on the site cost? “We need a menu break down of what all of these incrementals would cost,” Kane said.

She said the council and the community deserve a lot more information before moving forward on the project. She also said she hoped the discussion of the budget process would start earlier.

Kane requested an update at an upcoming meeting on the timeline for the budget process.

Local budget watcher Robert Goldberg said the city was going to have to come up with funding for a 40-meter or 50-meter pool. He expressed the opinion that the city would need a sales tax increase to pay for the pool project. He said if the city could get the project down to $15 million, he thought the city could pay for the project with a transfer of gas tax money.

Joyce Parque was outraged that the council had approved (as part of the Consent Calendar) a $88,569 increase in the amount of money to be paid to be paid to Westberg + White, Inc., for services to design the proposed community swimming pool.

“I want a restaurant before I have a pool,” Parque said, apparently referring to a restaurant at the end of the pier.

“We need the restaurant first,” she said.