The next community outreach open house/workshop for the proposed Seal Beach community swimming pool will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the McGaugh Swimming pool.
The old swimming pool is located at 1698 Bolsa Ave., in Seal Beach.
In addition to the workshops, the city is asking residents to email their thoughts to email email@example.com.
A majority of participants in the first workshop appeared to favor a 50-meter long (25 meter wide) swimming pool. (More on the workshop below.) More than 50 individuals attended the first workshop, which was held last week in the City Council Chambers. The Sun counted 48 names on the sign-in sheets. However, people drifted in and out of the first workshop and some participants did not sign in.
“I think its a great turnout,” said Assistant City Manager Patrick Gallegos.
The estimated cost of the project—which hasn’t actually been designed yet—is more than $20 million. According to a sign at the Feb. 13 workshop, the 50-meter pool is currently estimated to cost $22.7 million.
The roughly $22 million price tag for the pool project raised concerns among many people. As part of the consulting team handling the budget, it was Dustin Alamo’s job to come up with the budget. “It’s an intelligent budget, well considered,” Alamo said at Thursday night’s meeting. Alamo explained that it is in line with public sector construction projects which must hire labor at prevailing wage among other requirements that could impact the cost.
That cost estimate apparently doesn’t include operating costs or the rent—the city would lease the land from Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, which is the proposed site of the pool. As previously reported, the swimming pool would be located directly across from Seal Beach Police Headquarters, between the credit union and the Submarine Memorial.
“Yes, we have discussed compensation with city staff over the last year as a part of ongoing lease negotiations,” wrote Gregg Smith, the public affairs officer for the Navy base.
“We have a legal requirement to ensure that the use of federal property is compensated at the property’s fair market value. However, several other factors can lessen this amount, including the cost of the benefits that the Navy would receive from both the use of the pool and from some city construction activities in support of the pool. These totals have yet to be determined,” Smith wrote in a recent email to the Sun.
District Three Councilman Michael Varipapa said he believes the estimated cost could be reduced some. He also suggested fundraising could help address the cost. The proposed pool would be built near the Seal Beach Boulevard entrance to the Naval Weapons Station, which is in Varipapa’s district. Varipapa will term out of office in two years.
Why build the pool on the Navy base? Assistant City Manager Gallegos said the current proposal to build the pool at the Naval Weapons Station reflects the results of the community outreach that took place back in 2014. “These options are reflective of what the community wanted at that time,” he said.
Seal Beach residents have used the McGaugh Swimming Pool as a community pool since it opened. Generations have learned to swim in the McGaugh pool, including some Olympians from Seal Beach. The McGaugh pool has basically reached the end of its life. As previously reported, in September 2008, a consulting firm hired by Seal Beach issued a report on the McGaugh pool. The feasibility study recommended replacing the pool. In March 2010, 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. It is now 2020. Meanwhile, cost estimates for the proposed pool have increased since 2008.
First workshop appears to support 50-meter pool
The “workshop” did not feature a speaker or panel presentation. Instead, participants visited “stations,” read signs and spoke with consultants and city officials about the project.
At the final station, participants were encouraged to put up sticky notes with their comments (mostly not signed) and place blue stickers to indicate their preference for no pool project, a 40-meter pool or a 50-meter pool. At one sign, a dark bar with arrows at each end asked the public to rate their support for going ahead with the project on a scale of 1 to 5. The number 1 stood for “not at all comfortable” and 5 stood for “very comfortable.”
A multitude of red dots clustered at the “very comfortable” end of the sign.
On another sign, 50 blue dots appeared on the line favoring a 50-meter pool.
Nine blue dots appeared on the line in opposition to pool project at all. Most of the “no pool” votes were apparently cast at the start of the meeting. Only four dots went up in favor of a 40-meter pool.
Here are some of the comments posted on the last board:
“Children living at the beach must know how to swim & need a safe place to learn,” one note said.
“Include a native plant garden as part of landscaping., SBNWS can provide plants,” said another.
“Aquatic exercise keeps people fit, socially engaged (especially seniors,),” said another note.
“I would like my swim team to have a pool that could have swim meets,” wrote Dahlia, age 8.
“Suggest we send a citizen committee to visit 4-5 50-meter pools in the area and talk with the coaches and administrators who use them,” said another note.
Still another note advised non-chlorinated salt water for the pool.
“1. Junior Lifeguard train(ing). 2. Olympic warm-up site $,” said another note, apparently referring to revenue.
“3. We only have to buy the pool—not the whole high school. 4. Swimming provides non-impact exercise as people age. 5. 50 meter offers more chances to recoup $,” said the same note.
In addition to posting notes, the public interacted with various city staff members and representatives from the consultant team from Westberg White Architecture manned different stations at the meeting, answering questions from residents. Iris Lee, deputy director of Public Works/city engineer, was one of them. Lee said in other meetings, such as where staff may give a presentation “not everyone’s voices are heard.” In the open house format Lee noted staff “get to interact and talk to residents.”
Assistant City Manager Gallegos said the city decided on an open house format for the meeting to allow staff to have more one-on-one conversations with residents.
If the new pool is built, Marine Safety Chief Joe Bailey would be in charge of it. “I think the prospect of a new pool is exciting,” he said. “We’re a beach community and I think it is important we have a place to teach swimming lessons to children in our community,” Chief Bailey said at Thursday’s meeting. Chief Bailey said that drowning is the number one cause of death for children ages one to four and teaching children to swim is one of the best ways to prevent such tragedies.
Of the McGaugh pool, Chief Bailey said, “It’s nearing or at the end of its life.” “The Navy is giving us a great opportunity,” he said. Chief Bailey recognized, just like any proposal, there are pros and cons to the city’s pool project. He recognized that the price tag for the pool project is “shocking.” He said a pool at the Naval Weapons Station would be centrally located in the city but would require McGaugh students who are now able to walk to swimming lessons to have to travel by car. “It really is a give and take,” Chief Bailey said. “That’s why the community has to carefully consider the options.”
Bailey gave what he described as a “back of the envelope, really rough” estimate that a minimum of four lifeguards would be needed while the pool was open.
Marine Safety Lt. Chris Pierce was also manning a station at the open house. “It’s vitally important to have a good aquatics base for getting people to learn how to swim,” Pierce said. Lt. Pierce was one of many city employees answering questions about the pool project at Thursday’s community meeting. He said a lot of people he spoke with were interested in the pool project but many had concerns about the price. “Everybody universally is concerned about the cost,” Pierce said.
District Two Councilman Thomas Moore said he was not hearing too much from his constituents about the pool project. He said a few were concerned about the costs.
Ken Hamdorf was one of the Seal Beach residents concerned about costs. Hamdorf said he and Tom Hermstand started the first junior lifeguard program at McGaugh before Seal Beach Lifeguards took over the program.He argued that a 50-meter pool would generate more revenue than a 40-meter pool.
According to Hamdorf’s notes, rent from swim club practices could generate $70,000; rent from water polo practices could generate $40,000, money from water polo and swim club events could generate $36,000 and swimming lessons could gross $360,000.
Hamdorf said the pool has to have a separate instruction area for very young children. “My concern tonight is to see that a lot of these things are addressed in the final analysis.
Tom Quinn said, “I’m not anti-pool, but I’m anti-$20 million for a pool.”
Chi Kredell, a 2000 Olympian in water polo, said he was “all for it,” meaning the swimming pool. He was born and raised in Seal Beach and started his aquatic career in the Seal Beach Swim Club at McGaugh pool.
Kori DeLeon said her personal feel as Chamber of Commerce president was that she was at the meeting to learn about the details and learn how plans are to enhance the community.
Resident Dan Bailey, 62, is an avid swimmer and triathlete but currently trains at a pool in Long Beach. He attended Thursday’s meeting and thinks a city pool is good for residents’ long-term health and for Seal Beach. “It adds to the fabric of our community,” he said. Dan Bailey said the McGaugh pool needs to be replaced. “The pool is just outdated.” Dan Bailey said he donated to the refurbishment of the McGaugh pool in 2001 and would contribute to the effort to build a 50-meter pool at the Naval Weapons Station. “I wish it was less money,” Dan Bailey said but suggested that the city may be able to make some money when the Olympics come to Los Angeles in 2028 and athletes are looking for a place to train in preparation for the summer games.
Residents John and Cindy Blake live near McGaugh elementary and prefer that location for a pool. “I like the camaraderie of a small-town swimming pool,” Cindy said. They both wonder what will happen to the McGaugh pool. John Blake said he thinks the Naval Weapons station location won’t be as appealing to locals but if that is what is decided then he supports building the 50-meter pool. “Do it right,” he said and make it larger to accommodate more activities. John said financing is a challenge. “I don’t usually support bonds,” he said, but he added that he would likely support using bonds to pay for this project.
Gloria Luna was also at Thursday’s meeting and said her children and grandchildren all took swim lessons at the McGaugh pool. She recalled how parents and children alike were able to socialize there. She also prefers the McGaugh location because it is easy for students to walk there. She doesn’t like the idea of people having to drive to swim lessons noting that more cars on the road is not good for the environment. But she admitted that the bigger issue for the city is having children who are safe in the water. “I don’t care where [the pool] is,” Luna said. “You have to know how to swim if you live near the beach.”
The crowd began to thin around 7:20 p.m.
An unscientific July 2017 Sun News survey about the proposed pool project received 106 comments. Most comments at the time appeared to support a swimming pool, but residents were concerned about possible costs.
Jeannette Andruss contributed to this story.