Nearly two years after it was shuttered due to earthquake safety concerns, a new and improved Belmont Pool may finally be becoming a reality.
Tuesday night, the City Council gave the City Manager the green light to approve modifications to the design of the new pool. Originally priced at $99M, the Belmont Pool is now expected to cost $103.1M thanks to a plan to double the amount of seating from 650 to 1,250 spectator seats.
The decision to raise the number of available seats was based on the idea that a larger facility would attract larger events and more out-of-town visitors, according to feedback from the Stakeholder Advisory Committee. The committee is composed of community members with an interest in re-opening the pool, including local water polo coaches, recreational swimmers and even a few former professional athletes, many of whom gathered last month to discuss how to proceed.
Economist Joseph Magaddino found that by increasing the number of seats by 600, the economic impact of the pool—which includes revenue generated from food purchases, hotel bookings and event hosting—could be raised from a maximum of $3.7M to $30.6M per year.
Some of the proposed changes were the addition of a separate diving well, including a moveable floor to allow both recreational and competitive uses, and the additional seats. The facility will also feature a restaurant that was originally planned to be 5,000 square feet but was downsized to 1,500 square feet to accommodate the financial burden caused by extra seating.
Aside from trimming the fat from the set pool budget, additional funding needed to expand the pool is going to come out of money previously set aside for other 3rd District projects, including the renovation of three public restrooms in the community. The need for funds will also cut into the budget for fiscal year 2016, meaning no new Tidelands-specific projects in the Third District will be financed during that year, according to Deputy City Manager Tom Modica.
Concerns were raised about taking solely from the 3rd District budget, rather than dividing the cost equally among the districts.
“This isn’t a district project, this is a citywide project,” 4th District Councilmember Patrick O’Donnell said. “I have a real problem with saying, ‘Hey 3rd District residents, whatever you’ve got on schedule, be it seawalls or otherwise, they might have to be held off.’”
While the majority of public commenters at the meeting supported the decision to move forward with construction, a few dissenters pointed out perceived flaws in the plan.
“I find that tearing down a usable structure because of earthquake concerns and then spending millions to rebuild in the same location ludicrous,” community member Anne Cantrell said. “I believe that finding another location … makes much more sense.”
Other issues brought up included the recent decline in the price of oil, the revenue from which constitutes the Tidelands budget, funds held in trust by the City for the State of California. The plans for the pool construction were based on the assumption that oil would fetch a price of $100 a barrel, while currently it is only worth $77 per barrel.
For now, the architectural plan for the pool is to go through the environmental review process. After that, it will face the California Coastal Commission for evaluation in the near future and be returned to the City Council with recommendations.