City Officials Discuss Pools’ Future Path

Eric J. Kos The future of the swimming pools at Franklin (above) and Lincoln parks are to be decided by the City Council.
Eric J. Kos

City Officials Discuss Pools’ Future Path

Ekene Ikeme

The future plans for the pools at Franklin and Lincoln parks are being further complicated due to an amended California law.

The two pools are currently operated by the Alameda Swimming Pool Association (ASPA), a nonprofit organization. ASPA has been the sole operator of the two pools since the City leased the land at the parks to the organization to build and operate the two swimming facilities in 1959.

The lease agreement between the City and ASPA is set to expire after ten years on Sept. 30. The City can’t start another long-term lease with ASPA when the current lease expires due to an amendment of a California law.

In Oct. 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom enacted Assembly Bill 1486, an amendment to the Surplus Land Act (SLA). The bill requires excess or “surplus” local agency land be made available for affordable housing development. The purpose of SLA is in part to address the affordable housing shortage in California.

The parcels that house the two swimming pools are not considered “surplus” land, however, under the SLA, the sale or long-term lease of any city-owned property can only occur after the City has completed a statutorily required surplusing process, according to the Alameda Recreation and Parks Department (ARPD) Director Amy Wooldridge.

The surplusing process requires the City to notify affordable housing developers and other public agencies (e.g., the school district and the park district) that the city property is available for disposition. If one or more of those entities expresses interest, the City must negotiate with them in good faith. If there are no entities interested in the city property or if negotiations could not consummate a final transaction, the City could then move forward with a long-term lease agreement with ASPA or another private entity.

If the Council decides it wants to sign a long-term with ASPA or sell the properties, it will start the surplusing process. During this time, the City can agree to short-term leases with ASPA until the process is complete. The City Attorney’s office believes the surplusing process can take six to 18 months to complete.

However, the City Council might be reluctant to agree to another long-term agreement with ASPA.

Alameda officials have recently met with ASPA to express concerns regarding facility maintenance and safety protocols at the pools. ASPA is financially responsible for all maintenance and operations upgrades. The current facilities have not had any major improvements since being built. Repairs have been done such as concrete work and pump replacement, but ASPA acknowledges that there are significant improvements needed, including water leaks at both pools. The ARPD has also expressed concerns about safety protocols at the pool. According to the memorandum, the City says a Red Cross certified lifeguard is not always on watch at the pool, which is stipulated in the lease agreement.

The City Council can direct staff to take over responsibility of pool operations. In this scenario, the City would move its aquatics programs to these pool facilities, as feasible, and explore funding options to rebuild the facilities with designs based on community feedback. This option would retain these pool facilities for community use; however, the City will have to find funding for improvement costs.

The third option is for the City to issue a request for proposals for a pool operator. The City would not have to adhere to a surplusing process in this scenario because the City would retain significant control of the property. RFP requirements would include operating the facilities as public pools with no membership structure allowed — the pools currently require membership with an annual $500 fee and facility upgrades and Red Cross certified lifeguards. ASPA would be allowed to submit a proposal if the Council decides on this option.

ARPD was supposed to discuss this topic at its Feb. 11 meeting, but Wooldridge said the group wanted to receive more feedback from residents. They will make a recommendation to the Council at a future date.

Comments

CarolG

I first learned to swim at Franklin Pool. My dad volunteered to lifeguard there as part of our membership. I think many Alamedans would want to keep these pools at any cost.