The City of Sunnyvale in partnership with Fremont Union High School District is planning to build a 20,000 square foot branch library and learning center on a 2.15-acre portion of the Lakewood Elementary School property located at 750 Lakechime Dr. The $28.3 million project is aimed at opening in 2024.
The project, which is aimed at increasing library access for youth, involves the demolition of the existing Lakewood Pool. Although the swimming pool is not currently in operation, a group of community members have voiced an objection to the decision to demolish the pool, calling it “misguided and shortsighted.” The Friends of Fremont Pool Steering Committee had sent a letter to City Council Members on Jan. 27 arguing that the neighborhood needs both a swimming pool and a library.
“Children need to learn to swim at a convenient location,” the letter stated. “Recreational opportunities are an outlet for summer boredom and promote health and fitness… As global warming leads to hotter temperatures, a pool in the Lakewood neighborhood will be an important community asset.”
The Friends of Fremont Pool group grew out of an Adult Swim Advisory Group that had advocated for aquatic programs in Sunnyvale since 1997. In addition to advocacy work, the Friends of Fremont Pool also helps assist with pool operations and communicates with the community about pool shutdowns and repairs. The group stated that Lakewood Pool had served the community beginning in the 1970s, and that between 1997 and 1999 it had a “robust” lap swim program available to all city residents.
“Once you eliminate a pool, it will be virtually impossible to re-establish such a facility in the future,” the letter stated. “With all the new funds available from development opportunities the City has taken advantage of, there is no reason not to re-open or re-build the Lakewood pool, which would cost a small fraction of the $28.3 million dollars the branch library is estimated to cost.
“Additionally, the influx of persons from new housing will add to the numbers of persons who would use a nearby public pool, especially one located adjacent to a public park,” the letter continued. “There are other sites in the vicinity that could be utilized for the proposed building.”
The City of Sunnyvale currently offers public recreational swimming and aquatic programs at four locations: Columbia Park Pool at 730 Morse Ave., Sunnyvale Middle School Pool at 1080 Mango Ave., Washington Park Swim Center at 255 S. Pastoria Ave. and Fremont High School’s Sunnyvale Swim Complex at 1283 Sunnyvale-Saratoga Rd.
The Friends of Fremont Pool Steering Committee cited a presentation given at a Jan. 14 City Council meeting to illustrate that similar barriers exist for residents accessing libraries and pools. They pointed out that residents have to travel more than two miles to the nearest library and pool and that the City has both a low percentage of library card holders as well as those who can access a place to swim. They also cited residential growth and diverse demographics as reasons to justify having both a pool and library.
Holly Lofgren, Founder and Chair of Friends of Fremont Pool, emphasized that the decision to demolish Lakewood Pool and build a library has already been finalized and that there’s no effort to change that. However, she said that it is important to make the objection to the decision known. She also said that the timing of the decision to remove the recreational amenity right before an important election is problematic.
“We’re three weeks before the election that will determine who’s going to be able to live here and who’s not, so nobody’s paying attention to the Council’s decision about the pool,” Lofgren commented. “The community can’t focus on it. Everybody’s focus is on the election. Did they really have to do this right now?”