The number of “concerns” surrounding the George Haines International Swim Center (ISC) could not be easily counted at the Santa Clara City Council’s most recent meeting.
City Manager Jovan Grogan ordered the ISC closed yet again earlier this month. Tuesday night, the Council heard from a consultant it hired to assess the condition of the ISC. A report from the consultant, LPA, Inc., in conjunction with Aquatic Design Group, detailed a plethora of severe issues with the beloved community pool.
Those issues stretch to almost every area of the ISC and can probably be summarized simply: the building is old.
The ISC, built in 1967, has long outlived its shelf life, and plans to revitalize it have floundered over the years. The ISC was closed for more than 100 days in 2023. In short, over the years, water seepage has ravaged the building’s skeleton like a cancer, corroding metal and rotting the wood supporting the building.
Additionally, said Steve Key, with LPA, earthquakes over the years have caused the ground beneath the ISC to shift, causing foundational problems. Key detailed several major “concerns”: rusted electric panels and stairs, a pool that is too shallow, a lack of sufficient showers and restroom and inadequate emergency exits.
Perhaps most arresting were underground viewing windows that Key said, should the foundation give, could suck swimmers out of the pool like a breached airplane cabin. Nearly all the issues raised emphasized a lack of safety.
“When we’re looking at this, and things are of concern to us for life safety, that is what we are focused on. So, rotting structure systems, decay, corrosion, structural systems that are not tied together — all of major concern,” Key said.
However, the City only recently put $20 million back into its capital improvement reserve, bringing the total to $23 million. The City uses a “pay-as-you-go” funding scheme, which essentially means it fixes infrastructure paid for by the general fund only when it breaks.
With $571 million in unfunded projects, Kenn Lee, the City’s finance director, said it was “ill-advised” to draw from the fund as it is reserved for the “most critical projects.” He acknowledged that the “pay-as-you-go” scheme is “not sustainable” because it is too “reactive.”
Lee said his department would return to the Council this year with options to raise money for capital projects, including a possible ballot measure.
Cynthia Bojorquez, assistant city manager, said the City is looking into three options: rebuild the ISC, replace and design it or redesign and reconstruct in another location. She said City employees would return to the Council in June to discuss possible fundraising efforts, including a possible ballot measure.
Many pool users turned out to implore the Council to avoid closing the pool.
Vikas Gupta, the parent of a swimmer and a Parks and Recreation commissioner, said the consultant’s report was rife with “misrepresentations.” Keeping the ISC closed is “shattering dreams,” he said, and while he is sympathetic to the City’s infrastructure budget woes, he said it isn’t the crux of the problem.
“Building and maintaining pools is not rocket science, literally. All it takes is the will,” he said. “It is difficult for me to engage in that conversation when we even fail to replace burnt-out lightbulbs in the hallways at the ISC.”
Many athletes testified about the storied history of excellence at the pool that has produced multiple Olympians. Others questioned why the condition of the pool necessitated closing it so abruptly.
Pete Delaney, a public commenter, agreed with Gupta, going so far as to say the City had been “bamboozled” by the consultant’s report.
“We are not doing enough to check everything,” he said. “When I read through that report, I was amazed at how many extrapolations and how many ways they are trying to push our spending to $10 million or whatever huge amount it is going to be for a pool.”
He called many of the proposed repairs “an extreme waste of money.”
Council Member Suds Jain said, because America is such a litigious country, the Council cannot “unsee” the report. Trying to do so opens the City to immense risk of being sued. He joined others in agreeing that the City needs to find temporary pools to allow swimmers to swim until a more long-term solution can be found.
Along with noting and filing the report, Vice Mayor Anthony Becker moved that the City immediately look into alternative pools, including a lap pool and a diving pool, along with portable amenities such as showers and restrooms.
The motion passed unanimously.
Levi’s Stadium to Remain “Levi’s Stadium” Through 2043
The Santa Clara Stadium Authority also approved a naming rights extension with Levi Strauss & Co. The extension increases the total revenue to the Stadium Authority from $154 million to $273 million and goes through 2043.
As part of the agreement, the City would need to spend $3 million to upgrade four sponsor signs at the stadium but would triple its community grant program’s money from $100,000 to $300,000 per year.
Money from naming rights goes toward stadium operations. The Stadium Authority took the recommendation as presented by City employees, approving it unanimously.
Consent Calendar Spending
- A $752,362 contract with W. Bradley Electric for traffic signal installation between Tasman Drive and Great America Parkway.
- A $1.13 million contract with O’Grady Paving, Inc, for the Basset and Laurelwood bike lane project.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Santa Clara City Council is Tuesday, Feb. 6 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.
Members of the public can participate in the Santa Clara City Council meetings on Zoom at https://santaclaraca.zoom.us/j/99706759306; Meeting ID: 997-0675-9306 or call 1(669) 900-6833, via the City’s eComment (available during the meeting) or by email to PublicComment@santaclaraca.gov.