The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

Swim Center to Remain Closed and Costly to Repair

The Santa Clara City Council heard a grim update on the status of the International Swim Center (ISC). It also received its bi-annual report from Silicon Valley Power (SVP), which outlined how the utility would manage load growth and storm communication. City staff brought back details on the possibility of placing a tax measure on the upcoming November ballot to help the City pay for capital improvement projects. The Council also approved the 2024-25 budget for Levi’s Stadium.

If the Santa Clara City Council wants swimmers back in the water at its public pool, it will need to wait at least six months and pony up millions of dollars.

While the fate of the George Haines International Swim Center (ISC) is still up in the air, the Santa Clara City Council learned at its most recent meeting that the best-case scenario has the center opening in six-to-nine months. Re-opening the ISC is challenging because an assessment earlier this year revealed a myriad of problems with the pool — problems so concerning that City Manager Jovan Grogan closed it with minimal notice back in January.

SPONSORED
SiliconValleyVoice_Ad2_Jan04'24

The Santa Clara Swim Club, Santa Clara Dive Club and Santa Clara Aquamaids all use the ISC on a regular basis. Many members of those clubs have turned out to previous Council meetings bemoaning the pool’s closure. In 2023, the City had closed the ISC for more than 100 days. Prior to the plethora of problems discovered during a third-party audit, a ruptured boiler shuttered the ISC.

Built in the late 1960s, the ISC has more than outlived its 25-to-30-year shelf life. Discussions among the Council about repairing it go back roughly 20 years.

Cynthia Bojorquez, assistant city manager, said one of the biggest costs to getting the ISC up and running again is that all three pools need to be replastered. Additionally, she said, the discovery of lead paint, which needs abatement, proves a challenge as well as much of the fencing around the ISC is inadequate.

“The bottom line is that the county has directed the City to correct all violations and submit plans to the department for approval prior to any modification of the pool enclosure and gates,” she said.

Estimates for replastering the lap and training pool alone are more than $1 million, Borjorquez said. That isn’t including costs for removing gutters, which is still unknown, replacing the fences, which is likely to cost upwards of $200,000, or temporary bathrooms, changing rooms and showers, which will cost roughly $72,000 a year.

The City is seeking $2 million in state money. Meanwhile, Borjorquez said the City is working to improve communication with the groups that rely on the ISC. Not only has the City met twice with the groups to assess their needs, but it has also provided access to Mary Gomez and Warburton pools.

The City is posting updates on the Santa Clara Parks and Recreation website.

“While it may be possible to re-open the ISC for limited use, the cost to do so will be significant,” Bojorquez said.  “Given the availability of contractors, the magnitude of the work, it is likely a minimum of six-to-nine months before the ISC can be re-opened for limited use.”

The Council seemed less than pleased by the report.

Council Member Kevin Park said there is more at stake than just the pool.

“We can’t look at this as we are just losing access to pools, but we need to look at this as these programs, these groups, could disappear if we don’t manage this problem correctly,” Park said.

Mayor Lisa Gillmor said the Council needs to give City employees better direction. She expressed skepticism at the reports about how bad off the ISC was, noting that the assessment was more “visual” as opposed to an engineer’s assessment. She said the City needs a second opinion.

However, Grogan countered, saying, in many ways, the report by LPA, a Roseville-based consultant firm the City hired to assess the ISC, was a second opinion.

Still, Gillmor maintained that the assessment didn’t show the whole picture.

“What I heard tonight was, I didn’t hear any solutions, I really heard a lot of problems. We’ve got a lot of issues,” Gillmor said. “This is supposed to be a priority for us … I think it can be done. I am not feeling a can-do attitude by our City, to get this done. Yeah, there’s problems. Yes, there are. But what’s the solution side to these problems? I am not hearing it.”

Public commenters also thought the estimates and red tape were excessive.

“My kid was swimming in this pool two months ago, and the health department did not have a problem with it. The county did not have a problem with it,” said Karen Cornwell. “I question why these have become a problem in the last two months.”

For all the talk of money, the item was simply an informational report, with the Council unanimously noting and filing the report.

SVP Plans for Load Growth, Better Communication with Public for Storms

The Council also heard an update from Silicon Valley Power (SVP). The bi-annual update gave the Council the broad strokes on high-level topics such as capital projects and load growth.

Several receiving stations, including ones on Kifer Road and Scott Boulevard, are set to come online soon, said Manuel Pineda, the City’s chief electric utility officer. This is necessary to accommodate expected growth in the City, a trend that will see SVP nearly double its load over the next few years.

Toward that end, Pineda said, SVP will be coming before the Council in the upcoming months seeking approval of contracts and purchase orders. Further, a bond measure might also be on the horizon to fund additional capital improvement projects.

Pineda also detailed how SVP responded to the storm that hit California in early February. The storm killed power to roughly 19,000 homes — 31% of customers, Pineda said.

While SVP employees worked diligently to restore power — something Pineda said crews did an “outstanding job” of — communication faltered a bit. Because of this, Pineda said SVP plans on putting in place an automated management system.

However, a software update is necessary before such a system can come online, Pineda said, which is likely to take a couple years. In the meantime, he said SVP intends to put in place a less sophisticated system that improves communication while it waits for the automated management system to come online.

SVP is also considering an overflow phone answering service for such, as Pineda called the storm, “significant” events.

City Holds Out Its Hand to Voters, Asking Them to Pay for Infrastructure

The Council also heard details on its ongoing effort to put a measure on the November ballot. That measure would levy a tax for infrastructure. With nearly $600 million in capital project needs and only roughly $25 million in its capital expenditure reserves, the City is in a dire situation.

“Our problem is not a lack of will. It is a lack of revenue to address our capital needs,” said Grogan.

Bojorquez told the Council that Tulchin Research in partnership with TeamCivX plans to poll roughly 400 likely voters to gain insight into whether such a measure is likely to pass.

Borjorquez said the City is taking “a little different approach” than it has previously when soliciting support for ballot measures. In addition to holding community meetings and sending out mailers, the City will also make social media posts and create digital ads.

The Council will hear another update on the matter in late April.

New Meeting, Same Objections

Finally, the Council approved the stadium budget for fiscal year 2024-25. Much of the discussion and presentation was a rehash of a study session from a few weeks back.

Mayor Gillmor repeated her concerns from that meeting. She expressed skepticism that City employees will be able to track time spent preparing for the World Cup and Super Bowl in 2026 to ensure full reimbursement for those costs.

Chuck Baker, assistant city manager, told the Council that City employees are honing in on “look-back” dates to “codify and classify” employees’ time spent preparing for the events.

Gillmor also had little confidence in the revenue reported for concerts last year and added that the projected numbers for next year also seemed dubious.

“I just don’t think we get the proper numbers. I don’t think we are getting our fair share,” she said. “When you have the highest profile concerts in the world, and we are making less than a million dollars for those concerts, for each concert, there is something wrong. There is something wrong with those numbers.”

The item still passed in a 5-2 vote, with Gillmor and Council Member Kathy Watanabe voting “no.”

Consent Calendar Spending

  • A $1.7 million purchase order with Pivot Interiors for furniture replacement at Levi’s Stadium.

The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, March 19 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.

Members of the public can participate in the 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.

SPONSORED

6 Comments
  1. Gaslighting Lisa 4 months ago
    Reply

    It’s amazing that after more than three terms, the mayor is now paying attention to the concerns of residents. Her statement that this is “supposed to be a priority” is humorous, but why didn’t she address it ten years ago?
    .
    She said that she had spent the last forty-five days strolling through neighborhoods while unaware that this problem has existed for more than ten years. When she asks what the solutions are, she responds by suggesting that a third party examine the issues. We just heard about every issue that she brought up. How would that help?
    .
    Furthermore, Kathy is able to fabricate any justification by stating things like “we were looking into solution” or “COVID, COVID, COVID”. It’s time for responsibility because this is getting old.
    .
    We don’t need more reports, we need solutions.
    .
    The fact that Lisa now considers this to be a top priority really interests me. She appears to make a great issue out of things during an election year. This is going to be a wonderful campaign subject for Lisa to bring up again and again.

  2. Buchser Alum 4 months ago
    Reply

    The truth of the matter is that nobody on the council is serious about saving the swim center.
    .
    The cost of the building a new center would get close to a quarter of a billion dollars and the simple fact of the matter is that this is unaffordable for a small city of 125 thousand residents. Maintaining the aged center as it is is even more unaffordable. The city does not have the funds to pay for the building and maintenance of an Olympic caliber swimming and diving facility that is only used by a tiny percentage of its already small population.
    .
    This is very unfortunate. I grew up swimming there and so did everyone I know. The contribution we have made to American swimming achievements is a point of pride for all of us. If the center is to be rebuilt then it will need most of its funding coming from outside the city. There will need to be partnership with a private entity or the county or Santa Clara University or USA Swimming or somebody with big bucks to throw around.
    .
    I do not think the people of Santa Clara will vote for a bond measure to finance the rebuilding of the center. If it were inserted into a big bond measure to finance all city capital project needs maybe it would win passage but it also might doom an omnibus bond measure for all capital project needs because the vast majority of the city knows that they have not been using the center enough to want to fund it through additional taxes.
    .
    Nobody wants to say this out loud but it seems to be the truth as I see it.

  3. James Quinlan 4 months ago
    Reply

    My wife and I are elderly. When the swim center was open there were very limited times we could it. Don’t take our money for something that’s unavailable for us.

    • Buchser Alum 4 months ago
      Reply

      James,
      .
      I hope you and your wife are members of the senior center. Membership is very cheap and while the pool has limited hours it is open for part of five days per week.

  4. Aarthi Bhavini 4 months ago
    Reply

    I have to agree with Miss Gaslighting Lisa. Lisa was on Council from 1992 – 2000 and has been Mayor since 2016, so these issues can hardly be a surprise to her.

    And as much as I cannot believe I am about to say this, I agree with Miss Buchner Alum – that the “tiny percentage of its (the city of Santa Clara’s) already small population” is not able to support a swim center on its own.

    It’s a shame no one can say the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League needs the Swim Center Facility for their practices and games. Then you can be sure saving the Swim Center would be a top priority for Lisa and by extension, Kathy. (https://www.svvoice.com/youth-soccer-league-enjoys-sweet-deal-on-city-soccer-fields)

  5. Bad Swimmer 4 months ago
    Reply

    1) How was the city able to afford a world class facility in 1967? And we can’t afford one now?
    2) What happened to the $150M from the sale of Great America?
    3) I see solar panels at every school, yet the solar collector at the ISC isn’t used for hot water or electricity?
    4) A complete new Aquatics center equivalent to ISC would probably cost around $100m and take 3-4 years to design, permit and build. $2M (4%) added cost for a “Temporary” patch is certainly worth it. Levis Stadium is getting $1.7M for replacement furniture. The point is – $2m is a small amount in the overall scheme of government spending.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

SPONSORED

You may like