The pool at Mission Playground is mostly empty, save for some greenish water.

During Mission Playground’s renovation this year, construction crews working in the men’s locker room of the clubhouse discovered that the ground underneath them had become liquefied, a state where solid matter behaves like a liquid.

The liquefaction was thought to be localized to the locker room but as crews conducted minor repairs to the pool deck it became apparent that the entire concrete slab underneath the building was hanging precariously over a void.

“I was surprised the building was still standing,” said Toks Ajike, a project manager for the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department. “God forbid, if there was an earthquake, the building wouldn’t have survived,” Ajike added.

Yet there was one more surprise in store for San Francisco’s only outdoor public pool. The wooden studs insides the walls themselves had suffered severe dry rot, at times even crumbling when touched.

The pool, which was supposed to open along with the renovated playground this summer, remained closed. The Parks Department went back to the drawing board with new plans that abide by city codes and stringent earthquake rules.

Construction crews have now begun renovating the locker rooms around the pool and have started to pump gravel into the ground to increase stability to the foundation. Renovation of the pool will begin in March of next year and is scheduled to be complete by early summer.

“The fact is that this may be true for a lot of our ageing facilities,” said Connie Chan, director of public affairs for the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. “And there’s no survey or test that can be conducted to find out what’s going on besides tearing down the walls,” said Chan of the over 70-year-old pool.

The renovation is being paid for by funds made available by the 2008 Parks Bond. If the electorate had not voted for the bond, Mission Playground would have gone without renovations, and the dry rot around the pool would never have been noticed, which could have created a dangerous situation. Chan noted that many public buildings that stand in parks are in similar conditions, and that the Parks Bond is what will enable Rec and Park to get to the huge maintenance backlog of needed repairs around the city.

Upgrades to the pool system plumbing and filtration system will also be done, which can increase efficiency up to 30 percent, according to Ajike.

Chan points to fact that after pool renovations there is an increase in attendance. She noted that “when it doesn’t smell” overpoweringly of chlorine, the community is more likely to come out and enjoy the public aquatic area.

Errant tennis balls from the nearby tennis courts bobbed in muddied waters in the deep-end of the pool as Ajike and Chan inspected the progress on the locker room walls.

“We feel confident that this building will stand for another 100 years when the renovation is done,” said Chan.

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  1. Any outside validation of these extenuating circumstances that will impact the budget of this project to the tune of, what…untold tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars? Is it too much to ask that there be an impartial evaluation of the seismic data before we commit taxpayer money to this project?

  2. gracias, Mission Local! SF Rec & Park seemed determined NOT to disclose what was going on at the pool…at least now I know it won’t re-open anytime soon.