At the third and final meeting Thursday night to discuss plans for renovating Garfield Pool, swimmers continued to oppose renovation plans that will mean shorter laps.
The beloved public indoor pool located at 1271 Treat Ave. currently measures 100 feet in length. The architects spearheading the redesign project have proposed shortening its length to 75 feet by sectioning off a 25-foot area with a bulkhead, an inflated dividing barrier of sorts, to allow for a swim and programming area for children.
Currently, children under four feet tall are prohibited from entering the pool. But several frequent pool-goers, primarily from the surrounding Mission and Bernal Heights neighborhoods, objected to altering the pool. They described it as one of the few pools in the city that allows for uninterrupted adult lap swimming.
Architects said that the proposed changes, which include dividing up its current three lap lanes to make six, will actually increase pool capacity. The total hours of users enjoying the pool is expected to increase by 40 percent. The plans also envision a new club house.
“That’s an incredible amount of time for anyone who wants to do lap swimming and is waiting to actually swim,” said Toks Ajike, project manager with the Recreation and Parks Department.
Still, most of the dozen or so neighbors in attendance opposed splitting the pool for any use that would take away from its popular lap swims.
“You are taking what is really the best pool and saying … ‘we will have a little less quality for more people,’” said one neighbor. “It’s a solution that detracts from the quality of swimming at Garfield. It’s disappointing to have it be the same as at other pools.”
Another neighbor however, disagreed. The woman said that the pool currently is inaccessible to her children, who are under 7 years old.
“I really like the bulkhead. I am raising kids in this neighborhood and they have to wait until they have to wait until they are 7 to use the pool. That is ridiculous,” she said. “I think it’s great to have the pool be more accessible to younger kids.”
Ajike said that arguments on both sides of the bulkhead – for and against shortening the pool – have been compelling. In the end, the comments from constituents like families in the area, after school programs, and high school swim teams demanding more accessibility to the pool carried more weight.
“There are families that will continue to move into this neighborhood. We need to address this growth that is coming,” said Ajike.
“I take it that the design is fixed and no input at this point can change anything?” the neighbor who expressed opposition to the bulkhead asked rhetorically. “I get the answer.”
Thursday’s meeting was the last regarding the pool’s redesign in which Ajike, the architects involved in the project and representatives of the Recreation and Parks Department answered to community constituents.
Ajike described the proposed renovations to the pool as “a big undertaking.”
Architects Paulett Taggart and Alyosha Verzhbinsky presented a schematic plan of the new pool that included tearing down and rebuilding its current clubhouse and creating a courtyard between the new building and the pool building, with a an entry lobby connecting the entire center.
“We are trying to create a complex,” said Verzhbinsky. “We are not trying to create a pool, but a community center.”
The courtyard will lend itself to a range of uses and programming, and is designed to provide ”additional free space” to the community, said Taggart.
“Community barbecues, movie nights, maybe even a dance class – the courtyard will serve a variety of uses…for the larger community,” she said.
More accessibility will be provided by adding ramps on the Treat Avenue and Harrison Street sides of the pool, as well as a white curb for drop off.
A mural that decorates the clubhouses’ current entrance will be preserved and extended, and an underutilized basketball court will be reactivated. Security has been a recurring concern among the neighbors, and now lighting along pathways leading up to the center will be installed.
But one neighbor who lives on Treat Avenue took issue with the currently defunct basketball court’s revival.
“When I see that basketball court and its not fenced in, I panic. We had a basketball court on Lucky Alley and it was a nightmare how many people came and played basketball at night,” she said. “If it’s not encased and lights will be on, we will have a very expensive police problem.”
Ajike told the woman that again, constituents wanted access to the court. “We’ve reached out to a lot of people who run after-school programs who believe that this is an opportunity for them to use it, not just for basketball, but this is an open space to do other things.”
The architects attempted to address the woman’s safety concern by suggesting that some of the lights surrounding the court and the complex could be turned off at night.
“I am happy with the basketball court but at 9 o’clock you can’t play basketball,” the woman said.
Another neighbor who identified herself as a longtime pool user and an architect left the project’s architects with some suggestions regarding current locker room deficiencies.
“I think that the locker rooms are a key part of the process. I would say add more mirrors and outlets and counter space,” the woman said. “This pool doesn’t have outlets right now. People bring their blowdryers and such. People are using the baby’s changing table right now to put on makeup.”
Taggart said that the plan presented on Thursday was schematic, and that details such as outlets and counter space had not been worked out yet.
“This [locker room] space is generous – if you wanted more counter space we could do that,” she said.
While input for final tweaks and concerns were noted, the project’s plans are expected to go in front of the Recreation and Parks Commission for approval in July. Ajike told those in attendance that bids for construction contracts will begin in December, and that actual construction is expected to break ground in May or June of 2018.
The project will take a total of 14 to 16 months to complete, and the new pool is expected to reopen sometime in September 2019.