Volume 15, Issue 76  |  September 22, 2023SubscribeAdvertise

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Letters to the Editor

A reasonable pool option

The LBUSD appears singularly focused on approving a $16M expenditure to construct an Olympic-size 50-meter pool, DOUBLING the size of the current shared LBHS/community pool. There are other options that address the needs of students and residents that are HALF THE COST and compatible with the current space.

Some members of district leadership are pushing this effort forward discounting community input, refusing to consider viable options (some put forth by board members), and changing “needs” to fit their predetermined outcome. The district would have you believe there are “a dozen disgruntled neighbors” opposed to this remnant of their massive $150M capital plan that included multi-story parking garages, relocation of tennis courts and oversized administrative facilities.

We believe this is important to every tax-paying resident of the city and have heard from hundreds who share our concerns.

LBUSD originally presented three objectives for aquatic facilities improvements:

1. A pool size to better support water polo home games.

2. The ability to hold two concurrent water polo practices.

3. Allow younger kids’ city recreation league to get home sooner.

There are multiple options to accomplish these goals including improved scheduling as well as a reasonable expansion of the current pool. The district is ONLY evaluating a 40- or 50-meter pool.

The current pool is 25 meters by 25 yards and is the most common size for a neighborhood school like LBHS. Increasing the pool size for the benefit of the water polo programs is a priority for this administration.

We believe that, given the shrinking enrollment of the already smallest district in Orange County, thoughtful spending is in order. The actual needs of the aquatics programs can be met at costs considerably less than what is being promoted.

Some members of the district board insist a 50-meter Olympic-size pool (no high school sport requires an Olympic-size pool) is necessary, based primarily on internal discussions with the school’s aquatic coaches.

Suddenly added “needs” have been included such as THREE concurrent practices and various water polo practice configurations that can only be accomplished with a 50-meter pool. It’s no surprise coaches would ask for the maximum resources for their programs…it’s like asking your kids if they want their allowance doubled!

We look to our elected representatives to measure these “asks” against real demand data, professional non-biased evaluations, industry standards, economic sensibility and spending that has the broadest benefit for ALL students. Water polo is important, but spending $16 million on a narrow band of students, when lower cost options exist, slights the 800 other students of beneficial programs.

A 35-meter pool meets the original objectives of the board at a cost millions of dollars less, with lower operating costs, and with shorter build times where the Park Avenue safety route would be impacted.

To shoehorn a 50-meter pool into the current pool space would be akin to building a residential home with zero setbacks on all sides…it simply doesn’t fit.

While THIS board indicates no CURRENT intent, there is no assurance that an Olympic-size competitive pool will not inevitably draw large events of more than 1,000 people that will strain parking and significantly add to traffic congestion.

Material savings can be achieved by not razing the current bathhouse and it’s quite possible a pool larger than 35M could be constructed without demolishing the bathhouse. To date, the district has refused to even “pencil out” this option.

While we understand that a declining student population may minimally impact the number of student aquatic athletes, we do believe overall spending in a shrinking student population should be carefully considered. Information provided by the school district, city and headcount analytics show the current pool sits empty or underutilized for 75% of available hours.

A sensible expansion to a 35-meter pool and adjusting schedules can easily accommodate ALL reasonable goals of the district and save millions of our tax dollars. This project should not be rushed through without appropriate fiscal oversight – particularly when the city is also moving ahead with a feasibility study for its own modern community pool, that would materially reduce demand at the high school pool.

Gary Kasik

Sensible Laguna

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Letters to the Editor encourage healthy community discourse.

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