A special meeting between leaders of the YMCA of Silicon Valley and members of the Page Mill YMCA branch in Palo Alto to discuss staving off the closure of the 35-year-old gym ended on a familiar note, with the organization again refusing to reverse its decision.
Three Page Mill members met with YMCA of Silicon Valley COO Elizabeth Jordan and board members Janice Fry and John Savage on Tuesday to suggest alternatives to closing the gym when its lease expires on Oct. 1. Primary suggestions have been to merge the Page Mill facility with the Palo Alto Family YMCA on Ross Road, to increase membership fees to cover any necessary renovation costs or financial shortfalls or to pursue a short-term lease extension to buy more time to strategize how to save what is a community institution for many of its members. Members have also mentioned the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the YMCA of Silicon Valley, though it has been described as a last-resort option.
"Bottom line: the SV YMCA is unwilling to reverse its decision to close Page Mill when the current lease expires and is unwilling to seek a short-term lease extension to give us time to explore alternatives to closing," read an email sent from the three Page Mill YMCA members to others after the meeting.
"The SV YMCA directors and executive we met were forthcoming with information. They provided all the financial information we requested and answered our questions. No issues there.
"But they did acknowledge they handled this entire process extremely poorly (we agree). They didn't bother to seek input and ideas from the members who helped make this a successful branch of the YMCA for 35 years. They made their decision in private, then announced the closure with a complete lack of sensitivity or awareness of the impact the news would have on the close-knit friendships and community we have at PM."
Jordan said they provided data the members had requested, including financial information on the Page Mill branch from the past three years. They talked through the data and various alternatives the three members suggested -- all options Jordan said YMCA leadership had already thoroughly analyzed.
"It's closing the book," she said. "There wasn't any idea or ideas that we had not already tested thoroughly to find a way to keep the Page Mill branch sustainable for 10 years. ... We couldn't find anything new that we felt was something we could continue forward with."
At a July 16 informational meeting that was initially closed to the media, Jordan, Fry, Savage and YMCA of Silicon Valley President Kathy Riggins heard similar sentiment from more than 100 members, many of whom have belonged to the YMCA for decades. For the first time since the organization's sudden announcement in late June that the gym would close this fall, leaders cited a decline in membership and inability to attract new members at the Page Mill facility as reasons for its closure.
Since 2009, the Page Mill Road gym has seen a steady but not sharp decrease in membership, from close to 1,575 units in 2009 to fewer than 1,425 in 2014. A "unit" can be an individual or family. Annual revenue has more steeply declined, from $1,313,000 in 2011 to $1,232,000 in 2014.
Jordan said after the meeting that the Page Mill facility had a revenue shortfall of $215,000 for the fiscal year that just ended.
She also said that the Ross Road YMCA as well as other nearby locations have seen increases in memberships.