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At shuttered swim center, community seeks answers, action

Original post made on Oct 24, 2013

Clients of the Betty Wright Aquatic Center pool in south Palo Alto expressed their sense of loss -- and anxiety -- Thursday night over the sudden closure of the facility in early October.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, October 24, 2013, 9:58 AM

Comments (27)

Posted by Community asset
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2013 at 10:20 am

Palo Alto has the most worthless City Coincil that is busy giving away the City to developers and will do nothing to even follow the rules on the books to maintain quality of life. Mountain View has been busy investing in community assets in recent years, while we have been busy puttng in a golf course and beautifying City Council chambers. (Not that Mtn Vw hasn't made their share of developer giveaways, look at what's happened at San Antonio - but then I'm sure they sleep well at night knowing it's consistent with what our council is trying to do to our side of Palo Alto.)

This articles' quote makes a good point. We do have a lot of high worth indivduals here, and we frankly need to ask them to consider thinking about investing in our hometown, ala Andrew Carnegie. Or pretty soon, there will be nothing but big ugly dense developments surrounded by big ugly office buildngs. The City Council has that effort locked up, but they arent good for much else, especially if it involves quality of life -- we need a new breed of local philanthropist if unique assets like Betty Wright swim center are going to live on in our community.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2013 at 10:26 am

I absolutely agree with the first poster.

We must put effort into keeping what we have as community assets usable and available to our own community. Saying that we can use somewhere else in San Jose or even Moutain View, does not help us as a City.

This pool, like the Baylands Interpretive Centre and Boardwalk, are community assets and we have to fight to keep them. I am not sure who we have to fight, but it is worth the effort.

Putting in new bridges, new garages, new police buildings and new libraries won't help us keep the character of what we have got and what we must keep.

Future generations need to see the character preserved, not a sterile concrete jungle where we have pay to see the trees. Do not Pave Paradise and Put up a Parking Lot.

Posted by DWC
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Oct 24, 2013 at 10:41 am

It would seem to make sense to use the "public art" funds to contribute to other city needs like the pool and the new police station.

Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2013 at 10:54 am

45 years for something that hasn't been well maintained and taken care. In Mountain View the Rengstorff Pools are reaching the end of their life and upgrades or replacement.

This has nothing to do with developers or office buildings being built to replace out dated old rundown buildings. But about replacing a out dated old well worn needed pool.

Posted by sad news
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2013 at 10:59 am

I am sad to learn of the closure of this facility. Some 20 years ago, I was sent there for pool exercises in the winter as part of rehabilitation from a knee reconstruction. It was so nice to work out in the warm pool in Jan and Feb compared to my Dec out of doors. The staff and the clients were all wonderfully cheerful providing the mental side of rehab (even though many of the clients were looking a very long or no path to full recovery). I do hope we can work together to help rebuild this unique facility.

Posted by Grandma
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 24, 2013 at 11:09 am

That art money the city is planning g to collect from developers would be much better spent on something like this!

Posted by Someone who grew up in PA
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 24, 2013 at 11:12 am

I agree with a lot of the comments posted above - I recently brought a good friend of mine to this pool whom was suffering from cancer and was left paralyzed. I wish you could have seen the joy on his face, when he was able to get into the water with his wheelchair and put on the float device, and was able to feel as though he could walk again. It really brought a smile to his face, and mine. Why can't this pool be saved - and maybe they just need to increase attendance (and money brought in) by allowing Stanford rehab to use it. It does need upgrading, and could use a face-lift. If I see another housing project in PA - I will be disgusted. It is too much! For a vibrant community, you need more than dense housing. RWC has done a much better job with their community such as their downtown. SAVE THIS POOL - and upgrade it!!!!

Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2013 at 11:16 am

Here's my vote for tearing down the old pool and building a new one in its place. My kids miss their swim classes with the excellent Betty Wright swim teachers. We're having to scramble to find them new ones in a similar environment. While they're at it, I wouldn't mind if they put better soundproofing in the interior walls and maybe a few skylights.

Posted by miss ya.
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 24, 2013 at 11:19 am

I have been a beneficial user of the pool.
I am sad I was not able to attend the meeting last night.
Truly want to rebuild the pool at the same location. The support of both the staff
And the clients are indeed remarkable.

Miss you all.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 24, 2013 at 11:23 am

While many are quoting the pool as a "community resource", we have to be reminded that it is owned/managed by a private non-profit. It is not a city owned/managed program or resource. The city has no responsibilities here.

Therefore you can't just appropriate city/taxpayer dollars (e.g., art fund) and rebuild the pool.

For those who are criticizing the staff for not taking proper care of the pool, please read the earlier article which describes the underpinnings of the demise of the pool --- it's all about construction and the natural evolution of the earth (and clay) surrounding the pool. No pool maintenance program could have staved off the underground changes that forced the closure.

The center understands this and has stated that the only answer is to build a new pool. The pool cannot be repaired.

Posted by Neighbor of the Center
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 24, 2013 at 11:41 am

This pool is operated by a PRIVATE non-profit. It is NOT a public facility; so the city, a PUBLIC governmental agency, has neither the authority nor the responsibility to maintain it.

The private non-profit Board of the Swim Center should create a strategic plan to move forward and fundraise to implement that plan. There are numerous private donors and foundations who could be approached to help deal with redeveloping this site, but they need a plan first. No one will give them a big chunk of money without a plan.

It sounds like the Aquatic Center Board has been postponing decision-making, and now they have a crisis.

Stop inappropriately pointing fingers at the city and start working toward feasible solutions. This is not the city's purview. It is private sector work that must be done. The private sector is US. Roll up your sleeves, citizens, and get to work.

I hope they will stay in Palo Alto. To do so, they will need PRIVATE community support. If you want them to stay here, work with their Board to create a plan and support a fundraising effort. That is how it is done.

Posted by JN
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2013 at 11:51 am

Should have had more caring about the pool.It is sad, but since folks did NOT keep it going, just close it out!!!

Posted by midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2013 at 11:58 am

Why not appeal to one of our wealthier Silicon Valley resident businesses, possibly Facebook, or Google - and ask whether they would support this very important community resource for disabled, health-impaired persons ? If a sufficient donation were made, perhaps a new pool could be built from scratch in the same location? Sounds like a very worthy cause.

Posted by Anneke Dempsey
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 24, 2013 at 2:44 pm

The Betty Wright Aquatic Center Pool was a wonderful gift to many people. I recognize that the facilities, i.e., showers, were not in the greatest shape, but what mattered most was the warm environment and water. I called it my $9 spa treatment, and every time I went I felt blessed.

I saw many people who suffered from devastating injuries and pain gain back their positive feelings by being ensconced in this atmosphere of positiveness and healing.

I so hope we can come together and get this pool either rebuilt or back in shape.

Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Ah .. no one seems to be asking how much money does this non-profit receive from its customers, and other sources. Their web-site says that they have 130 staff members--so, how big is their payroll?

Another missing bit of information is how much money it will take to rehab the swimming pool, and how long has the management known that the pool could no longer be kept open?

Seems that this is a management problem. If the Center couldn't figure out what it cost to run, and maintain, this pool--then why are they in management roles?

Someone needs to be asking the board some very difficult questions:
Our volunteer Board of approximately 20 members is made up of community volunteers, business and professional people, family members and service participants; the Board has overall governing authority and fiduciary responsibility.

Officers of the Board

Board Officers--

Heidi Feldman, MD, PhD, President
Brian Beckwith, Secretary
Frank Berry, Treasurer
Jere King, President Elect

Board Members:

Board Members
Mike Aguilar
Geri Hadley
Jennifer Wagstaff-Hinton
Anne Husty
David Kabakov
Pieter Kark, MD
Carol Leynse
Roxane Marenberg
Amber MacMillan
Karen Moore
Stan Parry
Judy Richardson
Patrick Romzek
Rachel Segars
Ellen Smith
Wanda Wong
Larry Yu

This seems like a management problem, or a decision to stop offering pool access.

Posted by Community asset
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2013 at 8:10 pm

"This pool is operated by a PRIVATE non-profit. It is NOT a public facility; so the city, a PUBLIC governmental agency, has neither the authority nor the responsibility to maintain it."

Exactly. We have many potential high-impact philanthropists around town who assume that philanthropy needs to go through governmental agencies, non-profits, etc. Why not just save the bowling alley, for example? Why not just thwart the City and buy up property for open space parkland use kind of like Nature Conservancy does instead of fighting the political battles? Someone decided to give $20million to Gunn, they get a new gym.

I just want our high-impact philanthropists to start thinking about investing in Palo Alto, because our City Council will never do it. They will turn us into mini-Manhattan without all the good stuff like Broadway if we don't have help from people who want to retain a quality of life here.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2013 at 9:24 pm

This is a community asset, just like the Palo Alto Bowl was a community asset, regardless of whoever owns it.

I think we should be making a big noise to whoever we can to keep all our community assets. It is not a city issue, it is a community issue. We are the community. We want our assets because it is our quality of life that they contribute towards.

Now I know that this is not the City, but we have to encourage, aid, fundraise or whatever it is to keep this pool here for us. We do need help though and corporate sponsorship does seem the way to go.

Now, what about that Interpretive Center and Boardwalk. We want that community asset too.

Posted by Just ask
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Oct 24, 2013 at 9:51 pm

'Many of us wish that the Palo Alto public had been informed of the pool problems long ago. Many, if not most, of us would have been happy to help. It never have been allowed to come to this!

Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 25, 2013 at 9:08 am

SteveU is a registered user.

We know who currently operates the Pool facilities.

Who OWNS the facilities?

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 25, 2013 at 3:36 pm

BTW - to build a new indoor pool/facility will cost millions. $5mil would not be surprising at all.

Posted by Jocelyn Dong
editor of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Oct 25, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Jocelyn Dong is a registered user.

"Another missing bit of information is how much money it will take to rehab the swimming pool."

Good question. At Wednesday's meeting, four estimates were given:

- Rehabbing the current pool: $1M? (<--question mark is theirs)
- Building anew elsewhere on same property: $3M
- Leasing and renovating a local building: $2M
- Buying local property and building: $10M

Posted by Laura
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 24, 2013 at 9:43 am

Any updates on the pool rehab?

The existence of this pool was critical to my recovery after I suffered from a deabilitating injury. I am very grateful to this pool and the community. I would love to donate money and also know people who would gladly donate but I want to make sure that the money goes to efforts to rehab the pool in the existing location. If it's a matter of money, we can sure achieve this goal together.

Please keep us informed.

Posted by resident5
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 24, 2013 at 11:39 am

Building an indoor pool facility would be a great investment for Palo Alto, especially if it offers both a therapeutic warm pool and a lap pool for swim lessons and exercise. Recalling this article about starting up a recreational swim program:

Web Link

Posted by Swimmer
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 24, 2013 at 7:31 pm

I heard the neighbors on Maybell are putting the finishing touches on a plan to put a combined swim center/heritage orchard on that site.

Posted by Grieving
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 24, 2013 at 7:59 pm

This pool was so important to the pain relief of my spinal arthritis. For an hour I could be weightless and the pain relief would last all day. I so wish there were alternatives. Rinconada is not an indoor pool.

Posted by Jean
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 15, 2014 at 10:48 am

This pool was very important to my Mom after she had hip replacement surgery in the 70's. It allowed her the independence to walk and really helped in her recovery. Palo Alto will really lose a lot with the closure of this center.

Posted by Katharine Untch
a resident of another community
on Apr 15, 2014 at 4:21 pm

My brother has Downs Syndrome and learned to swim in Betty Wright's back yard pool prior to the opening of the existing pool at CAR/AU, where he continued to swim for many years. I was a "guinea pig" - as Betty called I - a child volunteer for other volunteer instructors to practice their aquatic teaching skills. When I was legally old enough to work, Betty hired me as a staff member. This was my first paid job and I stayed until I had to move out of the area for college. This is a wonderful community resource. My brother loves swimming and it was a dream come true to have him safe in the water. There are very few places where he can have such freedom in a safe context without having someone always telling him what to do.

Unfortunately the swim program has shifted over the years and even though my brother is in the AU day program in a building about 20 feet away from the pool, he was not provided an opportunity to swim in recent years due to various programming issues. My hope is that along with the construction of a much needed new pool, there will also be a re-evaluation of the swim program that will allow the AU day program clients to continue using this invaluable resource. In the mean time, I also hope AU is able to provide swimming at least once a week for my brother at another facility. The solutions are always there. We might just have to think out of the box a bit.

I agree with several of the other postings that raising private contributions for an upgrade of the facilities, including the pool, is very feasible in this community. I'm sure there are literally thousands of individuals who have dearly benefitted from Betty Wright's vision and are in a position to contribute and to encourage corporate donations as well.

Thank you so much to AU, its present and past board members, staff, volunteers and clients who have contributed to its being such a wonderful community resource for so many families over the years. It's a wonderful place to be.

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