Nov 3 2010

Opinion: What to do about the Piedmont Swim Club Lease?

A Letter from Clive Chandler on the Piedmont Swim Club Lease

There are at least three alternatives available to the City Council:

1.  City takes over the pool and operates it

Plus:  Some may say that the City can operate the pool more effectively than does the PSC, but how?  The coterie of activists advocating a municipal pool might be appeased by a City takeover, but for how long is uncertain.  City takeover answers the empty political argument that the PSC confers a public right upon a private group, when in fact the PSC is a private group serving a public purpose: the High School Swim Team, the Piedmont Swim Team, water polo, and others have access to the pool on a regular basis free of cost, and swimming lessons and lifeguard lesson are also available.

Minus:  Any contingent advantage is offset by the cost of annual operating expenses and liability insurance that would burden the City.  A City Council decision to save costs by closing the pool during part of the year would be most unfortunate.  Also, costs may creep upward across a municipal pool staff in this day of health and pension cost concerns.  (The City of San Jose reportedly closed seven municipal pools this past summer for problems of funding, and later reopened one or more of them under private management; there may be a dry lesson to be drawn from that experience.)  Moreover, the City may be beset by rising expectations among swimmers and the activist group alike: it is easy to complain when the government is in charge.  Some may argue that City operation is an implied promise to upgrade or replace the pool.

2.  City takes over the pool with the stated purpose of major upgrade or replacement

Plus:  A new pool or pools would obviously be a great improvement over the existing pool, which is serviceable but old and tattered.  No one would resist that result, if it were financeable.

Minus:  The great disadvantage is cost: $10 million or more.  Also, there will be a significant gap in time between the start of actual construction and commencement of operations of a new pool; accordingly, the City will want to minimize that gap to the extent possible.  A smart plan would keep the existing pool in operation during such construction.  If this is impossible, then, to minimize the imposition on the swimming public, the City Council will want to ensure that a financing package is in place as part of its decision.

3.  City grants a long-term lease extension to the Piedmont Swim Club, terminable if the City decides to build a new pool

Plus:  Such a lease would save the City money.  It would preserve the interests of the non-paying users (High School Team, etc.)   It would also be consistent with the PSC’s donation and successful operation of the original pool, and enable the PSC to sell new memberships and thus make modest improvements.  Finally, it will also calm the PSC membership, who are perplexed by the uncertainty and politics surrounding the pool’s future.

Minus:  The local newspaper and a small coterie of activists have been long on rhetoric and innuendo against the present pool but short on cash and experience in favor of a new pool.  They may attack one or more members of the City Council.  It would be unfortunate, however, for the City Council to be inhibited or intimidated in its discussions and decisions by barbs from a small group.  Moreover, continuing the PSC in place will tend to deflect from the City Council the complaints, bound to arise, about day-to-day operation of any pool.

In summary, the intelligent choice is for the City Council to decide in favor of a long-term lease extension to the Piedmont Swim Club, with a right of the City to terminate the lease if the City decides to finance and build a new pool or pools.

Thank you.

Clive Chandler

(street address omitted)


The following letter expresses the personal opinion of the author.  All statements therein are solely  the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Piedmont Civic Association.

6 Responses to “Opinion: What to do about the Piedmont Swim Club Lease?”

  1. Clive thank you for this letter which consolidates so much information that has floated around in our community over the last few years. As a long-term PSC member (who hardly ever uses the pool) I agree that no matter how humble a facility – given its precarious status and volunteer board with “shallow pockets” – the Club does provide a service for the schools and rec center. I cannot imagine the City taking on the $$ at this point, so let’s move on and lengthen the lease and work toward a better pool TOGETHER. Also, I don’t think there is anyone who belongs to PSC who would not LOVE to use a great new pool without paying dues. I don’t see this happening, but let those activists work toward this goal rather than tear down PSC.

  2. If we all agree that Piedmont is better off WITH a pool, then keeping the PSC operational has to be collaborative.
    Nobody likes change; but even if EITHER the City OR the CLUB operates the pool, hours may have to be shorter, restrictive use in place, etc. etc.
    The idea of a public pool for anyone in the Bay Area, never mind Piedmont, is impractical,unrealistic and irresponsible.
    Let’s remember that it’s the KIDS who need this facility – swim lessons, swim team, water polo and good ‘ole recreational use that keep this facility a necessity in all our minds.
    I’m for doing whatever it takes to keep the pool open. Just give me some hours to lap swim along the same lines as the Oakland City Pools and I’ll be happy…
    Yes, people will balk – but somebody’s gotta take a stand and make a decision, however initially unpopular. You guys ran for public office. Show me you can do this!!!

  3. Excellent letter. I have long thought that the City will REQUIRE a private partner to keep the current pools open and even to realize the dream of a new facility. The Piedmont Swim Club is uniquely qualified to fulfill this public/private partnership role. Please support the long-term lease extension: it will save the City money — and maintain access to swimming for our citizens and students.

  4. Clive:

    Well stated. This is the only real choice and it has been shocking to see the resistance to the best outcome for both the near and short term residents of Piedmont.

    Scott Kucirek
    Piedmont Resident and PSC member for 5 years

  5. This synopsis by Clive Chandler is it in a nutshell. Let the naysayers continue to postulate options but the City officials have known for the past 5 years that the scenarios are limited. As a routine swimmer I would be sorry to lose the pool for any length of time but I will swim elsewhere if the future of the swimming is in jeopardy or the costs go up dramatically. The cost for a family membership with the PSC is still a great value for me because I use it often. I will miss it when it’s gone but I won’t miss the abuse the PSC gets from the Naysayers!

  6. I think that PSC has long suffered from a PR issue. Perception of PSC as a restrictive private entity, promoted by a few vocal adversaries and the local paper, is at odds with its history and current mission. In truth, it should rightly be seen as public-spirited organization that performs a service. Its members finance usage for Piedmont’s children on swim and water polo teams and Rec Center use. The Board Members work long and hard to keep this organization — shall we say — afloat. It puzzles me that these members are vilified; rather, kudos should be extended to these hard-working, unpaid folks. As a long-time PSC member, I am clearly biased. However, I definitely have seen the benefits extended to the community at large, seeing my son essentially live at the pool as first, a swim team member, then a high school swim team and water polo team member. He took the sponsored Red Cross Lifesaving course there. He had his first job as lifeguard there. All of these most valuable resources were afforded him, not because I was a PSC member, but because he was a Piedmonter. Keeping this pool open for the children of Piedmont has long been one of PSC’s missions. I myself could swim elsewhere, but if the city elects to take over operation of the pool, let us hope that Piedmont’s children continue to be offered the use of this most valuable community resource. All of us would love an updated, state-of-the-art pool in central Piedmont. If this could be financed, I would be more than delighted and would support it in every way. I do think however, that it is counter-productive to identify the PSC as an entity which in any way prevents attainment of this reenvisioned pool. In the interim, however long that might be, I would encourage the City Council to recognize that PSC has indeed been a most valuable ally and to act accordingly.

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