More than $100M needed for parks, rec and waterfront

Some of the parks and recreation issues shown on Tuesday night: closed stairs at Remillard Park, drainage problems at Ohlone dog park, inaccessible restrooms at the Marina, and deteriorating basketball courts at San Pablo Park

At a special session of the Berkeley City Council Tuesday night, the Parks, Recreation and Waterfront department presented $100.5 million in infrastructure capital needs.

“I’m one of those who has been overwhelmed by the magnitude of the resources we’re going to have to come up with one way or another,” said councilmember Max Anderson, in response to the presentation.

However daunting the $100 million worth of requirements discussed on Tuesday seemed, City Manager Phil Kamlarz said that the total capital requirement for the city’s responsibilities was likely to be around $500 million. The City Council will have a series of workshops over the next three months to review all the needs, followed by a citizen poll in the first half of 2012 to help provide guidance on priorities for the city. Kamlarz told the council that every $1 million in a bond measure means a cost of roughly $2 a year for the average homeowner in Berkeley.

Since the narrow failure of the pools bond measure in 2010, pools advocates have been regrouping to find a way to reopen Willard Pool and finance much-needed improvements to the other pools. But in Tuesday night’s presentation, the capital requirement for pools was at best the third largest amount.


Parks & Rec Director William Rogers
According to the presentation by William Rogers, director of Parks, Recreation and Waterfront, Berkeley’s parks and recreation facilities require $28 million and the Marina $27 million. The pools bond proposal was for $22.5 million. Community centers require a further $14 million and the city’s residential camps — Echo Lake, Tuolomne and Cazadero — a further $9 million.

“Our parks infrastructure has begun to seriously deteriorate,” Rogers said. He cited basketball and tennis courts in serious disrepair, inadequate drainage in many parks, deteriorating play structures, inefficient and ineffective lighting (where it exists), and damaged walkways. One of the few bright spots in the presentation was Rogers’ description of the King and West Campus pools — the city’s only two pools once the warm pool closes this December — as in “relatively good shape”.

In the public comments that followed the staff presentation, speakers concentrated on the importance of reviving a pools bond measure. According to Robert Collier, Co-Chair of the Berkeley Pools Campaign, the soft costs in the June 2010 bond measure were too high and the needed funding could have been reduced from $22.6 million to $15 million (the Berkeley Pools Campaign letter to the City Council can be seen here).

Many of the public comments were about the importance of the warm pool, which is located at Berkeley High School and is scheduled to close in December. The city is planning to use the Downtown Y’s warm pools instead, but warm pool supporters have consistently claimed that the Y is an unacceptable alternative.

“I keep hearing that the Y won’t work for the warm water pool,” said Councilmember Laurie Capitelli. “I’d like to push that further to understand it.”