The LBUSD appears singularly focused on approving a $16 million expenditure to construct an Olympic-size 50-meter pool, doubling the size of the current LBHS/community pool. Some options address overall needs 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, 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 $150 million capital plan that included multistory parking garages, relocation of tennis courts, and oversized administrative facilities. We believe that, given the shrinking enrollment of the already smallest district in Orange County, thoughtful spending is in order.
Some district board members insist a 50-meter Olympic pool (no high school sport requires an Olympic pool) is necessary based primarily on internal discussions with the school’s aquatic coaches. It’s no surprise coaches would ask for the maximum resources for their programs. 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.
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 is impacted. To shoehorn a 50-meter pool into the current 25-meter 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, competitive pool will not inevitably draw large events that will strain parking and traffic congestion. The district has refused to even “pencil out” this option to date.
While we understand that a declining student population may minimally impact the number of student aquatic athletes, we believe overall spending in a shrinking student population should be carefully considered. Data and observation show the current pool sits empty or underutilized for 75% of available hours. This project should not be rushed through without appropriate fiscal oversight – particularly when the city is also progressing with a feasibility study for its community pool.
Gary Kasik, Laguna Beach