If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool? title=
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?
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By Victoria Valente and the SB Aquatics Coalition

Santa Barbara is seriously behind the times when it comes to public pool facilities. According to the 2003 Aquatics Complex Feasibility Study, the City should be providing its residents between 40,000 and 120,000 square feet of water surface area. In contrast, we have a meager 10,000 square feet and insufficient plans to build more. For more information on these figures, see the appropriate link in our petition.

The SB Aquatics Coalition urges the City of Santa Barbara to step things up a notch. Although our ranks include some of the best aquatics minds in the country, we have yet to influence the new Ortega Park pool facilities design.

This is an open letter to the City Council of Santa Barbara regarding the community pool at Ortega Park. If you agree with our proposed site design, which includes a slightly larger pool facility than the City of Santa Barbara is proposing in their official Master Plan, please sign this petition: change.org/change-the-design

You can also send an email directly to City Council and the Parks and Recreation Commission Secretary at:

Dear Mayor and City Council, and the Parks and Recreation Commission,

The aquatics community's invitation to the table, held June 8, 2022, was FOUR years overdue.

The aquatics facilities design was decided in the summer of 2018, via unilateral Parks & Recreation decision, without a single workshop for the aquatics community.

In contrast, specialized skatepark meetings which serve a small percentage of the community were held May 2019 and March 2020. Meetings were held in March/April 2021 to address the lack of consideration for the historic murals in the park, and in 2022, to allow SOPAC (a not-so-grassroots-organization) to plan the new artwork lay-out.

A wide variety of aquatics people and Eastside residents have spoken to us regarding Ortega Park, and we have taken this input to heart. The City's proposed design is too small in pool and deck space, provides insufficient options for simultaneous programming, and eliminates the gathering area outside the Welcome House.

The design proposed in this petition serves community members of all ages and abilities, those who can swim and those who want to learn. Most importantly, it takes into account community input, but also input from the aquatics community, and works to fulfill the unmet NEEDS of Santa Barbara which have persisted for decades.

This design also allows space for the 8,000 square foot skate park depicted in the 2019 Master Plan, which might be programmed for younger youth.

The Ortega Park Renovation Project provides a Golden Opportunity to provide larger aquatics facilities for the community. This location is where a high percentage of Santa Barbara children actually reside, and allows the SPACE to construct these facilities, SPACE that is not likely to be available anywhere within the City limits in the future.

A modest sized aquatics complex that can serve the greatest number of our community members, like the example shown here MUST be built at Ortega Park and SOON.

If not Ortega Park, then WHERE???

Sincerely,
SB Aquatics Coalition

HISTORY OF THE NEED FOR A COMPLEX 

In 1979, plans were in the works for a major aquatics complex at Elings Park. A scaled model was displayed in the office of Richard Johns, Parks and Recreation Director at the time. Sadly, this plan was discarded due to neighborhood protest, as well as issues related to the site being a former garbage dump - issues that could have been overcome.

In 2003, the City of Santa Barbara needed further convincing regarding the City's need for a major aquatics complex. This need was officially identified in the 2003 Aquatics Complex Feasibility Study. Appendix D of this report states that, for a city the size of ours, we need to QUADRUPLE the pool space that is currently offered by the City of Santa Barbara.

Unfortunately, a major aquatics complex will never be built at the Los Banos location as is recommended in this report, due to its historic landmark status, as well as the nesting birds issue.

Alternative sites have been proposed: The Armory, which now belongs to the SBUSD (not an option), and sites on County land which might be appropriate for a MAJOR aquatics center. However, this will never happen in our lifetime, and such proposed locations are not where the majority of SB children reside — children without access to swim instruction, and children of families for whom transportation to proposed County sites might present an obstacle.

March 27, 2021 Santa Barbara Aquatics Coalition launches its first petition for BETTER aquatics facilities:  https://www.change.org/AquaticsOrtegaPark

The City's proposed design,  updated spring 2022, is improved, yet provides only one pool, with insufficient deck space, therefore, is insufficient for simultaneous programming options which, according to USA Swimming is a PITFALL in pool facilities design.

The City's design also eliminates the community gathering area outside the Welcome House.

REGARDING THE REDESIGN PROPOSED IN THIS PETITION:

This proposed site plan has received input from Eastside residents and key members of the aquatics community.

PROPOSED ORTEGA PARK FEATURES:

  • Modest-sized Aquatic Center includes 25 yard x 6 lane competition pool (80 degrees), a 4 lane warm water pool (84 degrees), a wading pool, and a water slide.
  • Two pools allow for multiple programs run simultaneously: Swim lessons for all ages and abilities, lap swim, aqua aerobics, novice swim team, intermediate/advanced age groups swim team, water polo, open recreational swim.
  • Splash pad to be added outside the pool enclosure.
  • Unfenced, natural grass soccer field and other grassy areas irrigated with existing recycled water system.
  • Community gathering area outside the Welcome House is preserved and need not be fenced in. Provides easy access to kitchen/snack bar, restrooms, meeting area.
  • New basketball court is placed at this location (approx. existing location), as it can be vacated when large gatherings are scheduled.
  • The grove of beautiful evergreen trees is preserved, for picnic area, light recreation.
  • Potential sites for cultural displays, and
  • Community gatherings and cultural activities accommodated by main Gathering Area, tree grove/picnic area, other picnic areas, and grassy spaces around the perimeter of the park.
  • Landscaping (including paths) need to be added to this design. An impressionistic palate over contrived patterns would be appreciated.
  • An abundance of play equipment needs to be added to playground areas.
  • Basic adult exercise equipment to be added to the park perimeter.
  • Picnic tables, seating, spectator areas, and shade pergolas (where appropriate) to be added to Welcome House patio, evergreen tree grove, playgrounds, skatepark, and aquatics area.
  • Artwork and mural layout needs to be addressed by the art community, due to building re-arrangement. It is possible to save certain pieces of culturally significant art, in the vicinity of the Gathering Area. More art opportunities can be created through the addition or partial walls/partitions.
  • Two Solstice Parade staging areas are possible: The Gathering Area, and/or the soccer field.
  • It is preferable that the skatepark be designed for elementary school children. The image of the skatepark from the 2019 Master Plan is included in this design.

 


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85 Comments

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Transparent Jul 17, 2022 03:44 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

Agree 100% that an indoor water park would be amazing for SB. A smash hit for sure.

Ortega Park isn't the spot for it (see my other comment), but we should lean on Council and Parks & Rec heavy to make that a reality. It would pay for itself and then some... different rates for residents vs. tourists, etc.

SBCountyLocal Jul 17, 2022 01:41 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

I signed the petition. We need a better aquatics facility than the one proposed by the city and the design Ms. Valente and the SB Aquatics Coalition created is exactly what we need. Let's help make this happen. Sign the petition and ask your friends and neighbors do the same.

Transparent Jul 17, 2022 03:37 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

Victoria -- The Ortega Park plan (as it stands) is the result of literally dozens and dozens of meetings over years and years. You wanted the entire thing to be an aquatics facility throughout that process, park for the Eastside be damned, and you lost. The Eastside kids need a park and a pool. The finalized design gives them both.

Our common ground is that right now, there's no funding for ANY of it because our himming and hawing over the murals cost us around $8 million of state grant funding that otherwise would've been a relative shoe-in. We have a plan that's shovel ready now... let's demand the funding and finally give the kids on the Eastside the park and pool they deserve... before today's 8-year-olds are 18., It's been years of community process to get here. No one is starting over.

VinSB Jul 17, 2022 03:54 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

TRANSPARENT, How rude, and I’m afraid you are mistaken, on many counts…
Dozens and Dozens? No
Years and Years? Do you mean four?
I wanted the entire thing to be an aquatics facility? Gross misinformation
Eastside be damned? I have lived in the same house on the Eastside for almost 30 years. Why would I damn my own neighborhood?
We do need a park and a pool, ok, but the right design.
The funding was denied because the income level of the neighborhood did not meet the requirements of the grant (it’s not low enough).

I have to wonder what your motivation is for such an aggressive response. What’s your interest in all this? Do you have young children? Are you an educator? Which activities were you looking forward to at Ortega Park?

Eastside leaders that I’ve spoken with would rather leave the park the way it is, than spend $8.5 million or any amount on the design that the City of SB has proposed.

SBCountyLocal Jul 17, 2022 05:00 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

TRANSPARENT - The Parks and Recreation Department had a number of meetings and project design approval (PDA) from the Architectural Board of Review and THEN had to change the plan because no one considered the murals. They made a huge mistake. This is also the case with the swimming pool design they have proposed. There wasn't one meeting on the pool. There were two meetings for a skate park the park doesn't have and multiple meetings after the Parks and Recreation Department had PDA for the project to try and preserve the murals - rather than destroy them. There has never been a discussion on the pool and there needs to be.

VinSB Jul 17, 2022 06:11 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

And those meetings allowed their "stakeholders" to design skate parks out of clay, and work with a designer. The aquatics community was simply told that the pool was not meant for aquatics so they would lose interest and go away. They offered no pool meetings, although members of the community have tried to influence the outcome since the beginning. The City just ignored them. They did make the pool larger, and a few month later, they made it smaller again- behind the community member's back.

VinSB Jul 17, 2022 04:12 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

The community has been speaking out against the design since the beginning of the project, four years ago, like this well-spoken community member who would never use harsh language on Edhat:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1QsoSdqOkGzuaunH-yyq0C29pt7IRDylo/view?usp=sharing

But the the City of SB ignored them and proceeded with the same original design.

SBSand Jul 17, 2022 04:14 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

Good suggested changes, and I agree it is taking too long! Also, security or some type of safety patrols, would be good because of the element that has been attracted to Ortega park. I remember, way too long ago (almost 40 years!!), going to SBJHS and walking by the park and seeing people shooting up heroin there. I can only imagine with our homeless situation that it probably still has issues like that.

VinSB Jul 17, 2022 04:21 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

I've heard from different people that that's the way it was back then :( Luckily, the past 25 years or so it has improved. I used to take my kids there, I go there to attend meetings, and we've never encountered anything like that.

Ahchooo Jul 17, 2022 06:03 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

Another facility that needs to be fixed is the former kiddie pool next to Los Baños swimming pool. It has been fenced off for ages. That is a physical space that could be used for another pool of some kind. Or, if not a pool, at least a playground. What’s the holdup there?

SBSand Jul 17, 2022 06:31 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

I had read ages ago that it was going to become some kind of splash park. That would be pretty awesome! Nesting birds can be relocated. There needs to be something fun, and free, in this city for families with children.

Ahchooo Jul 17, 2022 07:02 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

There are certainly birds in the trees there. Look like egrets. Is their nesting disturbed by a children’s pool? Or is it more that the birds make a mess of the pool?

a-1658118881 Jul 17, 2022 09:34 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

Regarding the nesting birds vs the wading pool project http://www.wearemovingstories.com/we-are-moving-stories-films/2019/1/17/birds-of-los-baos

Bird Jul 24, 2022 04:04 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

They are egrets and black-crowned night herons and at least the latter, maybe also the egrets, nest and raise chicks in the trees there. And do their droppings nearby; sometimes they were in the pool. Short of chopping down the trees (and imagine how many of us would object to that!) this is their space --- they seem willing to share but we humans don't want to share with them.

Babycakes Jul 17, 2022 06:52 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

One of the big problems about having a public pool at Ortega Park is simply its location. For those of you who have lived here for more than two weeks, you know that there is the incredibly stupid issue of the Westside vs Eastside. Kids/families on the Westside simply would feel extremely uncomfortable about going into to a facility into "enemy" Eastside territory. Laugh all you want, but, unfortunately, it's true as blue.

SBSand Jul 18, 2022 08:10 AM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

It's true, the gang issues here run surprisingly deep! A lot of it doesn't hit the news, it doesn't translate well for our tourist town reputation but Westside vs Eastside is a MAJOR issue. So maybe another pool next to the Westside Boys & Girls club would be a good idea? With a population the size of SB there really should be several public pools, splash pads at parks and skate parks. More outdoor activities for LOCALs would really make this a better place for our kids.

SantaBarbaraObserver Jul 18, 2022 09:03 AM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

Why would you cater to this ignorant, tribalistic behavior? Besides, there is an ocean that straddles both sides of this incredibly stupid situation. The small % of gangbangers that can and do swim, can fight it out in the ocean. We can watch from the wharf, sell tickets snacks and place bets while saving millions in criminal costs - if enough of them drown themselves... Santa Barbara squid games for Gangbangers. Could be a mega-hit!

Babycakes Jul 18, 2022 07:30 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

SBO: What you refer to as "ignorant, tribalistic behavior" is tolerated and encouraged across the country. I have been fortunate to stay above the fray in my travels across the US. One of my scariest moments was getting lost in Washington DC on Halloween night in my four-door Oldsmobile with Cali plates....made a right, made a left, made another left...a few blocks here...a few blocks there...another left...another right...."Oh She-Yi-OMG....this is exactly where I was five minutes ago!!!" Pulled into a "bodega" (or some kinda place with bars on front and you tell 'em what you want through a little window). I could go on with West Memphis, St. Louis, Baltimore, NYC, Oakland, LA, Mobile, Atlanta....but yeah, the behavior of these folks is tolerated. Why? Well, even those turds vote.

Ahchooo Jul 19, 2022 09:15 AM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

SB Observer, if gang activity is present, even people who have no connection to gangs are impacted. Parents aren’t “stupid” if they want to protect their innocent kids from the stupid gang activity of others.

SantaBarbaraObserver Jul 19, 2022 09:29 AM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

If you are a gang member, you are an idiot. If you allow your kid become a gang member, you are an idiot. If you elect people who believe Latino gang culture is more important than US culture or adherence to the law, you are an idiot. So yes, stupidity runs deep on this issue. There is nothing intelligent about these people and their allegiance to a random street, direction, zip code or bandana color. Just imagine how much better we'd all be without these criminals, scofflaws, liars and cheats clogging up our lives with their silence, hate and ignorance?

ZeroHawk Jul 18, 2022 09:04 AM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

ok....i'll be the one to ask. Why do you think we need a public pool when we are in a stage 2 drought, we have the harbor and pacific ocean 4 blocks away, we have oak park, YMCA, los banos pools. I don't get it...

Ahchooo Jul 18, 2022 09:57 AM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

Sacjon, try swimming at West Beach, near Sea Landing. Calm like the harbor because it is protected by the sand spit. Good for people who don’t care for the breakers at Leadbetter and other beaches.

sacjon Jul 18, 2022 10:51 AM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

AHCHOO - Yeah, but for a lot of people (especially new swimmers and kids), swimming in the ocean is not ideal and can even be frightening. I guess what I'm saying is, just because we have a beautiful beaches and the ocean, doesn't mean we shouldn't have public swimming pools. People learning to swim should have the ability to do so in a safe and accessible pool. Waves, pollution (especially in the harbor), sea life, temperature, etc can all be a difficult barrier to overcome to those wanting to learn to swim and even for those who just want to exercise who don't have the luxury of a club membership or residential pool.

letmego Jul 18, 2022 10:53 AM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

Harbor: I'm not swimming in the harbor. West beach? A little too close to the harbor with the boats coming and going.
Plus in the winter it's too cold.
Oak park: 7 and under only
YMCA: members only
Los Banos: Limited hours for public use (not enough for the size of our population).
The last time I swam laps was...? May of 2021. COVID meant that the YMCA is closed on Sundays, open later in the morning, and requires a lap reservation - not more swimming 3-4 to a lane.

So the already limited lap swim times are even fewer, and none at 5:30 am.

Ahchooo Jul 18, 2022 07:14 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

Oh, I totally agree, we need more swimming pools. Definitely much safer to learn to swim in a controlled environment. And yes, the ocean water is chilly much of the year. Swimmable if you really want to, but not comfortable for many people. I just wanted to point out that West Beach is calm. I do think we need several more public swimming pools.

Gimli Jul 18, 2022 10:11 AM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

We have the "BIGLY BLUE PACIFIC OCEAN" in our front yard for all to use, and very low maintenance. But there is a WARNING out there at times: Rip Tides, Strong Currents, Bacteria, and Sharks. So our "BIGLY BLUE PACIFIC OCEAN" can be closed for a few days, and afterwards fun in the sun and swimming lessons for the kids. (Plus ocean waters builds good strong muscles for the kids).

doulie Jul 19, 2022 10:23 AM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

What about using the pool at SBHS? Years ago it was used during the summer by the Boy's Club for swimming lessons. The pool has to be maintained year round. Some of the money on hand could be used to pay the school district for use of the pool.

a-1658372483 Jul 20, 2022 08:01 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

The SBHS pool is owned by the school district. They're not obligated to make it available to the general community. And they rent it out to the water polo club, when it's not being used by the school. It's not available to the public unless the City of SB rents it out for use by the public.

a-1658375513 Jul 20, 2022 08:51 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

The SBHS pool is owned by the school district. They're not obligated to make it available to the general community. And they rent it out to the water polo club, when it's not being used by the school. It's not available to the public unless the City of SB rents it out for use by the public.

LoveMySB Jul 18, 2022 02:56 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

The person writing this letter does not even live in the neighborhood or close to this park. I don't know who they are referring to when they say they have talked to "wide variety of aquatics people and Eastside residents" because no one in the neighborhood has talked to anyone. The ones I know like the design of the park the way it was presented in the various meetings that were held and which were well attended. The neighborhood does not want an aquatics center in this park but do want an upgraded pool to what is there now that kids can learn to swim and there can be some senior water aerobic classes or adult learn to swim classes. Ortega Park is not the place for the changes these people are promoting.

LoveMySB Jul 18, 2022 04:56 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

VINSB clearly you don't know what you are talking about because you assume that I don't live in the neighborhood for which you would be incorrect.

a-1658191404 Jul 18, 2022 05:43 PM
If Not Ortega Park, Where for a Public Pool?

SBcountylocal said what I would say. "I signed the petition. We need a better aquatics facility than the one proposed by the city and the design Ms. Valente and the SB Aquatics Coalition created is exactly what we need. Let's help make this happen. Sign the petition and ask your friends and neighbors do the same." The murals will be saved hopefully as desired. Trees and real turf will be saved. Swimming is not an east vs west problem. Kids need a pool to learn to swim. Older youth need community competitive water sports. Maybe the skateboard thing should go. It was drummed up by out of area folks anyway. SB has a skateboard park. Goleta has one and Carp will have its completed next year. The community designed aquatics facility will hopefully be open and accessible all year round to all youth not just the privileged. This has been needed for decades. Knowing how to swim and competitive sports builds self-confidence and even cooperation. It opens up possibilities for future careers such as deep sea diving, fishing, oceanographic, lake and creek endeavors.

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