Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

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By Anna Marie Gott

Councilmembers, Commissioners and Board Members,

Have you noticed that Jill Zachary can't, or won't, give the public or the City Council a straight answer on when the swimming pool will be built if the Ortega Park Master Plan is approved without changes? Well, last night, from the proverbial horse's mouth, we have the "not to be shared with the community" answer.

Her estimate? It will be 8 to 10 years before a new swimming pool is built at Ortega Park. Yes, you read that correctly.

How do I know? Ms. Zachary disclosed this little tidbit to one of our City Coucilmembers, who shall remain nameless, that her best estimate is that it would take 8 to 10 years before a new pool is built at Ortega Park. 

Why? Between the grant and the lack of funding on the City's part the City won't have the money necessary to complete the project today. Preserving the historic and culturally significant cluster of murals, changing the location and size of the aquatics facilities, building a skate-park, and then completely refurbishing Ortega Park in one phase can't be done with such limited funds. This is why the Ortega Park Master Plan is in phases and the meager aquatics facility is "not part of the project".

So, if the funding won't pay for an aquatics facility and the City won't either. Who pays? That tidbit is interesting too. The "plan" is to have residents help fund the aquatics facility or wait years for the City to obtain another grant.  Now, isn't that a kick in the pants?

Now, if that isn't painful enough to hear, how does it feel to find out that there is a tiny asterisk denoting "hazardous material mitigation" that is currently unfunded. Yep, the cost is likely to go up once demolition and grading begin.

A swimming pool should have been included in the City's infrastructure decades ago. So, I'm betting that residents, upon hearing that they will have to pony up money for a pool while the Council orders the destruction of one, will cause outrage throughout the community. What do you think?

Speaking of costs, it would be less expensive if the murals were knocked down and the aquatics facility were left incomplete, which is what both the Parks and Recreation Department and the Save Ortega Park Arts Committee (SOPAC) is advocating. Knowing this, I have to question the sudden appearance of SOPAC when they crashed the April 24th Mural Workshop at Ortega Park where they advocated for the destruction of the murals in accordance with the Ortega Park Master Plan.

Stranger still, is that some SOPAC members apparently received a stipend from the City to show up at the workshop. Makes one wonder about who is pulling the strings behind the scenes especially when it looks like a City employee is behind all of this...

Right now, it appears that the City Council is damned if it approves the current plan and damned if it doesn't. 

Don't you think it would look bad politically to move forward with the current plan? I do and I'm thinking the dystopian scenario I described earlier of this week of residents calling for protests, resignations and then chaining themselves to the murals to save them can quickly become a reality.

There is a short time frame in which the City Council can take action to avert the looming PR crisis. Here are my recommendations to the Council to avoid one:

First, order a Special Meeting of the City Council or add this item to Tuesday's agenda in order to direct the Parks and Recreation Department to: Hold the necessary workshops to re-design the Ortega Park Master Plan in order to meet grant deadlines while leaving the murals in place, ensuring that residents have a natural grass soccer field, and including an aquatic facility that meets industry standards.

Second, order the Police and Fire Department and City Administrator to provide an estimate of the amount of funds the City spends annually providing services for alcohol related crimes. – It is now time to recover the costs the City spends annually to police the customers of those who profit from alcohol related sales.

Why am I recommending this?  The City needs to immediately fill the gap in funding in order to complete the new Ortega Park Master Plan in one phase. In order to do this, it needs to move forward with an alcohol ordinance and tax, if necessary, to recover the funds it spends annually on alcohol related calls for service. Why? It is currently estimated that this is 1/3 of the SBPD’s budget. - That's over $13,000,000 last year for the SBPD and doesn’t include the Fire Department.

So, with few actions and strategic decisions the City Council could reallocate what it spends annually to operate the SBPD back into community, recover the costs of policing the problems that business profiting from alcohol create which is equitable, and permanently change the way a large portion of the City's budget is used in order to fund future projects. Doesn't spending money on apprentice programs, homeless, health and wellness, affordable housing and other needed programs and projects sound grand to you?

This is an urgent matter to address and time is running out. I urge you to take or urge immediate action.

If after reading my letter addressed to the City Council you find yourself concerned about the Ortega Park Master Plan please take the time to send a quick email asking the City Council to take action on one, or both, recommendations I mentioned. Send your email to: SBCityCouncil@SantaBarbaraCA.Gov, Clerk@ SantaBarbaraCA.Gov

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Babycakes May 15, 2021 02:11 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Murals or the pool, but not both is the deal. Plus, if it is a normal swimming/diving pool, there's way too much liability for the city. Also, there are huge security concerns.

a-1621117240 May 15, 2021 03:20 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Not true on both accounts, Babycakes... Both murals and aquatics facilities can be built, minus the skate park, which was driven by the Goleta Skateboarding Movement and would primarily serve those outside the surrounding neighborhood. Pools are community infrastructure, and they bring in revenue. Costs, liabilities, or none - they are essential. There is plenty of documentation to prove that SB is far behind the times in what it provides to the community, based on its population.

dukemunson May 15, 2021 05:47 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Build another pool!!! Santa Barbara can handle it... in fact it needs it!!!! Los banos is great but let’s open up another option in town... crazy that anyone would be against this!

Ehdat May 16, 2021 07:47 AM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

That movement you talk about is the same individuals that got the skatepark built that we have on Cabrillo. One fact in this topic that cannot be denied is that the 21 year old current skatepark in SB has proven to be the most utilized parks facility by far for now over two decades. I am for having a pool, but dont drag the skatepark into your bargaining chip on needs. The use and demand has been proven. By the way, how many people live in the Ortega park neighborhood? Not too many. City Parks are for all. Pools are not considered community infrustructure. Safe sidewalks, ADA ramps, bike lanes, and lighting for dark areas for security are. Screw it, lets build luxury condos under the guise of affordable housing and mixed use enclaves for the homeless to lurk on the bottom floor.

VinSB May 16, 2021 01:27 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Actually, aquatics facilities are critical infrastructure. I have tons of documentation. Here are excerpts from a City of SB report. (I'll do my best with formatting) ........................... INFRASTRUCTURE FINANCING REPORT for the City of Santa Barbara - INFRASTRUCTURE FINANCING TASKFORCE October 2008 - ................................... AQUATICS FACILITY - Los Baños Pool, the City’s only competitive pool facility does not meet the current demand for recreational, instructional and competitive swim programs. Program growth has been limited by lack of pool space. It has been a Council goal to build a new swimming pool and aquatic complex to meet the community’s demand for expanded pool use. HIGH PRIORITY PROJECT ................................................................... CAPITAL INFRASTRUCTURE - For both Parks and Recreation there is a need for new facilities and repair to older facilities such as; a new aquatics center, 1,000 Steps replacement and repair to the Tennis facilities. Repair and stabilization of Shoreline Park is also an unexpected infrastructure item.

a-1621199150 May 16, 2021 02:05 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

I would recommend initiating a public records request. Email clerk@santabarbaraca.gov Subject heading: Public Records Request, Skate Park … Dear Sarah or Robert, … Ask for communication or emails between any city employee that mention Skater’s Point or the skate park AND “aggressive youth” or “Jr. high or high school aged youth” or “PD has been advocating that we close the park again” or “ there is some discussion about filling the skate park with mulch” or “I am not feeling like a closure is supported as it will just push the problem elsewhere” ... Don't you think that SB Junior High would be the perfect place? … Public Records Requests take about 10 days to be fulfilled.

a-1621208670 May 16, 2021 04:44 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

I have no problem with Skater's Point remaining in operation as is. I understand that the pro skaters and skateboard shops that created it would like to expand & that this cohort would greatly value the creation of a skate park with advanced features . This type of park has options with regard to where it could go.. I would choose a location that is less valued by a residential neighborhood. Plaza de Vera Cruz would be a perfect choice, if the Goleta Skateboard Movement could lobby for it. Not many people would object, and an *advanced* park need not be an appropriate location for young children. Perfect. Win-win.

a-1621266607 May 17, 2021 08:50 AM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Skateboarding is hugely popular and the one skatepark at the beachway, a very poor place for it, is crowded often overcrowded. Another skatepark is greatly needed on the eastside and having it in Ortega Park would serve a lot of people. A large swimming pool for a city on the ocean is a luxury. A pool such as exists at Ortega Park is perfect, if the park is to be considered a neighborhood park.

a-1621318766 May 17, 2021 11:19 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Ortega Park CAN have a large pool and still be a neighborhood park. I don't know why it is said that the pool has to be small to be a community pool or has to be small if Ortega Park is to be a neighborhood park. These parameters cast a negative light on pools that are large enough to actually serve the neighborhood/community with all of the desired programs. We want a neighborhood park, a community pool, and a large pool. All can be achieved at once.

a-1621118541 May 15, 2021 03:42 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

I’d much rather have a pool than a skatepark. How was the whole thing decided? Seems like there should have been either a vote, or a well-designed survey of all city residents—or at least those in the surrounding area.

a-1621119604 May 15, 2021 04:00 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

When they do community outreach, it's meant to not reach anybody (via City of SB website, small-time newspaper, radio, etc). That way they can push through what they had wanted to push through, with input from their buddies and contributors. No lie.

Sensibly Common May 15, 2021 05:56 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

I attended the meetings they held at the junior high a few years ago. There were a lot of people there. I thought they were really well organized. I’d love another pool in town. I asked at the meeting where the money would come from to build it and maintain it, but they said TBD. The kiddie pool at Los Banos was out of commission due to maintenance issues so I don’t know how a second full pool will be maintained.

22701015201 May 16, 2021 01:42 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

The city filled the kiddie pool with cement a few years ago. The filtration system could not handle both the large pool and kiddie pool. Instead of upgrading the filtration system for two pools that would need to be replaced soon the city just chose to fill it with cement.

NostraChumash May 16, 2021 12:33 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

I choose mural over pool due to location, & the fact that SB can't have "nice things" due to the historical treatment of past attempts ie:
Statues or fountains
Black swans
Free bikes
At lesst a mural has expression & can be more easily repaired.

RHS May 15, 2021 06:03 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

The city is wiling to spend millions to push through bike lanes used by a very few. The pool would be a huge boon for the community and would be a much better use of funds. This is just one example of how city staff has power over elected representatives. The staff has been given the power to say what happens. This is partially because council member and mayor want deniability. They often say that "staff" has told them that something cannot be done. They, in truth, should be telling staff what to do and let staff then figure out how to do it. Democracy, what a vision.

letmego May 17, 2021 10:01 AM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

I see the bike lanes near me used all the time on my (car) commute.
Used by adults and by kids going to school.

West side to La Cumbre, West side to San Marcos...also to SBJH and SBHS.

Transparent May 16, 2021 10:05 AM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Funding comes from City Council, not a department head. Spend your energy there.

The idea that Parks & Rec is secretly delaying the pool displays a fundamental misunderstanding of how projects go down in local government.... as if they are sitting on a pile of money that could do this and are choosing not to. It's all public information. You are right about one thing -- there is no funding identified, and until there is it won't happen. Funds come in buckets with specific purposes and restrictions. [For example, did you watch the departments budget presentation/approval to council that just went down?]

Just go to Council. If you succeed or fail there, that's democracy. Or try to raise money and do community building on your own. Either way, you'll be happier, more productive, and spare everyone a lot of needless friction if you advocate and lobby in the places where the decision you want can even be made.

In the meantime, we have a public pool like a mile away, so I'm not freaking out about this too much.

a-1621189979 May 16, 2021 11:32 AM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Transparent, tidbits of good advice there, and other parts not so much. When's the last time you scheduled time to swim at Los Banos? Do you have young children trying to find swim lessons? Do you feel that these things are accessible to all residents? Do you think that gym memberships are affordable to all families? Did you know that public pool space is critical infrastructure? And did you know that, according to a SB report done in 2003, Santa Barbara is severely lacking in this department? Los Banos barely scratches the surface of what we need. And who do you think goes without? Most of our low income residents can't swim. Have you noticed that most people who drown are people of color? Does this concern you?

22701015201 May 16, 2021 01:39 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

First, AMG knows what she's talking about. It is clear as day that she knows more about how the city works than the Council does.

Second, did you notice who the letter was addressed to? The letter is addressed to the City Council and Commissioners. They will decide the next steps in this process and determine if new workshops are necessary, or the final grant proposal will be submitted as is to the State for consideration. - The $8.5M grant will be awarded by the State Parks Department. It is being applied for under criteria that includes a high rate of poverty in the neighborhood and park facilities that are in dire need of refurbishment because the city has let it become dilapidated.

Third, do you realize that getting people to advocate for change is fundamental for democracy? You are complaining that AMG needs to go to the City Council. She's done that. Posting this letter on Edhat is her way of getting community members to weigh in on the issue. How do I know this? In the last paragraph she asks readers to contact the City Council who will make the ultimate decision.

Finally, you sound entitled when you say you are not "freaking out" about the lack of a pool. You might not feel it is important to you, but it is important to other community members. Put yourself in their shoes. Generations of kids used the pool and took swimming lessons at Ortega Park. No one told the community members who participated in the workshops that if the Ortega Park Master Plan eliminated the pool that it could be 8 to 10 years before another one was built. No one said that the City might rely on donations to build a pool after the city planned for the current one to be demolished either. Don't you think community members would have chosen a design that kept the current pool until a new one could be built if they knew this? If Ms. Zachary said this out loud in a Council hearing what do you think the City Council would do? My guess is that upon hearing this the Council would be hard pressed to move forward which may be why Ms. Zachary muddies the water with her vague answers when Councilmembers ask about timing. As for using the pool at Los Banos you apparently don't know that a lot of our community members don't know about it, or feel comfortable going to Los Banos, which is hard to access. Why? Los Banos is booked for things other than general swimming (i.e. play time for kids) and youth swimming lessons. - I'm not even going to get into the high rate of death and injuries related to minorities who can't swim which happen to be the majority of our youth. I think I've shown that you can't relate to the people who will have their only community pool demolished because the community didn’t have the information to make good choices during the workshops.

a-1621216733 May 16, 2021 06:58 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

I also agree with 1:39's comment. I realize that people on the financial edge need others to advocate for them. A pool is a good use of public funds -- but I'm not sure where it stands on the infrastructure priority list for me. I am undecided. Thank you all for your efforts.

VinSB May 16, 2021 01:38 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Since 1950, the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) has developed
and promulgated National standards for recreation, parks, and open space. The
NRPA standards are the most widely accepted and used standards, especially by
local governments. .......
The current NRPA standards recommend that one pool be provided per 20,000
residents and that the pool accommodate 3% to 5% of the total population at a time. ...
For the City of Santa Barbara with 96,125 residents, pools should accommodate
2,900 to 4,800 residents at one time. The NRPA recommends that each person in
the water be allocated a minimum of of 15 square feet with a preferred standard
of 25 square feet. ...
Based upon these standards, the water surface standard to accommodate the City
of Santa Barbara’s current population is as follows:
Minimum: 96,125 residents x 3% x 15 sf. per person = 43,256 sf. of water surface
Preferred: 96,125 residents x 3% x 25 sf. per person = 72,094 sf. of water surface
Based on the higher standard of serving 5% of the population at one time:
Minimum: 96,125 residents x 5% x 15 sf. per person = 72,094 sf. of water surface
Preferred: 96,125 residents x 5% x 25 sf. per person = 120,156 sf. of water surface
Applying both minimal and preferred standards to a population of 180,040 within the
study area, the minimum NRPA standard is 81,018 sf. and the preferred standard is
225,050 sf. of water surface. ...
A 50-meter x 25-meter pool has 14,500 sf. of water surface.
A 25-meter x 25-yard pool 6,187 sf. of water surface.
The City of Santa Barbara public swimming pools have 14,125 sf. of water surface
of which 4,200 sf. of water surface is wading pools.
(This was 2003 and only includes the population within City Limits)

a-1621205640 May 16, 2021 03:54 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Re high school pools, good question, but they can't be relied upon. Competitive programs, namely water polo, use this space and apparently it's dog eat dog. Not only that, they're at the mercy of SBUSD which isn't easy. If you are a person without influence, don't count on it.

Babycakes May 16, 2021 03:54 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

As much as a full-size swimming pool is a good idea, after reading the comments here, it seems as if it's one of the last thing that the City of SB is considering spending money on. Of course, that's just my "feeling" and hopefully I'm wrong. Given the current political climate, the murals appear to be of the upmost importance to our government, and as such will be given the funding to preserve. Just imagine what Ortega Park would be like without those murals that have been there for so many years. It would be like removing the Rainbow Arch by East Beach.

bornatcottageho... May 16, 2021 04:01 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

AMG is correct. The City of SB hasn't a dime to spare so people like Zachary have people go after grants to fund these capital project and the city may put in a few bucks but not fund the whole project. With those grants comes a skim for the department. SB can't even keeps the medians weeded or the streets in decent repair, it's rather comical, and sad, and gross. Ortega Park should remain as is. Period. Tyler Haden should chase the grant down and see who is funding it and what the conditions are. Usually there are many and the grants are conditional. Where is the grant money coming from? Is it a CDBG (community development block grant)? These grants require prevailing wage and are generally a huge waste of money. And, for a city like SB to rely on donations for some add is appalling. Repeal prop 13 and you'd have the money needed. A skate park is nice but it only serves a very select demographic. A pool is more a greater good for the people.

Basicinfo805 May 16, 2021 04:08 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

A pool would be inherently more valuable than any mural if that's what we're debating here. Kids need to be exercising in whatever manner they can. A mural does nothing for childhood obesity which is rampant in our country, and the lower eastside is a perfect example of it. The mural does nothing at all for that. It's a park. Public health matters. Recreation matters. Which draws the kids outdoors more - a mural or a pool?

a-1621207977 May 16, 2021 04:32 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

I agree with your points regarding the value of a pool. However, whether a pool would be inherently more valuable than a mural was not being debated here. You are the first person to bring this up.

LocalinSB May 16, 2021 04:50 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Lose the skate park. Fund the pool ASAP. Keep the murals. That's the message everyone should be sending to the city council.
This city council really needs to do its job and step up for the community instead of letting Paul Casey and other city staff members set their agendas. Or, have special interest groups lobby to put things like a 'hero pay' on the agenda for a few people for 60 days. Instead of a living wage for the whole community. (Kristen Snedden seems to be the only council member willing to put a living wage on an agenda. I'm eagerly waiting that.) Meanwhile, from what I've seen, all these council members do is take action on priorities that the community generally doesn't want. I wish they would listen to community members and think about the long-term consequences of the decisions they've been making. Most really do not make sense. Worse yet, most actually serve to push our current residents out of the city just so they can drive back to town to work, or put more money in the pockets of property owners and developers to the detriment of our residents.

elderswimmer May 16, 2021 06:26 PM
Op-Ed: Revising the Ortega Park Master Plan IS Urgent

Murals might be attractive but contribute nothing to the general public. Skate board parks cater to a small group of users who have a history of troublemaking at the current skatepark. Do not destroy that but take into consideration the future safety of citizens who want to use the beaches. Children need a safe place to learn to swim and to swim for health and recreation. Please do not take away this important asset. Los Banos pool is great--but inadequate for a city the size of Santa Barbara.


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