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August 15, 2010

After a remarkable decade long effort marked by the undaunted persistence of the Save the Plunge Trust and thousands of supporters and donors, the popular Richmond Municipal Natatorium has risen like a phoenix (yes, there was a fire, too) to join a growing number of revived landmarks from Richmond’s rich history that are redefining our city. Within the last five years, we have seen the Ford Assembly Plant, the Civic Center Complex, the Trainmaster Building (Santa Fe Reading Room) bring civic life, jobs and economic development to Richmond. All of these have been supported by the City Council in one way or another, including some component of funding, but all have also attracted millions of dollars in funding from outside sources, leveraging many times what the City of Richmond has provided.

All are icons of sustainability. Just preserving an existing building saves embodied energy on a scale that even an energy saving new building would take 65 years to save. But these projects not only save old structures but are cutting edge energy savers in addition, helping to lower Richmond’s carbon footprint. The Civic Center rehabilitation achieved LEED Gold certification, and the Ford Assembly Building meets all of its electrical needs from the sun. The Plunge includes significant solar electrical generation and water heating from panels on the roof.

Additional historic landmark projects that will be completed in the next few months include the Maritime Child Care Center and the Winters Building rehabilitations.

The Richmond Plunge reopens after 9 years

Matthai Kuruvila, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Lena Henderson and daughter Jade Powell, 6, swim in the R...Rosemary Fonseca, manager when the pool closed, tests the...The first swimmers splash and play in the enormous Richmo...Paula Eterovich (left) and Jessie West wait for the Plung...More...
June Albonico first swam in the Richmond Plunge 78 years ago, when she was 5 years old. Saturday, she was the first one in the massive pool, which reopened after a nine-year closure that many feared would be permanent.
"It's like coming home," Albonico said, hanging onto the edge of the pool next to her daughter and grandson.
She worked at the iconic pool more than half her life, taught a legion of young swimmers and saw five generations of her family swim under the massive trusses. Community tied this place together even as earthquakes, tight budgets and the slow wear of time threatened to bring it down.
"When people come here, it's almost like being part of a family," she said.
Saturday was a day she never thought would come.
The Richmond Municipal Natatorium, as the Plunge is officially known, was built in 1926, the tail end of an era of pool palaces spread around the nation. Most of these pools closed down, the most extravagant being San Francisco's Sutro Baths, which burned down in 1966.
But the 160-foot-by-60- foot Richmond Plunge persevered, sometimes just barely.
When the Loma Prieta quake struck in 1989, the building took a blow. In a city where money was and remains tight, there wasn't money to pay for repairs.
The city tried to close it in 1997 after inspectors warned that it was unsafe, but residents revolted. A ballot measure was put up, but voters turned that down. By 2001, the building itself sent a message.
Engineers found sagging walls, crumbled plaster and exposed reinforcing rods. Richmond closed the Plunge.
"We kept it as long as we could," Rosemary Corbin, the city's mayor from 1993 to 2001, said. "It was very sad, and the public was outraged."
But then the Richmond community started to pick up the pieces.
A medley of sources pieced together the roughly $7.5 million in funding: individual donations, gifts from local businesses, state grants for historical preservation, a portion of a regional parks bond and city money.
It's the kind of partnership politicians always preach about, but doesn't often happen. Berkeley just closed one of its pools and is set to close another in a year because voters alone were asked to pay for a $22.5 million parcel tax, which would have funded that city's four pools.
In Richmond, "everybody put something in," said Rich Davidson, a city engineer and project manager for the Richmond Plunge renovation. "It's a magical pool."
Others saw the comeback as a moral about something else.
"The one lesson we should keep in mind in this is, 'never give up,' " Corbin told the crowd of hundreds on Saturday.
But this resurrection was not just about bringing back the old.
True, the project restored tiling, murals, the original number of windows and other features that were present in 1926 but had been phased out in later years. But the Plunge is also a pool for the future.
The new Richmond Plunge has solar power, LED lighting above the pool, and high-efficiency water heaters, all of which will pay for themselves in energy costs in seven years.
One of the things that people remember most about the Plunge wasn't so fond: the chlorine.
"When I used to swim here, I used to go through so many bathing suits," said Jill Smith, 32, who started swimming at the Plunge when she was 7. "The chlorine would take the color out."
She had a swimsuit to take everywhere else, and one for the Plunge.
"You didn't want to ruin a new one," she said.
At the new Plunge, water is cleaned through an ultraviolet disinfectant system and saline chlorination. No more burning of the eyes or eroding of fabric.
"Healthwise and energywise, this could be the wave of the future for new pools," said Richardson.
E-mail Matthai Kuruvila at mkuruvila@sfchronicle.com.
This article appeared on page C - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Public pool re-opens in Richmond

Updated at 07:22 PM today
The city of Richmond hosted a grand re-opening of the Richmond Plunge Public Pool.
The city of Richmond hosted a grand re-opening of the Richmond Plunge Public Pool. (KGO Photo)
RICHMOND, CA (KGO) -- The city of Richmond hosted a grand re-opening of the Richmond Plunge Public Pool.
The 84-year-old building was at risk of being torn down, until the community members came together to fund an $8 million retrofit.
There were a lot of people to thank today.
"To the contractors, to the funders, to all the non-profits, to the government agencies, to the neighborhood councils, to the commissioners, to all the residents, who pulled together their energy, their desire, and their dedication to preserve this wonderful, wonderful project," Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said.
"The Plunge" has a rich history in Richmond. When it opened in 1926, it was the largest indoor swimming pool in the state.
(Copyright ©2010 KGO-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

Historic Richmond Plunge Opens as a Solar-powered Pool

  • Aug 14, 2010

The Richmond Plunge, a swimming pool first built in 1926 for area residents near Pt. Richmond, Calif., has undergone a 10-year, complete facelift and will be dedicated today, according to a release from Sun Light & Power, a design/build solar firm based in Berkeley, Calif.
Todd Jersey Architecture developed and implemented the renovation plan to transform this community icon into a green poll. The facility uses solar energy to heat 324,000 gallons of non-chlorinated saline water. The heat is provided through 80 Heliodyne Gobi 410 collectors in an Active Closed Loop pool heating system with Delta T Pro. The technology also includes an Amtrol expansion tank.
There are 3,500 square feet of solar hot water panels for the pool's 324,000 gallons of water, 30 kilowatts of solar panels for electricity, 300 operable windows, a hyper-efficient boiler and sophisticated pool pumps. This saline pool uses an ultraviolet disinfectant system.
The $7.5 million pool was paid for through city redevelopment money, funds from a regional voter measure, individual grants and also the donations, according to Ellen Strauss, president of the Save the Richmond Plunge Trust. The trust raised $500,000 by selling memorabilia and holding a classic car show.
Todd Jersey Architecture was hired to rehabilitate and renovate the historic Richmond Municipal Natatorium-"the Plunge"-in Point Richmond, California. Constructed in 1925, The Plunge is the oldest and largest indoor pool in the San Francisco Bay Area. Once a popular spot for year-round swimming and aquatic therapy, it had been closed since August 2001 because of seismic hazards.