|Charity Plunges Into
Rescue Of Landmark Richmond Pool
November 6, 1997
Suzanne Espinosa Solis, Chronicle Staff Writer Thursday, November 6, 1997
A charitable organization in Richmond wants to take over the city-run Plunge, the landmark swimming pool that officials say needs millions of dollars in seismic strengthening to stay open.
One day after Richmond voters overwhelmingly defeated Measure H, a $24 million bond issue that would have paid for improvements to public buildings, including the Plunge, the nonprofit group said it had an alternative proposal.
Walter Fauerso, president of the 19-year-old Richmond Friends of Recreation, said the group will ask city officials to sell or turn over the indoor pool in Point Richmond.
``We're going to keep fighting to keep the Plunge,'' Fauerso said. ``We feel we can run the Plunge. We would seek grants from foundations and donations from people who have a special place in their heart for the Plunge.''
The 71-year-old indoor pool, distinguished by its elaborate ornamentation and fronted by four white columns, has deteriorated over the years to a such a degree that the city says parts of the building are unsafe. The pool itself is in good shape.
Measure H would have provided $4.5 million to retrofit the pool, which is listed on the National Historic Register, so that it could withstand an East Bay earthquake the magnitude of the the 1989 Loma Prieta temblor.
The measure also called for seismic upgrades to City Hall and the Hall of Justice, and would have paid for a new earthquake-strong 911 dispatch center. The current center is on the third floor of the Hall of Justice, which officials said could be badly damaged by a strong jolt.
City officials who supported Measure H said they had no immediate plans to pursue those seismic improvements without a bond issue.
But yesterday, even opponents of Measure H said they wanted to save the Plunge.
City Councilman Nathaniel Bates, who opposed the ballot proposal, said he would convene a committee of residents in the next two weeks to evaluate the Plunge and seek ways of keeping it open.
Bates said the public is distrustful of the City Council -- reflected in the 66 percent ``no'' vote on Measure H, which the council put on the ballot
--and should be allowed to study the Plunge to determine whether the building genuinely needs seismic improvements.
``We just had the Loma Prieta, and (federal emergency agents) looked at the Plunge and all those buildings, and they did not qualify for federal funds,'' Bates said. ``It wasn't as unsafe as people claim it to be.''
He said the committee would be made up of opponents of Measure H.
``Measure H was all predicated on if -- if we have an earthquake of 7.5 or 8.5, this is supposed to happen,'' Bates said. ``I'm not God, and nobody else is God, but we may well go on another 100 years and not get one. It's all speculation.''
Bates said his committee would also look at City Hall, the Hall of Justice and the 911 center and make recommendations to the council.
Councilman Tom Butt, who supported Measure H, insisted that the $24 million bond would have been a good investment. An architect whose firm handles many seismic retrofitting projects, Butt conceded that persuading the public to pay for earthquake improvements was an even harder job than selling them to private businesses.
``No one gets excited about doing this work,'' Butt said. ``You spend a lot of money, and when you walk back into the building, it doesn't look any better. Although it might be a lot safer, you can't see it.''