Sunset Beacon
March 2005


Public Gets Glimpse of Sava Pool Plan
New Swimming Pool Will be Shorter and Have Wider Lanes

By Dmitry Kiper

Sava Pool, the busiest public swimming pool in San Francisco, has stood at Wawona Street and 19th Avenue for 46 years. It is not going anywhere, but if everything goes according to plan, the pool will be demolished next February and a new one will be built.

Construction of an improved replacement will begin after demolition and take about a year and eight months to complete. The SF Recreation and Park Department is overseeing the project.

According to architect Paulett Taggart, the project is currently near the end of the "schematic phase," in which general design ideas and measurements are agreed upon by the major stakeholders. The new pool will be 75 feet long and have eight lanes, each seven-and-a-half feet wide.

The "design development" phase is expected to be completed in March. That is when the recreation and park department and the architects working on the project will disclose what materials are necessary for construction and provide a general outline of the electrical, structural and mechanical systems of the building. The calculations, according to architect Mark Cavagnero, will be made with "typical conditions" in mind.

During the construction planning phase, which is expected to last from April to September, the "particulars of the building" will be factored into the design. Taggart says everything will be transferred into hard numbers and committed to paper.

After the particulars of the project are known, contractors will bid for the right to build the structure. 

Project director Tony Leung, of the Recreation and Park Department, says the project should cost about $11.6 million. There is still a funding shortfall of $2.6 million, which Leung says will have to be raised to complete the project. His office is currently working with Supervisor Fiona Ma to find sources of funding.

"We won't start the project until all the funding is available," Leung said.

"The construction cost is $7.7 million," he said. "But that is without factoring in a 'construction contingency.' It is a reserve you want to set aside for unpredictable conditions."

Problems with the weather, soil or minor architectural changes or blunders can cost millions.

The idea to build a new pool goes back to the summer of 1999. Norm Kong and Dick Allen, the founding members of Friends of Sava Pool, were frustrated because, like many other parents, they had to go to swim meets out of town. Official swimming competitions were not held at the pool because of its non-standard length (100 feet) and poor condition.  

"We love to swim at Sava Pool," said Allen, "and we wanted the facilities to be upgraded."

"The building is structurally unsound," Taggart said. "It's in bad shape due to exposure to moisture all these years."

"The heating ventilation and air conditioning system hasn't worked well for 15 years," Cavagnero said. "The wood is rotted and the steel is rusted. It's not up to code for an earthquake."

Furthermore, the current building's locker rooms, bathrooms and showers are difficult for handicapped users to access.

Although there is little objection to fixing the decrepit condition of the pool, there is some discourse over its length.

At a community meeting in February, 2004, some neighbors were outraged to learn that the length of the new pool would be cut from 100 feet to 75 feet. The architects also announced that the pool would have only six lanes due to budget limitations.

"You're going to spend all this money on a pool that isn't even as long as the one we have now," one audience member said. "This is a joke."

One major outcome of last year's meeting, Leung said, was an increase in the number of lanes: The new pool will have eight lanes as opposed to six, and they will be wider than the current lanes.

At the Feb. 28, 2005 meeting, neighbors were curious as to the plan for the pool. The architects and the project director answered questions on a wide range of topics, including the location of the main entrance (on Wawona Street because 19th Avenue has too much traffic), the cutting down of trees on the construction site (some trees will be cut, but replacement trees will be planted) and teenagers who like to drink and hang out near the entrance on Friday nights (the area will be well lighted with a fence in front of the entrance).

After architects presented a model of what the new pool will look like, a Sava Pool swimming instructor suggested the showers have a second entrance because it is not uncommon for sexual abuse to occur in showers and changing rooms. He said the second entrance would make the shower area more visible and easier to evacuate.

The neighbors' recommendations were noted and their concerns - primarily the fact that the new pool will be 25 feet shorter - were addressed.

"It's a question of balancing the need of all the users of the pool," Taggart said. "There are high schools that use the facilities. The (current) pool is 25 feet longer, but it is an odd length. It needs to be competition length."

Swim teams at Lowell and Lincoln high schools use the pool regularly.

While last year's efforts to have an Olympic-size swimming pool (50 meters) were curtailed because of a lack of funding, a standard short-course competition pool (75 feet) was agreed upon as the best option.

After the meeting, some neighbors said they had a better understanding of the project.