My View: We May Need to Reconsider Pool Funding

New playground at Central Park is the type of amenity we risk if we do not plan economic development.
New playground at Central Park is the type of amenity we risk if we do not plan economic development.

The city has thus far refused to acknowledge this publicly, but the Vanguard has it on two very good sources that the civic pool has a substantial leak – 7500 gallons per day. The Vanguard has held the position that the city of Davis should focus on roads and critical infrastructure first.

At the same time, the Vanguard has pushed forward an ideal, behind the innovation parks, which seeks for more than just maintaining bare-necessity city services. The argument we have posed there is that Davis has three paths – we can continue to cut staff and services and lose the vital city services and amenities that make Davis what it is; we can continue to ramp up taxes; or we can bring in new revenue through innovation parks.

In the longer term, through the substantial construction fees and the ongoing tax revenue, we may be able to maintain city services, but we have argued all along that those revenues are five to ten years off.

Look no further than the Mace Innovation Park’s layout plan where they hope to get to a Measure J vote by the end of next year, get the project on line by 2016 and allow Schilling Robotics to move in 2017. That’s three years, just for a retention of Schilling.

Rob White has argued that we can expect perhaps a 250,000 square foot per year build out. We are still talking a decade before we see that full $4 to $7 million.

I thought Ken Petruzzelli of the Davis Aquatic Masters laid it out pretty well this week in his guest Vanguard piece. He wrote, “Framing discussion of Davis pools in terms of necessities versus luxuries creates a false dichotomy. Amenities such as pools are central to creating and maintaining community. Amenities make a city an attractive and enjoyable place to live. Given that people typically want to live where they work, civic amenities have never played a greater role in attracting businesses to a city and attracting talent to businesses.”

Do we want to live in a community that has to cut corners to survive? The B-modified street, sidewalk, bike path plan calls for us to ramp up spending to the point where we have an average PCI of about 63. In schoolyard terms, that means Davis’ roads would rate a D.

That does not include what it would take to repair our pools, maintain our parks, and fix our city buildings.

As Mr. Petruzzelli writes, “In the coming months, as Davis again discusses how to invest money in its civic infrastructure, we hope the public will consider how pools and other amenities enrich our community.”

That has to be part of our discussion, because right now, a $50 parcel tax would probably pass and a $100 or $150 parcel tax would likely fail. Right now, the polling shows a $100 parcel tax fails to get to two-thirds, clocking in with 58% support, the same of the sales tax measure, while a $150 parcel tax fails to even get a majority.

One of my biggest criticisms of the city recently was that they ran a bare bones campaign for Measure O. We got it passed – which is crucial. But a strong and robust campaign could have laid the groundwork for a parcel tax this fall. Absent that, we are spinning our wheels.

What we need to do is lay out a community discussion – and we need to do this not only for the parcel tax but also for the innovation parks.

First, we need to lay out the facts of the city’s fiscal situation. The fiscal situation is unbelievably bleak, particularly in an economic environment that is finally seeing headway on real estate market growth, reduction of employment, and the creation of new jobs.

But with more than a $1 billion coming in from UC Davis in research money, we can do better here and we need to sell the public on the notion that economic development will lead to a decreased need for tax revenue measures in the future.

Second, we need to be honest with the public. Too many people say we do not need to lament about the past, we need to talk about the future. For me, at least talking about the past means we come clean about our mistakes and lay out a road map for fixing them.

The public needs to understand that the sales tax merely dealt with the immediate structural deficit. That structural deficit was caused primarily by increased costs of providing services for city employees.

People need to understand that employee compensation is the vast majority of our general budget, they need to understand that for years we balanced the budget by deferring maintenance and that the parcel tax is needed to upgrade and repair critical citizen infrastructure.

Third we need to have a frank and open discussion – what do you want Davis to look like in five, ten and twenty years. That needs to include the level of service and amenities that we want. Do we want to continue to have lush, green parks, greenbelts, community pools, community recreation and other amenities of this sort? What are we willing to pay to provide them short term? And are we willing to vote for peripheral innovation parks to fund them long term?

This discussion has to start happening now. The clock is ticking on a possible parcel tax for the spring and innovation park Measure R votes starting in November 2015. We need to make the case to the public about why we need this, why the city can be trusted, and how this will help the community retain its vital elements.

Can we get to $100 or $150 on a parcel tax? I think, if we lay out this case to the public, we have a chance. But it is going to take a campaign-level effort to get there, and I don’t see the commitment yet from city officials and the council to do that.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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    1. Topcat

      Does anyone here have an idea how much it would cost to repair the leaking pool? I imagine that it would require draining the pool and then doing some major structural work. It might even be cheaper to tear up the old pool and build a new one.

      1. Frankly

        The process as I understand it is for the gunite to be jackhammered out from the rebar shell and new gunite spayed in and then plastered over. It is not inexpensive, but is cheaper than building a new pool.

        1. paul Brady

          Yes, we had our pool repaired – some gunite – and replastered for about $4500. Civic has close to 6 times the surface so the cost should not be that high. There may be City requirements that run the cost up somewhat, but not above $100K one would think. Civic pool is well-used: it has 8 lanes and is close to the campus. Summer use is about 12 hours a day by the Aquadarts, Masters and a public hour which may be seasonal? In winter Masters has about 8 workout hours, I recall, and Aquadarts used to have a couple of hours after school. There maybe one hour for public swimming?

          1. Manny Carbahal

            Is that true? The public’s access is limited to one hour per day, but we want to assess an additional $50 – $100 per parcel, per year? That does not really seem fair to me.

    2. Ken

      There are several potential causes. Some, as David mentioned, could be in the millions. In our last meeting with Staff there were looking more closely to get a more exact idea of the cause and how much it could cost to fix.

      1. SODA

        You have said the interim is not performing as hoped. Who would have the leadership and authority to plan and make these decisions. Just the fact that the leak info has not been made available to the public seems to prove my point. 7500 gals/day in a drought seems pretty serious?

        1. hpierce

          Serious? It’s catastrophic! That’s equivalent to 30 SF homes (somewhat less if you account for evaporation from the surface of the pools, but let’s assume that’s been figured in)! let’s fix all the pools now for whatever it costs, and stop the construction of the Cannery (daily dust control and other construction water surely exceeds 7500 gal/day), in order to conserve that 7500 gal/day!

          Number ONE priority for the City!

      2. hpierce

        A City Manager would be helpful. ANY past one would be an improvement from the current interim. Although not in name, Mr Pinkerton was an interim/transitional CM.

        Krovosa was instrumental in the hiring of both. Must have been the right way to go.

  1. realchangz

    2.7MM gallons a year down the rat hole – not to mention what it must be doing to the foundations of the adjacent structures. Yes, I’d say the budget shortfall is beginning to manifest in ways that everybody can agree are simply unacceptable.

    David, thank you for the continued and sustained focus on the need for new revenues.

    1. hpierce

      “what it must be doing to adjacent structures”… yeah. Civic Center gym and a portion of the DJUSD admin complex… obviously the writer doesn’t realize that every drop of water that enters soil recharges the City aquifer. But even if it doesn’t, no problem… the city will acquire the DJUSD property at a premium price, independent of the condition (as they did with City offices, the old HS).

      “2.7 MM gallons/year”… that’s ~ one-hundredth of 1 percent (or less) of the City’s water use… utterly scandalous! We need DECISIVE ACTION NOW!

      1. Don Shor

        obviously the writer doesn’t realize that every drop of water that enters soil recharges the City aquifer.

        Not the aquifer we’re pumping from, but yes.

        1. hpierce

          Actually, Don, you missed my facetious intent. Maybe at Civic Center, the soils are porous enough to reach an unused ‘aquifer’ at 30-60 foot depth. Maybe.

      2. realchangz

        You guys are free to laugh about and tech talk this all you want. But in the midst of a 218 process, there a lots of voters out there who may not see a couple of millions of gallons down the drain as no big deal. Part of it is attitude and part of it is optics.

        Point being, a city our size that can’t afford to fix a major leak in the main pool, and a staff that is uncomfortable in bringing the matter to public attention, has got a lot bigger problems on its hands.

        Here’s hoping our incoming CC can find the bandwidth to meaningfully address the revenue shortfalls – and the principal causal factors related to a paucity of economic activity – that otherwise inhibit this community’s ability to afford essential public infrastructure.

        1. hpierce

          Attitude and optics… perhaps you are correct, but attitude and optics are part of illusion.sleight-of-hand, NOT reality. If you are correct that a significant number of voters are more swayed by the former than the latter, we do indeed have a significant, if not insurmountable problem.

          1. realchangz

            Interesting juxtaposition. Arguably, it is has been the sustained financial sleight-of-hand employed in development of successive city budgets – relying upon accumulation of unfunded liabilities and deferred infrastructure expenditures to achieve a “balanced budget” – that has brought us to where we are today. In that case, one could argue that we had illusion masquerading as official reality.

            Frankly, I’m not worried about our public capacity for sound, common sense decision making when presented with accurate, reliable, actionable information. Given the makeup of our recent past and current city council, and their commitment to transparency in fiscal reporting, I’d say we have every reason to be optimistic about getting back on track.

  2. Tia Will


    I truly appreciate this commentary. I think that this is the clearest I have seen you spell out the immediate, short term, and long term needs that are facing the city as well as which measures will meet which needs. The innovation park concept is clearly a long range plan. It will not in any way address the immediate needs and should not be confused with the need for immediate and short term solutions. I want to join you in calling a clear, concise and consistent message from our city leaders that both a parcel tax and ongoing economic development will be necessary to meet our immediate, short term and long term needs.

      1. realchangz

        And lest the point be missed entirely, the employment opportunities afforded by a gathering of world-class technology employers should not be considered a secondary benefit. Unique amongst our peer communities, Davis has the clear advantage of proximity to both foster and encourage the creation of such career opportunities. Together the cultural, professional and economic impacts upon our local economy can not be overemphasized.

    1. David Greenwald

      The question isn’t whether it costs more to build a new 50 meter pool or fix the existing one, it’s whether the costs of continuing to fix aging infrastructure prove to be more cost effective than swapping them out for a new 50 meter pool and there I think the question is much more of a close call.

        1. David Greenwald

          That’s not how I understand it. It’s aging infrastructure.

          So say you have a ten year old car, runs fairly well, but in the last few years you have an increasing amount of small repairs and then you get hit with a big one. You could argue that it’s still cheaper to repair the car or you could argue that you’re pouring an increasing amount of money into a declining asset.

          That’s I think what you’re looking at with the pools.

      1. realchangz

        Taken in isolation, your analysis makes eminent sense. Taken in context of our current fiscal challenges, and how we got here, do we run the risk that the new standard becomes don’t take of care of what you’ve got because you “can’t afford to”, and you will be rewarded with a newer, better one? What should be our priorities as a community, a new $10MM DSHS Multipurpose Room or the Community Pool. It really is time to rethink this financial model.

  3. Frankly

    Workers at our new innovation parks need to exercise too. How about a community center with a couple of pools be included. Fill the leaking pool with dirt and make it a community garden.

  4. rogerbockrath

    I have an idea! How about some of the 600 swimmers per day who use the Civic Pool showers cut just one minute off their shower length. I’m sure this would more than compensate for the 7500 gal/day leak, at least until Civic Pool receives it’s annual maintenance drain down in December, when the leak can be fixed. Pools develop leaks as they age. Fixing leaks in pools is just a maintenance fact of life. No big deal.

    By the way, changing out/replacing 7500 gals/day helps dilute all that sunscreen that clouds the water at Civic Pool.

    People who want the city to conserve water might be well to ask the city what happens to the 240,000 gallons that is annually drained from Civic Pool when it receives it maintenance shut down. You can bet that it is not pumped onto the adjacent play field during the month of December ! Sounds like poor management to me.

  5. WesC

    “Vanguard has it on two very good sources that the civic pool has a substantial leak – 7500 gallons per day”

    I would like to know who the sources are and how they came up with the 7,500 gallon number. I suspect they just might have a vest interest in advocating for a new pool.

    To put this leak in perspective the EPA estimates that 10% of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day. If 10% of the approx 24,000 homes in Davis leak 90 gallons per day, this is 216,000 wasted gallons per day. The 7,500 leaks gallons per day from the pool is equivalent to what 83 homes would waste if they had leaks that fit the EPA estimate.

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