OCEANSIDE — Residents have started a petition to save the Brooks Street Swim Center, a facility the Oceanside City Council will consider closing to offset costs for the new El Corazon Aquatics Center.
The potential closure of local pool was brought up during the Feb. 3 City Council meeting, when city leaders were set to vote on the operation plan for the El Corazon Aquatics Center.
Staff recommended appropriating $429,800 from the general fund for hiring and training of personnel as well as budgeting for $1.66 million in expenditures with only $895,000 as ongoing revenue for the city’s 2021-2022 fiscal year.
Councilmember Christopher Rodriguez was strongly opposed to approving the operation plan due to the gap in funding between expenses and revenue despite Neighborhood Services Director Megan Crooks’ explanation that the $1.66 million in expenses and $895,000 in revenue are conservative estimates.
Crooks along with City Manager Deanna Lorson also added that the new event facility built with the new Aquatics Center would likely bring in far more additional revenue than what the city budgeted.
Still, Rodriguez wasn’t convinced.
“We were not elected to hope for the best, we were elected and put in this position to make tough decisions,” Rodriguez said. “Approving this is not what is best. We need to look at options outside of the box to help offset these costs.”
Councilmember Peter Weiss had similar concerns about the Aquatics Centers’ costs and suggested using the costs from the Brooks Street pool to help pay for El Corazon. Weiss noted the Brooks Street pool costs about $700,000 annually to operate and needs about $4-6 million in deferred maintenance and upgrades.
Deputy Mayor Ryan Keim was also concerned about costs, but he wasn’t quite ready to decide on closing the Brooks Street pool. He instead preferred to look at the possible option and its numbers at a future meeting.
Because closing the Brooks Street pool wasn’t an item on the meeting agenda, Council wouldn’t have been able to vote on it during the Feb. 3 meeting anyway. Instead, both the approval of the El Corazon operation plan and discussion about the possible closure of Brooks Street pool has been postponed until the Feb. 24 council meeting.
Councilwoman Kori Jensen, newly-appointed District 1 representative, did not speak about the issue during the meeting.
Rodriguez, Weiss and Jensen voted to go forward with postponing El Corazon operation plan approval and looking into Brooks Street pool’s closure. Keim did not want to delay the El Corazon plan any further and voted no, and Mayor Esther Sanchez was outright opposed to both the delay of El Corazon and the possible closure of Brooks Street pool.
Sanchez said the intention of the El Corazon Aquatics Center never included depriving communities on the coast, particularly the Latino neighborhoods of Eastside and Crown Heights, of their own pool.
“The Brooks Street pool has continued to serve the community fully,” Sanchez said. “It is a highly used resource and I’m really surprised that this would come up and that we would be taking from the poor to give to the rich — that’s what it looks like.”
Sanchez disagreed with the idea that the city can’t afford the plan as is. She also noted delaying the El Corazon approval plan would likely delay construction and the promised opening date of Aug. 21.
Historically, low-income families of District 1, as well as Oceanside High School’s swim and water polo teams, have used Brooks Street pool.
According to a petition started on change.org by resident Stephanie Ramos, closing Brooks Street pool would “take community benefits from a low-income area and allocate those benefits to a more affluent neighborhood.”
At the Feb. 3 meeting, Keim suggested possibly transporting the children of Crown Heights and Eastside to El Corazon through a potential partnership with the Boys & Girls Club or another non-profit, but resident and Oceanside Justice Coalition co-founder Jimmy Figueroa is skeptical about that possible plan.
“It’s great to say during a council meeting but in practicality who will that fall on?” Figueroa asked during an interview with The Coast News.
Figueroa explained that for these children, their neighborhoods are their world.
“They’re not traveling or going on vacation,” he said.
Figueroa, who grew up in the Tri-City neighborhood in District 3 but has family in District 1 with similar lived experiences, said he didn’t travel past Ventura County until he was 25 years old.
“The means aren’t there to do that, so folks trying to take away that resource is beyond infuriating and disheartening,” he said.