City of Berkeley Swimming Pools

Berkeley, CA
Operated By: 
City of Berkeley
Ages: 
All Ages
Affiliation: 
City-run

Parent Q&A

  • Affordable swimming options in the city of Berkeley

    (11 replies)

    I would really like to be able to swim regularly in an affordable, local public pool after work or before work, and have a place to go with family on weekends during heat waves to escape our apartments' lack of air conditioning, and just to enjoy the water.  So, I'm pretty shocked every summer and every heat wave by the lack of swimming options in Berkeley. I was excited for West Campus to open (near my home), but the pool has such limited hours, it's impossible to fit into an average working day schedule.  I was thinking about trying to get together a group of people to regularly rent out morning or after-work hours, or weekend hours at West Campus but it is still a very expensive prospect (nearly $100 per hour), and if the pool is closed most of the year, not really worth it. I would like to understand why the city of Berkeley has come to a place in 2017 where we have only two pools for a city of +300,000, with absurdly limited hours (especially West Campus), only operating a few months in the year. I'm concerned that as we face more and more heat waves, residents won't have a place to go to find refuge from the heat, since majority of homes aren't air conditioning.  I think we really need to invest in our public pools and parks, to be more resilient to climate change, especially for all the residents who don't have access to private pools, cars for driving out of town, or are unable to pay for UC Berkeley's expensive $20/swim facilities. I realize it may be a political problem, management problem, water problem(?), infrastructure problem, or funding problem, but before diving into local politics and talking to elected officials, I am hoping to have a better understanding of the factors that might explain our limited public pools.  What are the barriers to longer hours, more open days, or even more pools? What can we/I do to change this?  Does anyone have any insight?

    I've raised 3 kids in south Berkeley, and I've lived here more than 30 years. My two older kids were able to swim at Willard pool in the summer, and it was cheap, fun, and walking distance, albeit shared with a shower program for the homeless. Willard pool is now filled with dirt because the city council has decided it's too expensive to repair and maintain. So no swimming for my youngest or for any other kid in the south part of Berkeley, homeless or no. The kids in north Berkeley have King pool. I'm told we in south Berkeley have other alternatives - we can pay to swim at the Berkeley YMCA (indoor pools only) or at one of the UC Berkeley pools (not cheap.)  I suppose we could also pay the big bucks to join a club like the Claremont but that's not going to happen. Meanwhile my friends who live in El Cerrito, Albany, Oakland, and Richmond have wonderful public pools for recreational swimming. We've been to birthday parties and school parties at these pools - they are very nice, and not expensive. So why doesn't Berkeley have anything like this?  Even Richmond has a nice pool for its residents but we don't?  It makes Berkeley look like a city that doesn't care about its kids. I recommend writing to the mayor and your city councilperson. Until we let them know we care about this issue, nothing will happen. Here are email addresses: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/City_Council/City_Council__Roster.aspx

    Hello swimmer,

    I hear you. Two public pools (West Campus and next to King Middle School) isn't great, but there are many options close by.  The closing of the pool at Willard Middle school  some years back was a bummer. What is being done to reopen it, I don't know.  Measure C  that was placed on the ballot in 2010 failed. The cost to upgrade it was $2.5 million 7 years ago and is probably more now. You might check with the City and see what is going on. Why not start a "go fund me" or "kickstarter" campaign to raise money to have Willard fixed and reopened or to hire more staff at West Campus.?   Or start the work to get a measure on the City's ballot again for up grading Willard.

    If you really want to swim and have a choice of places, you will need to leave Berkeley to do so. But you won't have to go far. Both Albany, El Cerrito and Oakland have many pools that anyone can use.  The outdoor pool in Oakland's Temescal neighborhood is decent and has lap swimming 5 days a week starting at 6:30 am.  These pools can all be access via AC Transit buses (so you don't need to "drive out of town" to swim). And finally, have you considered getting a basic YMCA membership so you could use one of the 3 pools there? 

    So having only two public pools in Berkeley for the 1121,480 households (2010 census which doesn't count students) isn't ideal, but folks make it work.   

    My adult children both learned to swim at Willard pool and Strawberry (UC) pool. Willard pool has been inoperable for many years and Strawberry costs $10 for adults and $5 for children plus $1.00 hour parking. That is over $20 for me and my two young grandchildren. This is $100 a week M-F plus parking. Too much for my budget. The adult fee went up $4.00 this last year. That's quite a jump in cost. Why isn't the pool more affordable for Berkeley residents and why isn't there a summer card which gives a significant discount for adults. (There is a $70 summer card for kids.)

    sage linda spatz

    The campus pools of Cal Berkeley are numerous and hours are reasonable. I think campus pools are very affordable even for community members not affiliated with the university (entry fee of $5 and parking is $1/hr). For example, Strawberry Canyon pool has open swim from 12-6pm and it's more than just a lap pool (lawn space, kids shallow area, locker rooms)...

    As a member of the community, you can join the UC Berkeley RSF for a reasonable monthly rate and get unlimited access to all of their pools, which do have early morning and evening hours. If you don't fall into any of the special categories (alumni, for instance), it is about $75/month. If you swim daily, it is a really good deal. (You also get access to the gym and all exercise classes.) The single-use price for UC's Golden Bear pool just went up from $5 to $10, which is still not too bad. (Also I think the official population of Berkeley is less than half of what you stated in your post, but it can feel overpopulated when trying to swim laps in a crowded pool!)

    Many people tried to keep Willard Pool open. You might want to look through news archives and read about it. 

    http://www.berkeleyside.com/search_gcse/?q=willard%20pool

    Some people suggested that the councilperson from that district was disliked and the other councilpeople closed the pool to get back at him. Who knows? It certainly is expensive to run a pool. It takes a lot of energy to keep all that water warm enough. Although it seems like an investment in solar (like Temescal Pool) would help tremendously. I see pools as a wonderful amenity and good thing for community. I would be happy to pay to keep them open. And it seems silly to keep West Campus Pool warm for 24 hours and then just have it open for a few hours. 

    El Cerrito, Richmond, and Oakland are where the city-run pools are. This is a good article:

    http://www.berkeleyside.com/2017/03/15/first-person-best-lap-swim-pools-...

    We have discovered Lake Anza at Tilden Park and it's absolutely gorgeous there (not for swimming laps, though)

    This is a good question.  I agree that it seems crazy that Berkeley has such a dearth of pools that can actually be accessed by its residents compared to El Cerrito or Albany that share our cool climate.  I recently visited the public pool in El Cerrito and a group of us who were there (all Berkeley residents) discussed how sad it was that Berkeley doesn't have anything that is comparable (big pool, clean locker rooms, parking lot).  I think those with the time and inclination should look into putting a measure on the ballot for a parcel tax to increase hours at the existing pools AND to reopen the closed pool at Willard.  A similar measure failed several years ago but I think that it failed because the backers insisted on including funding to build and operate a warm pool as well as funding to keep the Willard pool operating.  I think (but obviously don't know for sure) that enough voters believed that a warm pool, though a nice idea, was something that was too expensive and designed to serve too few people, and that belief was what doomed the measure.  Perhaps another measure that focused only on basic outdoor pools would succeed.

    In terms of immediate options: King Pool, Albany Pool, the Berkeley Y -- depending on your work schedule one or the other should have hours that help you. For me the Y is the best option day-to-day because it has long hours, though I also use the other pools.

    In terms of the long term -- increasing the parcel tax to pay for more hours at the pool seems like a good idea. The amount charged per swim doesn't cover the costs of keeping the pools open. There was a measure about 6 years ago that failed, but maybe if there are people with energy it could be revived.

    There was significant public discourse about public pools around 10-12 years ago, when the warm pool on the BHS campus closed. At the end of the day, it was deemed to be a large public subsidy of an amenity not enjoyed by many, and users were encouraged to join the Y which has 3 pools. I think it is the case that pools are not seen as an essential service of the City of Berkeley, given that many people do use the Y, or the UC pools, if they use pools at all. (Many people don't enjoy swimming in our cool weather.) You certainly could embark on a political process to gain more support for more hours, or you could join the Y or buy passes to the Albany/El Cerrito/Oakland public pools. I'll just add that believe it or not, some apt complexes in Albany, El Cerrito, and Richmond actually have their own pools. You may want to move if pool access is significantly important to you.

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Parent Reviews

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King Pool in North Berkeley, if it's not too far away for you.  You don't need to be in the water with your kid.

http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Parks_Rec_Waterfront/Recreation/Aquatics_Pr...

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Feb 2011

Re: Private swim lessons for 3.5-yo around Berkeley?
My daughter has been taking private swim lessons through the City of Berkeley at the King Pool on Hopkins Street in North Berkeley, and she finally learned how to swim. The only downside is that, although the pool is heated, it is outside. Google ''City of Berkeley Aquatics'' for current schedule and cost. Robin


Oct 2009

Re: Toddler/baby pool in east bay
Hi, try the Berkeley High School warm pool. It's heated to 94 degrees (really nice) and they have parent tot classes every Friday at 3.30 and Saturdays at 10 (I think). The classes are great, but tend to get pretty crowded. No memebership or advance reservation required - just walk in. Sonali


Sept 2010

Re: Swimming program for 5 month old
I'm sure lots of people will recommend the Berkeley High School Warm Pool tot classes on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. I've taken my baby there since 4 months, the class is pretty nice although it is the same every week, and its inexpensive. The actual facility isn't that nice though, the water could be cleaner, the change room is always freezing - but we still go!


March 2009

Re: Swimming class for 4-month-old
This isn't a class per se, but Berkeley High School has a Parents and Toddlers warm-pool swim class from 3:30-4:30 pm each Friday and 10-11 am (I think) each Saturday. The classes are an hour long, despite what the website says.

The pool is heated to like 85 degrees and the sign says babies who are 5 months and up can participate as long as they wear swim diapers. There is a class leader who does songs, splashing activities, and other things like that with parents and babies in the pool with the intention of helping little ones feel comfortable in the water. It's $6.50 and drop-ins are welcome. I think they do 10 classes for $60, saving a few bucks.

FWIW, they also have warm-pool drop-in hours for people with therapeutic needs/disabilities.

http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/uploadedFiles/Parks_Rec_Waterfront/Level_3__-General/Pool%20Schedule%20Flyer%20BHS%20Winter%202009%20FY%2009.pdf Baby Audrey likes to swim!


Jan 2008

Re: Swim class for mom and 6-month-old
Berkeley Parks and Rec has ''Parent and Tot'' swim session at the Warm Pool (nice and warm!) at Berkeley High on Friday afternoons (click Aquatics Programs for the current schedule: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=5672). I took my baby there a few times when he was 6-12 months old--most of the babies were that age, although occasionally an older toddler came. That was about a year and a half ago. It was fun. There are supposedly two 1/2-hour sessions, but in reality they treated it as a 1-hour session; in other words, one could come at the beginning and swim through both sessions. One pays for each session individually, so you can go as often or little as you like. They have a few bath toys to play with, and, at least when I went, the ''leader'' led a couple of songs at some point, but otherwise it was free swim. There are ''Tiny Tot Times'' (free swim) at Willard and King Pools as well (regular cold pools); I don't have any experience with these. Bobbin' for babies


May 2005

Re: Pool near N. Oakland for family swim
The Berkeley Parks and Recs offers baby & toddler swim time/class in the Berkeley High heated pool (bathtub temperature) every Friday at 3:30 and 4:00. It's drop-in and costs $5.50 per session. It's a great find as it's the only affordable option for a really heated pool. Call Berkeley Parks and Rec. for more details. caitlin


Re: PM swim lessons for 5-year-old (Mar 2005)
If you're willing to go to Berkeley, the city of Berkeley has great swim classes in the summer, both at King Pool and Willard Pool. King is very popular, so on sign up day the line begins to form around 6am. I don't think it's quite that busy at Willard. Call Berkeley Parks and Rec to find out what day they have sign ups. We've gone to this program for 3 years - good instructors, esp. for beginners. kim


Re: Pool for handicapped woman (Jan 2005)
I think Berkeley High (in the old building) has a pool open to the public on drop in basis and I have seen equipment for handicapped access. The space is a little funky - chipping paint and such - but it is clean. anon


Re: Pool for handicapped woman (Jan 2005)
The Berkeley High School Warm Pool on Milvia (at Durant) has senior and disabled swim on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 4:30-7:30pm, and on Sundays from 1:00-4:00pm. It's an indoor pool and the water temperature is 92 degrees. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/recreation/images/PDF/BHSWarmPool.pdf


Re: Drop-in swim class for 21-mo-old (July 2004)
The City of Berkeley offers drop in classes during summer. At King pool, the classes are MWF 12:05-12:30. TTH 5:30?-5:55pm. Double check the times by calling or on the website. There are also classes at Berkeley High, and possibly at Willard too. Anita


March 2004

Re: Swim class for 6-month-old
We take our little guy to the warm pool at Berkeley High on Friday afternoons(4 & 4:30 classes). Its a fun class. I believe its run by the City of Berkeley. We found out about it on a flyer at the Willard Swim Center.


1998

The Berkeley City pools have good, not great, swimming programs that are about $40/month. They include the pools at Willard Jr. High and King Jr. High. Tom


The King Center Pool (schedule available at Willard Pool, corner of Telegraph at Derby) offers toddler swimming, as do all the local YMCA's (that have pools). Albany pool (behind Albany highschool) may also offer toddler programs. Sorry I don't have the phone numbers immediately available, but I have been looking into this very thing for my 2.5 year old. Hope it helps,  Dorothy