If not Ortega Park, where is the public swimming pool?

Santa Barbara is seriously behind the times when it comes to public pool facilities. According to a 2003 water park feasibility study, the city should provide its residents between 40,000 and 120,000 square feet of water surface area. In contrast, we have 10,000 square feet and not enough plans to build more. For more information on these numbers, see the appropriate link in our petition.

The SB Aquatics Coalition is urging Santa Barbara to step up. Although our ranks feature some of the best aquatic minds in the country, we have yet to make an impact on the design of the new Ortega Park pool facilities.

This is an open letter to the Santa Barbara City Council regarding the community pool at Ortega Park. If you agree with the proposed site design, which includes a pool facility slightly larger than the City of Santa Barbara suggests in its official master plan, please sign this petition: change.org/change-the-design

You can also email directly to the City Council and the Parks and Recreation Commission Secretary at:

Honorable Mayor, City Council and Parks and Recreation Committee,

The aquarium community’s call to the table, held on June 8, 2022, was four years late.

The design of the aquarium facilities for the summer of 2018, was determined by a single-park and recreation decision, without a single workshop for the aquarium community.

In contrast, specialized Skatepark meetings serving a small percentage of the community were held in May 2019 and March 2020. Meetings were held in March/April 2021 to address the lack of consideration for the park’s historic murals, and in 2022, to allow SOPAC (a non-popular organization) to plan the new artistic design.

A variety of athletes and East Side residents have spoken to us regarding Ortega Park, and we have taken this input into account. The proposed city design is too small in pool and deck area, provides insufficient options for concurrent programming, and eliminates the gathering area outside the welcome house.

The design proposed in this petition serves community members of all ages and abilities, those who can swim and those who want to learn. Most importantly, it takes into account community input, but also input from the aquarium community, and works to address Santa Barbara’s decades-old unmet needs.

This design also allows space for an 8,000-square-foot skate park as shown in the 2019 master plan, which can be programmed for younger adults.

The Ortega Park renovation project provides a golden opportunity to provide greater water facilities to the community. This location is where a high percentage of Santa Barbara’s children actually reside, and SPACE is allowed to build these facilities, unlikely to be available anywhere within city limits in the future.

A modest sized water complex that can serve as many members of our community as the example shown here should be built in Ortega Park and soon.

If not Ortega Park, where???

SB Aquatics Alliance

The date of the need for a complex

In 1979, plans were in the works for a large water complex in Ellings Park. A scale model was displayed in the office of Richard Jones, Director of Parks and Recreation at the time. Unfortunately, this plan was discarded due to the neighborhood protest, as well as issues regarding the site as a former landfill – issues that could have been overcome.

In 2003, the City of Santa Barbara needed more convincing regarding the city’s need for a major water complex. This need was formally identified in the 2003 Aquarium Feasibility Study. Appendix D of this report shows that for a city the size of ours, we need to quadruple the pool area currently provided by the City of Santa Barbara.

Unfortunately, a major aquatic complex will never be built on the Los Banos site as recommended in this report, due to its historic status, as well as the problem of bird nesting.

Alternative sites have been suggested: the Armory, which now belongs to SBUSD (not an option), and sites on county land that might be suitable for a major aquatic center. However, this will never happen in our lifetimes, and these proposed locations are not where the majority of SB children reside—children who do not have access to swimming instruction, and children of families for whom transportation to the proposed county locations may be an obstacle.

March 27, 2021 The Santa Barbara Aquatics Alliance launches its first petition for better aquatic facilities: https://www.change.org/AquaticsOrtegaPark

The proposed city design, updated in the spring of 2022, is improved but provides only one pool, with insufficient surface area and, therefore, insufficient for simultaneous programming options which, according to USA Swimming, are PITFALL in the design of pool facilities.

The city design also eliminates the community gathering area outside the welcome house.

Regarding the proposed redesign in this petition:

This proposed site plan has received input from East Side residents and key members of the aquarium community.

Suggested Ortega Park Features:

  • The modest-sized aquatic center includes a 25-yard x 6-lane (80-degree) pool, a 4-lane (84-degree) warm-water pool, a wading pool, and a waterslide.
  • Two pools allow for multiple programs running simultaneously: swimming lessons for all ages and abilities, swimming, water aerobics, beginner swim team, middle/advanced age group swim, water polo, and open recreational swimming.
  • Splash pad added outside pool container.
  • Unfenced natural grass football field and other grassy areas irrigated by the existing recycled water system.
  • The community gathering area outside the Welcome House has been maintained and does not need to be fenced. Provides easy access to the kitchen/snack bar, restrooms, and meeting area.
  • A new basketball court has been placed at this location (approximately the current location), since it can be vacated when large gatherings are scheduled.
  • A grove of beautiful evergreen trees is maintained, for a picnic area and light recreation.
  • Possible locations for cultural performances, and
  • Community gatherings and cultural activities accommodated by the main gathering area, grove of trees/picnic area, other picnic areas, and grassy spaces around the perimeter of the park.
  • Landscaping (including paths) should be added to this design. An impressionist palate over contrived styles would be appreciated.
  • An abundance of play equipment should be added to the play areas.
  • Basic adult exercise equipment must be added to the park perimeter.
  • Picnic tables, seating, spectator areas, and shade pergolas (where applicable) are added to the Welcome House’s patio, grove of evergreens, playgrounds, a skatepark, and a watersports area.
  • The artwork and mural design must be addressed by the art community, due to the building’s rearrangement. Some artefacts of cultural significance can be kept close to the gathering area. More artistic opportunities can be created through additional or partial walls / partitions.
  • It is possible to have two areas for the organization of the Solstice Parade: the gathering area and / or the football field.
  • The skate park should preferably be designed for primary school children. A Skatepark image from the 2019 master plan is included in this design.

The editorials were written by community members and organizations, not edhat representatives. The opinions and opinions expressed in the editorial articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Edhat.
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