Progress made in efforts to build two pools in San Dieguito district

Pool supporters at the district office.
(Donald Miralle)

San Dieguito Union High School District swimmers and polo players and their parents rallied in front of the district office on April 20, boosting awareness about the longtime need for a pool.

Pool proponents stayed until after 10 p.m. at that night’s board meeting to share the importance of pools for high school aquatics athletes as well as to provide physical education for all students and support community programs like water safety to prevent drowning.

The board heard an update from the district’s pool feasibility
committee and voted on their intent to build two swimming pools—one pool in the northern part of the district and one in the south, not yet committing to locations.

SDUHSD President Mo Muir said she always supported building a pool for San Dieguito: “We absolutely have got to have a pool.”

The district currently spends $185,000 annually to rent pool facilities for its 12 aquatic sports teams. With a lack of pools in North County San Diego, teams compete for pool time, squeezing into “horrible” spots very early in the morning and late at night. La Costa Canyon water polo mom Erica Daniels said that this year her son was practicing at 4:30 a.m. in Poway after they lost their pool time at Cathedral Catholic.

The 2019 championship La Costa Canyon swim team scrambled to find a pool to practice in after the state finally cleared the way for sports to resume last year. They eventually found lanes in San Marcos.

Pool supporters before the board's April 20 meeting.
(Donald Miralle)

“New pools in our community will afford reasonable training times,” said LCC parent Todd Mitchell.

Despite the lack of a home pool, district teams have found success—San Dieguito Academy won its first water polo championship last fall and the Falcon girls swim team at Torrey Pines is a powerhouse, winning 11 straight Division 1 titles (the boys have won six straight).

Daniels can only imagine what these athletes could accomplish without this disadvantage—some students even choose not to participate in these sports due to the inconvenient practice schedules and locations.

The parent-led SDUHSD Aquatics Committee has been advocating for a district pool since 2014 and gained momentum with the district in 2020.

Last August, $38 million of existing capital funds and future state capital reimbursements were prioritized by the board for two pools and a pool feasibility committee was formed. Pool development studies were completed and updated this year looking at costs and potential siting. The committee considered locations at all four comprehensive high school campuses and the 28-acre San Dieguito Sports Complex on Calle Barcelona (previously known as the La Costa Valley fields).

John Addleman, executive director of planning services, said San Dieguito and La Costa Canyon working groups recommended the placement of the northern pool at the San Dieguito Sports Complex rather than on the LCC campus.

Addleman said while the construction funds are there, the challenges lie in the operation costs.

The updated construction cost for a 37-meter pool at the sports complex would be $13.9 million with annual operational costs of $243,525. The committee believes that the operational costs could be offset by rentals to the tune of about $92,500.

Committee member Suzanne Von Thaden said she believes those rental use numbers to be conservative.

“Everyone’s looking for pools, there’s not enough of them…These pools, the way they are designed, would make money for the district,” Von Thaden said. “If we build it we can rent those lanes and that would make up a huge portion of what the operating costs would be.”

The committee has heard interest from community partners such as the city of Carlsbad, North Coast Aquatics, Junior Lifegaurds and the Boys & Girls Clubs. They could also pursue agreements with elementary districts for swim safety programs on the weekends and summers.

Addleman said that the committee has also considered a 50-meter pool at the sports complex as it has the potential for a third-party operational partner as it would be part of a greater community resource. A 50-meter pool at that site would cost $16 million to build with operational costs estimated at $1,059,333 annually which could be offset in full or in part by supplementary funding sources.

Pool supporters at the district office.
(Donald Miralle)

SDUHSD board members Michael Allman and Katrina Young, as well as an LCC swim parent, shared some concerns about having a pool off-site and would prefer it to be located at a school.

In the south, the committee has looked at siting options at Canyon Crest Academy and Torrey Pines High, leaning more toward Torrey Pines as the construction costs are higher at CCA due to the relocation of a bioretention and filtration system.

Construction of a pool at Torrey Pines is estimated to cost $14 million with operational costs of $243,525.

Members of the committee were prepared to begin acting as aquatics boosters, fundraising to support the construction of pools, pursuing grants and setting up an endowment. The board was not quite ready to give them the go-ahead and SDUHSD Associate Superintendent of Business Services (now Interim Superintendent) Tina Douglas said she would be reluctant to have the group begin fundraising until construction contracts have been approved.

There are still many steps ahead in the process—including finalizing the pool sites and financing, hiring CEQA consultants and architects and exploring community partnerships—but the board has committed to achieving this in “the quickest practical time frame.”

SDUHSD Clerk Julie Bronstein said she supports pools in concept but wants to ensure the district is not overlooking other facilities areas that need to be funded. Young agreed and said she would also like to see the district have more outreach with La Costa Valley neighbors regarding the placement of a pool at the Calle Barcelona site.

“I’m very much for pools…I understand the value of it and I want that for our schools,” Young said. “But when we’re looking at it, I want to make sure we’re doing everything we need to do.”