City Government Education Gangs LAUSD

The Mayor, the Kids….and the Absurd Politics of City Pools


On Tuesday afternoon, July 31, thirty-five kids in bathing suits, plus their parents,
showed up at the Olympic size pool at the new $168 million Miguel Contreras Learning Complex (one of LAUSD’s very favorite new projects), located at the corner of 3rd and Lucas Streets, near Alvarado. The kids and the parents arrived at poolside hoping to embarrass the mayor, or the school district, or LA City Parks and Recreation—or SOMEBODY—into opening the damn thing for general use so that local children could have a place to swim and play during LA’s driest summer in forty years.

So far, the mayor, the school district, Parks and Rec, et al have—Marx Brothers style—each pointed at each other and claimed they’re the problem.

Somebody please slap these people. (The ones in business suits, not the ones in bathing suits.)

All the pool needs by the way, is a life guard. (Or 7 to 10 life guards, if one is to be exact.) No kidding. That’s it. There are 700 lifeguards employed by the City of Los Angeles. Surely, a few can be spared. (They’re only making $13.08 an hour.)

Or failing that, the city has said it already has the money to hire special guards for the Miguel Contreras pool. Parks and Rec also swears they have money allocated for said guards too.

So why has no one gotten the guards? It’s the Marx Brothers thing again. After six months of negotiations, new objections and new putative costs continue to arise. The latest is something having to do with the need for banks of lockers for the pool to be opened, says a very frustrated Robert Garcia, Executive Director and Counsel for The City Project, the nonprofit advocacy group that’s been trying to help break the logjam.

Right. Can’t safely swim in pool without having metal lockers in the vicinity
. Hell, everybody knows that.

Garcia also says says that, out of all the foot-dragging players,
Mayor Villaraigosa is the one best positioned to cut through the red tape and get the pool opened.

So mister mayor, Antonio…..hon, can we talk?
This has not been a great summer for you, okay? But right now you have a chance to be a hero—on a small scale, yes, but symbolically this could be a Big Deal. Think about it, this neighborhood surrounding the Contreras pool is the most park-poor district in all of LAUSD, and one of the poorest the State of California. No, I’m not kidding, Antonio. Look it up. It’s got one half acre of parks per 1000 residents. That’s bad.

Furthermore, New York City has what’s called a Master Joint Use Agreement between the school district and the city. They’ve had for over half a century. As a consequence, they don’t have these kinds of Pool-related Power-struggles. By contrast, in Los Angeles, LAUSD and the city hardly speak except in the presence of neutral witnesses. You used to have a reputation as the great conciliator. So conciliate, already.

Get the pool open, Antonio. Spin it as an anti-gang strategy, if you must. It gves kids something positive to do besides hanging out in the street. You know, “Nothing Stops a Bullet Like a Pool.” It could be your new motto.

Please. Just do it.


  • Curious you leap on the Mayor for this, when I distinctly remember that Brewer is the one who adamantly refused to open the pools: it’s part of the cost-cutting he’s embarked on as his sole “education reform,” incl. cutting/firing hundreds of admin. staff. (Of course, the teachers are untouchable, nor is his own salary of $400K.)

    I called attn. to this on an earlier blog re: education, and have also expressed strong feelings that these school pools should be open to the public, even if they have to charge a couple of bucks per person, like municipal pools.

    Now that the Mayor and Monica Garcia are leading the Board, not his open opponent Marlene Kanter (who looks a little shell-shocked whenever I see her, by the way), he should be able to turn his attention to this.

    Also, one of the LAT reporters who lives around Silver Lake wrote a recent Op Ed piece about the absurdity of the municipal pools that are open: because they require that each child be accompanied by an adult, he was turned away with two children in tow, and being a single dad, what is he supposed to do? Drag someone along each time? That rule should also be changed. Given how crowded these public pools can get with sometimes thoughtless kids and teens, I assume there have been actual incidents where parents lost track of a child, but the blanket rule still seems punitive.

  • Celeste, one of the problems is that liberals, yes liberals, have demanded that eveeryone be made equal and that the government take care of everyone–damned the cost, and everyone better be safe, too!

    Businesses, including swimming pools run by the city, have been forced to build, operate, and maintain special facilities and to hire more personnel for the handicapped, for fire, for security, for unions, and for the childrennnnn that go beyond common sense and economic justification.

    You just can’t go around saying open the pool, when the city has been weighted down with so many requirements, that it cannot afford, to put mandated personnel and modifications into place everywhere–and, I bet that includes lockers.

    Don’t attack the sympton. Attack what causes it.

  • Ohio Mother Files Complaint Against Condo That Barred Young Kids From Pool

    An Akron mother and the Fair Housing Advocates Association have filed complaints against her condo association, charging that the group denied swimming pool use to children who are not potty trained.

    Suzanne Malcom filed complaints with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission this month after Seven Stories East Condominiums told her that her one-year-old son Lucas wasn’t welcome in the outdoor pool, she said.

    “As a parent, it’s my responsibility to defend his rights,” Malcom said.

    Malcom, 35, claims a condo board member approached her twice while she was swimming with her son and asked if the boy, who was wearing a swim diaper, was potty trained. The second time the member asked Malcom not to bring her son into the water, she said.

    The board then enacted a rule barring children under the age of 3 from the pool for health and safety reasons, Malcom said.

    Malcom, who has been living at the complex with her grandmother and son for about a year, described the incidents as unfair and embarrassing. She took her complaints to the Fair Housing Association, who called the rule a violation of federal and state housing laws.

    Seven Stories East declined to comment, saying only that their attorney will resolve the matter with the Civil Rights Commission in the next few months.

    Seven Stories East has been sued twice since 1995 for discrimination against families. Both cases were settled out of court.

    This 35 year old single mom lives with her mother, takes her one-year old to the private pool in the community, takes offense when the association is concerned about e-coli, and says that her son has a “right,” yes a “right,” to go into that pool. So, she goes to government authorities, who will tie the association up in major hearings at major costs.

    The best thing for the association to say is, “To hell with it. No one can use the pool.”

    See what I mean?

  • Great post Celeste. One of your best, I think.

    Woody, surely you meant…

    … for fire, for security, for unions, and for the childrennnnn. These requirements go beyond common sense and economic justification.

    Not, Childrennnnn go beyond common sense and economic justification.

  • LotS, would you back a law that says that a parent must boil a pacifier that falls on the floor before returning it to a child? Common sense and economic justification tells me to wash it off and stick it back in the mouth. There are limits to safety and paranoia.

  • Whenever Celeste posts on beaurocratic incompetence or some non-partisan problem I wish Woody would a wait a day or so to post so we could all place bets on how exactly he’s going to blame liberals. I would have gone with the following: “liberal politicians always put their own self-interest before that of the people so unless they personally benefit the pool won’t get opened.” I guess I was just thinking inside the box.

  • Mavis, that’s funny. I’ve taken to guessing Woody’s response before I open the comments. I’m not often wrong. Maybe Woody could simply give Celeste a copy of Woody’s Greatest Hits and she could play them randomly as an audio accompaniment.

  • Woody, I don’t think the fact that the woman you cite was 35, single and living with her mother (so she has a live-in babysitter, lucky, I’d say, if they actually get along), has anything to do with whether or not her child is allowed to use the pool,

    However, e-coli does; those waterparks catering to young children in diapers are indeed breeding grounds for bacteria, the surest bet if you want your child to get an ear infection. A well-meaning relative took mine there when he was three, and sure enough, he got his first — awful — ear infection, which recurred for years. Some of these places test the water every couple of hours, and close down if there’s any sign of infection. Still, they’re dangerous.

    But I don’t think this is even an issue at municipal pools, where they’d probably see banning toddlers as a discrimination issue — while banning parents with two or more children, and banning strollers, “makes sense.” (For the record, private clubs and better hotels have separate toddler pools for everyone’s safety, the only good solution. But not something we’d pay for at public pools.)

  • The mayor should just open up some fire hydrants and let the kids play in that. They would be closer to home, it doesn’t require life guards or lockers, the kids probably would like it more. and it would be cheaper.

  • Good news for the Mayor and the absurd city of Los Angeles, Pokey’s home town has an answer to the life guard pool problem that has over whelmed the best minds of Los Angeles.

    Just this week we have graduated an entire team of Junior Life Guards here in Pokey’s home town. The children of Fullerton ages 11 to 14 have passed a rigorous training course offered at the Janet Evens Swim Complex and just completed it on July 27. They are now ready, willing and certified to solve the problems of Los Angeles.

    Better yet we have also graduated a group of Swim Instructors aged 13+ who could teach the Mayor and other administrators to swim or at least think outside the box.

  • After reading the Times coverage of this issue, I have to agree that the Mayor’s office has a point, that the Olympic- sized pool has no shallow end for small kids and non-swimmers, which is the real issue (his staff denies that the lifeguard issue was THEIR concern). This brings up valid safety and liability issues, given that the people clamoring to get in included a street taco vendor — who undoubtedly can’t swim or understand the safety issues. (And given my comments above re: toddlers soiling pools, e-coli risk, I doubly agree.)

    I’m sure if there are no lockers, the city would be held liable for theft. One kids who goes to the school worries that the local gangs would wreck the place — good point.

    School pools open to the public have lockers and shallow ends, and more public showers.

    This is just another case of Third-World masses making demands when they don’t understand the issues or costs.

  • Gosh, we have no lockers, we have no shallow end, but still we are able to SWIM in Orange County.

    We just require adults to take responsiblity for any child they bring. And we offer swim lessions.

    We also charge a $90 FEE which keeps out the 3rd-world-masses.

    Learning to Swim is an essential lifetime skill promoting safety, fitness, and the enjoyment of water activities and sports. Our nationally certified staff, utilizing state-of-the-art instructional techniques will guide your child through the progressive levels of our swim lesson program. Our 2007 Summer Session class schedule consists of 9 weeks of instruction providing convenient ‘same day, same time’ lessons to meet a wide variety of needs . Each class is small in size meeting once per week, 30 minutes per lesson, with a class limit of 3 to 4 children per instructor.

  • The presence of a shallow end and available supervision is no guarantee. I witnessed a drowning many, many years ago at a public pool of a student in a swimming class whose teacher was in the water with the class. Likely the teacher’s vision was obstructed by the angle of their sight-line, and the way light refracts through water.

    But it’s not just young, or inexperienced swimmers who are at risk. There have been drownings in college rec center pools, by good swimmers, that had shallow ends and were fully supervised. One, that I know of, within the last couple of years; inherent, but undiagnosed, medical conditions can make people vulnerable.

    The LA Times ran an interesting piece about beach lifeguards – many of who have alternate professional lives. I think it was a column that Steve Nopez ran a little while ago about an ER doc. Anyway. What resonated for me was spotting “trouble” is done through some intangible sense of “trouble.” Apparently, on a beach, you learn to watch for specific profiles of swimmers, with the sense that these folks are likely to be the most vulnerable. Having done lifeguard duty in pools, for me, it was always the sound in the pool; “pool sounds”. Your eyes are limited in a crowded pool by what’s in your immediate field of vision. But, your ears can take in the whole. There was always a distinct difference in “pool sounds” when someone was in trouble.

    Drownings are really horrible things. Water is an unnatural medium for land dwellers with lungs instead of gills. Stuff happens. The city is wise to be cautious. But, if you’re going to have a pool, and it was built with an agreement to open the pool to the public, it doesn’t do anyone any good if it just sits empty save for the water.

  • This pool was never “built with an agreement to open the pool to the public.” It’s a pool designed to serve older school children, never intended as a municipal pool. Perhaps that was a design flaw — they should have considered the summers, but that’s how it was built. Small children have no business in a deep pool, especially with parents who can’t swim. And un-PC as this sounds, a hood with gangs and street vendor parents from cultures where pools exist only for the rich, just didn’t grow up the way people do in the burbs of OC or the Westside of L A. or the Valley. There are many places even in L A were a person can leave a beach bag and it won’t be touched, but this area doesn’t seem one of them.

    I’ve seen how packed municipal pools in L A do become, even when charging a couple bucks’ admission (like Cheviott Hills), but they have the benefit of lots of surrounding park-like space, picnic tables, baseball and soccer fields, for the people to spread out…And that one has lots of swim classes. I don’t think they have showers or lockers either, but the park also operates as a camp, and has lots of staff.

    But all those mobs crowding onto a school’s grounds is a very different thing. Confusing school and municipal pools is apples and oranges.

    In future, other school pools being built should consider these issues, space permitting. On the other hand, if a pool can’t be open to the public, does that mean the school shouldn’t get the pool? These are policy issues.

    For the record, I don’t think the Beverly Hills high school pool is open to the public, either, even though the hood is obviously quite different, and there would not likely be any mobs to trash it. It’s open only to camps and groups which sign agreements re: safety, cleanliness, etc. Guess that’s why it’s still pristine after something like sixty years.


    Statement Regarding Miguel Contreras Learning Complex
    Aquatic Facility; July 31, 2007

    …The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is working with the City of Los Angeles to provide community access to the pool. The District and the City of Los Angeles currently co-operate seven campus-based aquatic facilities and are negotiating a comprehensive agreement
    to extend additional lifeguard services to nine new school campuses with aquatic facilities, including Miguel Contreras Learning Complex…

  • Listener, so I guess the public pressure was already taking its effect, two days ago no less. Wonder if the fact that the area is heavily working-class Hispanic, a demographic the Mayor has alienated because of their strict Catholic views, has anything to do with it…

    Meanwhile, the late breaking news at L A Daily News includes a report about a man who is “upwards of 350 pounds” who got his fat foot caught in a pool skimmer, fell down face first, and was kept from drowning only by the quick thinking of someone who got a raft to put under him until help arrived. — Maybe our city pools should restrict really fat people?
    Would they have any rafts on hand for upside-down fat people?

  • we are taking good care of our school, keep it free of graffiti free of gangs free of trash, we are so worried because all this is going to come if this pool open to public, this pool should open for students only; if the community wants a pool they should rise money for a public pool. please don’t open Miguel Contreras pool to the public, save our school.

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