Sunday, December 04, 2011

Los Angeles Aquatic Officials Agree to Return Parents to San Pedro’s  Peck Park Pool Deck; Parents Were Banned From Coming Into The Public Facility
By Diana L. Chapman
After working with a mayoral aide, Los Angeles aquatic officials agreed to allow the return of parents – who aren’t swimming – back to San Pedro’s  Peck Park pool deck so they can watch their children.
Ricardo Hong, a Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa aide who handles the Harbor Region, fashioned a deal with pool management that allows adults to enter through the back fence of the facility and sit at locations marked for parents and other non-swimming adults.
That  area will be cordoned off from swimmers.
“We agreed that parents could stay on the bleachers,” Hong said. Aquatic officials “aren’t trying to be bullies. They have to deal with dangers. They have kids inside of the pool and there are hundreds of them.
“I wanted to find a solution.”
Under the verbal arrangement, parents who aren’t swimming will enter the pool through a back fence and be allowed to sit on the bleachers, which will be sectioned off to keep them off a large portion of the deck.
In this case, all parents will be allowed in. Initially, however,  the aquatics staff wanted only adults whose children are enrolled in swimming lessons or other pool programs, such as the swim team.
After meeting with Hong, however, they agreed non-swimming parents could also enter the facility.
While parents have sat on the Peck’s deck for years, this past summer, the latest manager Richard Rincon, banned those who weren’t swimming from entering and asked them to sit outside where there is no shade and few benches.
Parents were crammed in a corner this past summer under a beating sun jockeying for a place to sit in a sliver of shadows extending from the facility’s building.
Aquatics officials say they have good reason to ban parents from the deck.
There are too many dangers, they said, including they track bacteria in with their street shoes and might interfere when lifeguards are in a life-saving mode or teaching swim lessons. They also contended that parents at other Los Angeles pools lied, saying that they were going inside to watch children to avoid paying the $2.25 fee to swim. Lifeguards would later find them swimming.
Hong defended city Aquatics Director Trish Delgado for supporting the initial ban, saying she carries the weight of managing 62 public pools along with 11 locations of lakes and beaches. The safety of each, he said, is her top concern and is partly what led to such strict restrictions in the first place.
Delgado directed all calls to city media relations and Rincon, the pool manager, is not allowed to make any comments.
Other solutions under consideration, Hong said, included removing a fence that separates the pool deck from a grassy area – a cost estimated about $200,000. The grass section that parallels the pool is currently underutilized and offers little in the way of shade or benches. Some parents said they also don’t enjoy sitting there, because it seems like a prison.
With the fence removed, however, it opens a large section for watching adults to sit far enough away from swimming patrons and lifeguards.
To fix some of the problems, Delgado earlier this fall ordered staff at the year-round pool to put out more benches and said when the budget allows additional shades and tables will be included in the grass area. Removal of the fence would be scheduled in the future when aquatics has had an opportunity to budget for it.
Hong said his efforts extends from his desire to make government more understanding of resident’s desires.
“I’m trying to get government to be more user-friendly,” Hong explained as to why he helped parents with a solution.
The tide is still out as to whether parents find this compromise workable.
Unfortunately, this is a bureaucratic compromise to a reasonable concern from parents who should be allowed to be in a safe and comfortable spot, close to their kids,” said attorney and San Pedro resident Tim McOsker, whose five children and wife frequently use the pool. “It shouldn't be so difficult to solve an obvious and simple problem.”
 San Pedro High Principal, Jeanette Stevens, who brings her daughters, Teel, 9, and Taylor, 11, to the pool, said while she enjoys the aquatics programs, she’s still discouraged that she has to enter from the back of the facility.
“I still don’t understand what’s wrong with going in the front,” Stevens said.