It is 7 a.m., 72°, summertime in San Diego. The folks from El Cajon wake up early this morning, and armed with lotion and coldcuts, they prepare to descend on the coast. To escape the sweltering San Diego summer, what could be finer than the ocean? Indeed, many of us have the same idea. And on an 80° day, it’s hard to find a small plot of sand to claim as your own. Many discouraged San Diegans merely end up cursing and driving homeward. And yet there is an alternative: the cool, chlorinated, colorless water of swimming pools. So, let us embark on a swim; we pay 60 cents and are pointed to the locker room of the Belmont Park Plunge. We casually slip into our hang-ten trunks, and chest extended, tan, glistening, we stride to the water’s edge to begin a tour of San Diego pools.
Of all the pool scenes in San Diego, the Belmont Park Plunge, is without a doubt, the “funkiest.” Located in the center of an amusement park that has certainly seen finer days, the massive swimming pool sits in haunting grandeur. The swimmers at the plunge are typical: no overabundance of midgets or giants, just young people and old people swimming about. The pool is 60 yards long, has a one-meter diving board, and although spacious, the locals complain that the pool is not really adequate for competitive training. Still, on many days the waters are a blur of sprinting swimmers. The County Department of Parks and Recreation operates the pool, and admission is 60 cents for adults and 35 cents for children. The Parks and Recreation department has six other pools operating in San Diego. The hours during the school months are: Monday-Friday, 5 to 7 p.m.; weekends, 1 to 4 p.m.
- Colina Del Sol 54th and Orange
- Kearny Mesa Municipal Morley Field (Balboa Park)
- King Memorial Skyline Blvd.
- Swanson Governor Dr. (University City)
- Vista Terrace San Ysidro
- Armstrong Mesa College Dr.
The YMCA also serves the aquatic public. In fact, it owns and operates eight pools in the San Diego area. Of those, the one with the most personality is the downtown pool. Built in 1913, it is said to be the first pool ever in San Diego. And it looks it. Its main charm is its antiquity. However, although the pool is fun to look at and reminisce about, local competitive swimmers give the pool a very poor rating. They complain about everything, from the size to the cleanliness; and indeed upon close inhalation and examination, the claims seem to be warranted. The pool measures only 20 yards in length and from four to seven feet in depth. And the diverse downtown clientele attracted here gives the pool a very disorganized character. Price for admission is two dollars, which entitles you to a towel ;and a day in the water.
Another pool operated by the “Y” is the Copley pool, located at 3901 Landis. The pool, named after newspaper king Ira Copley, has an extraordinary swimming program which includes training for the handicapped and special program for the blind. This pool is 25 yards long and three to nine feet deep. There is a one-meter diving board available, and the pool is considered quite good for competitive training. Functional, not beautiful, the Copley pool is very well-run. The following is a list of the other YMCA pools. Prices vary at each location, as do the hours, so check before you go over.
- Downtown 1115 8th Ave.
- Jackie Robinson 151 N. 45th St.
- John A. Davis 8881 Dallas
- Palomar 1030 N. Broadway (Escondido)
- Peninsula 3270 Rosecrans
- North Coast 200 S. Saxony (Encinitas)
- Northwest 8355 Cliffridge (La Jolla)
A few words now about semi-private pools, such as those at colleges and hotels. Although in most cases these are specifically not for public* use, a swimmer with confidence and a bit of imagination can easily find a way into most of them. The important thing is to act sure of yourself at all times. If you are ever apprehended, remember always to insist that you are new in the area and that you had no idea you were violating any rules. On that bit of advice, we begin a tour some of the semiprivate pools in San Diego. Swim at your own risk!
The colleges around town are fairly selective as to who may swim in their waters. In fact, the only one which offers its facilities to the general public is San Diego State University. The pool is not really so special, except when the mercury climbs into the 90s, and then the cool waters of the pool feel incredibly good. Hours for the public are Monday, 7 to 9 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday, 6 to 8 p.m., and weekends, 12 to 4 p.m. The other college pools are off-limits to the public and are generally available only to the students, staff, and administrators of each particular school. Colleges with pools include:
- Mesa 7250 Artillery Rd.
- USD Alcala Park
- SDSU 5204 College Ave.
Of the college pools, UCSD’s is the most interesting. The pool is indoors, yet it retains all the aesthetic attraction of swimming with the sky overhead. Enclosed in a glass structure, the 25-yard pool is free of the sterile architecture in which most indoor pools are contained. Frequented by the faculty and students of UCSD, the pool is rated very high academically as well as for competitive training. And even though it is not open to the public, it’s worth just going by just to look at.
No doubt, if you’ve lived in San Diego for any amount of time you have realized that this town is at no loss for hotels. And with this abundance of hotels comes beautiful, spacious, clean hotel pools. In the summer, the pools are jam-packed with pink-bellied tourists. But after the summer crowds have disappeared, the waters become still. If one is tactful, it’s quite conceivable that you could take advantage of these often-vacant hotel facilities. So, without another word of encouragement, below is a list of some of the most charming still waters around San Diego:
- Bahia 998 W. Mission Blvd.
- Catamaran 3999 Mission Blvd.
- Hotel Del Coronado 1500 Orange, Coronado
- Inn at Rancho Santa Fe Paseo Delicias
- La Valencia 1132 Prospect
- Posada Inn 5005 N. Harbor Dr.
- Sea Lodge 8110 Camino Del Oro
- Sheraton Half Moon 2303 Shelter Island
- Vacation Village Vacation Village Isle
Somewhere there is a glorious popular 'image of Southern Californians lounging around private pools, sipping freshly sipped lemonade. The truth is, some people really do sit in their backyards, lounging around their pools. And if this idea appeals to you personally, there are a few things you should know.
First off, the price of a swimming pool averages around six thousand dollars and can go as high as 25 thousand dollars. (Remember that using the Plunge at Belmont Park costs 60 cents, so with the six thousand dollars you spend on a pool you could have spent ten thousand days at the Plunge.)
Now, if you are still interested in acquiring your own pool, then your best bet is to head out Highway 8 to Mission Gorge Road. Due to a peculiar zoning permit, it seems that Mission Gorge has become the mile of pools. Countless builders have display pools of all shapes and depths for you to dip your toes in. The speculator must beware, for while the thought of buying a pool seems very elegant, the actual process can be trouble. Pool salesmen in many cases are fast-talking, and one must be on guard at all times. One of the most popular ploys used by the pool makers is called staking. The idea is to get the buyer’s deposit, promise him the pool will be completed within a month, and then rush over to the site and dig a hole. After this, the buyer often waits months before any further activity takes place in his backyard. When deciding on a pool, one salesman considerately pointed out to the pensive customer that “easy financing” was available. It seems that the customer could pay off the debt over a period of ten years, with interest. The customer then jumped up in elation and signed the agreement. Indeed, the thought of frolicking in your own pool often blurs the actual financial responsibility and leads the customer into a drowning situation.
So much for the negative aspects. On the positive side, solar heating is now available for your pool, at a cost of roughly two thousand dollars. The initial cost sounds high, but once the solar unit is operating, there is really no further cost and your heating bill is cut in half. The principle is quite simple. Solar panels are placed on your roof, facing in a southerly direction. The pool water is pumped through the solar panels, warmed by the heat of the sun, and then passed back into the pool. The obvious irony is that when the sun is the hottest and heated water is needed the least, that is the time the solar panels really cook. When it's cloudy, although ultraviolet rays do heat the panels, it's often not quite as warm as you would like it to be.
The utopic pool is obviously hard to find. However, easily within the budget of us all are most of the pools mentioned on this quick tour. You are now on your own, free to swim or drown. Buy a pool, borrow a pool, or pay 60 cents and splash around a public swimming pool. But, by all means, get wet!