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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

West Hollywood Pool Is Now A Pit of Despair

West Hollywood Pool has been a huge part of my life since moving to California. And now, all that's left is a pit of despair.

Sure, they're planning on replacing it and building something new in its place—maybe even something "better" or "nicer" or "more modern." But I can't help but mourn its loss.

Looking back, it should've been clear that the demolition of the circa 1960 Edward Fickett-designed West Hollywood library in 2011 was a death knell for the adjacent pool and pool house.


July 21, 2020

The city tore the single-story library down without regard to residents and preservationists who fought to keep the "outdated" structure as an example of work by a significant architect. Not to mention that when it was built, it won several architectural awards.

To be honest, it was so small that you would think the City of West Hollywood could've worked around it with its West Hollywood Park master plan, which dates back to 2004.

But instead, the little guy was razed without warning behind the cloak of a demolition fence, not immediately noticed by passers-by—especially considering it happened sometime when San Vicente Boulevard was closed to traffic.


July 21, 2020

In retrospect, that seemed to be by design.

And now nearly 9 years later, I can't say when I really knew that the city also planned to replace the West Hollywood Pool—though I can't say I was surprised.

It's felt like West Hollywood Park has been under construction—or demolition—pretty much constantly since 2011, the year I started going there. They even built a stepped promenade with concrete benches and public art outside the West Hollywood Pool entrance facing San Vicente, only to tear it down again a few years later.


Pre-demolition photo: West Hollywood Pool Facebook page

Like the "old" library, the pool complex also dated back to the 1960s—and, considering it was built as a seasonal community pool, it had come to be considered "inadequate."

And it's true—it was a bit "bare bones." There was no roof in the changing rooms, just an overhead screen. When it rained, it rained inside.

There were no lockers; and swimmers always struggled with the jerry-rigged curtain setup at the shower stalls. No matter how those sheets of vinyl had been hung, they never seemed to provide any privacy. They were always blowing around, even when a gust of wind was nowhere to be found.

The only way you could get a decent stream of hot water was to first turn on the adjacent shower and then let it run with yours for a few minutes until it was no longer freezing cold.

I often thought that if I ever struck it rich, I'd pay to install a water extractor in the ladies' changing room, with an endowment to maintain it. I imagined putting a small, engraved plaque on it to credit myself for the donation.

It really never occurred to me that the pool would no longer be exactly what it had been for those formative first years, while I was living just a half-mile away.

The 25-yard-long pool itself was always packed—overtaxed between tiny tot swim lessons, socializing seniors in the "therapy slow" lane, and able-bodied athletes who always acted like they were training for the Olympics. I never fit in with any of them—and quite frankly I liked it better on rainy days when I could get a lane to myself—but I still loved swimming there.

I knew the WeHo pool had been closed with the COVID-19 shutdowns, but I wish I'd had a "last hurrah" there, maybe to take some pictures, maybe just to say goodbye.

It was quite a shock to look down from the "new" library entrance this week while picking up my book borrows and see nothing below but a giant, dirt pit (and the equipment that seemed to still be excavating it).

"Oh... God..." I said aloud, with no one nearby to hear me (except for maybe the big guy Himself).

Of course, I'm looking forward to trying out the new West Hollywood Aquatics Center—which will be outfitted with two outdoor rooftop pools, one for lap swim and the other for recreational/family swim. I hope it turns out fabulous.

It's slated to open September 2021.

But in the meantime, I need to take a moment to mourn the loss of what was—and whose removal the master plan so tactfully refers to as a "vacation."

Harumph.

For more circa 2011 photos of West Hollywood Park, visit this article on Patch.com

Related Posts:
Swimming in Circles Under a Wide Open Sky
Pandemic Amusements: In the Swimming Pool

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