Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Citizens Protest Plunge Closure, Request City Council Action
Several groups of citizens appealed to the city council during an open comment period in this morning’s meeting to step into a dispute between the city and Tom Lochtefeld, holder of the lease to Belmont Park in Mission Beach, an amusement park owned by the city.
At issue is the condition of a building housing The Plunge, an 86 year-old indoor swimming pool. Lochtefeld closed the pool to public access in May, citing concerns including chunks of metal and rust falling from the ceiling into the pool, creating a hazard. He claims that he has no funds available to complete repairs to the facility, and cannot guarantee a $17 million loan that would cover repairs as well as other improvements to the Belmont site while engaged in a dispute with the city over the terms of his lease. After being heavily subsidized by the city for several years in order to allow Lochtefeld to use revenue to fund park improvements, the rent last June was increased from $70,000 to $550,000 annually.
Numerous citizens, including Betty-Jo Strong, aged 92 and a 60-year Mission Beach resident, lamented the pool’s recent closure. Joe Duran, who’s been using the pool for 20 years, was disappointed that many people who used the pool for physical therapy were now being turned away.
The council, after taking several statements, agreed to request a briefing on the matter in closed session and consider further action.