By Sam Devine
It just doesn't feel like summer without a trip to the pool. Marco Polo, chips and soda, suntan lotion on your face, pushing your brother in the deep end it's all a part of your balanced, nutritious summertime experience. But don't fret if you don't happen to have a lap pool on the roof of your railroad apartment. If you're looking to splash it up, get the kids some swim lessons, or just do a few laps, there are plenty of great, inexpensive opportunities at one of your municipal aquatic chill spots made by the people, for the people. Here are some of our favorites.
The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department's Aquatic/Swimming Programs (www.sfgov.org) have a life's worth of swimming activities just waiting for you. The city's nine pools offer pregnant and senior swim programs, lessons for infants, competitive workouts, and even synchronized swimming lessons with the SF Merionettes. And SF community pools are cheap: $1 for children 17 and under, $4 for adults, and $20 for a 10-swim scrip ticket for seniors and those in economic need.
If you're using public transit, Balboa Pool is the most easily accessible. It's walking distance from Balboa BART, the J line, and the 26 Valencia, 9 San Bruno, and 43 bus lines.
51 Havelock, SF. (415) 337-4701
Families going for the first time may be tempted to stop by the hugely popular (and busiest) Rossi or Sava pools. But we like Garfield best it's not as crowded as those two, and parking is easy.
1271 Treat, SF. (415) 695-5001
Little known to most folks, Mission Pool is the last outdoor community pool in San Francisco. This is the place to get that stereotypical pool day: swim in the open air, grill BBQ in the park, and soak up the Mission District sun. The pool is only open during the summer, but last year Supervisor Bevan Dufty was able to get a grant that extended operations through October.
19th St. and Linda, SF. (415) 695-5002
NORTH BEACH POOL
North Beach Pool, near the Joe DiMaggio Playground, actually has two pools: one cold (for lap swim only) and one heated to 85 degrees for recreational swimming.
651 Lombard, SF. (415) 391-0407
Berkeley's Aquatics Program (www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/recreation) runs four community swim centers, with rates similar to those of San Francisco's pools (except kids cost $2). Of them, King Pool is recommended for public transit riders. It's just a short AC Transit No. 7 or No. 9 ride from Downtown Berkeley BART. Wondering why a city slicker would want to cross the bay for a pool? King offers one thing SF pools don't: a five-day junior lifeguard program, which teaches kids first aid, CPR, and life-saving rescue techniques for $68.
1700 Hopkins, Berk. (510) 644-8518
If you've got young tots, though, and can drive to Palo Alto, the misty water play area at Rinconada is what you want. There's a waterslide, squirting toys, fountains, and several kiddie pools, plus a blissfully ho-hum adult pool for when you need to escape the color and excitement.
777 Embarcadero, Palo Alto. (650) 463-4914
BHS Warm Pool 2246 Milvia, Berk; (510) 644-6843
King Swim Center 1700 Hopkins, Berk; (510) 644-8518
West Campus Swim Center 2100 Browning, Berk; (510) 644-8520.