Balboa Park, an ethnically diverse neighborhood of 50,000 people, contains San Francisco’s highest youth population, yet only one pool — an international-style structure from 1956 that was seismically unsafe and disintegrating from extensive deferred maintenance. This renovation created a fully accessible facility with diversified programming.
The non-ADA-compliant entry ramp was reimagined for accessibility while retaining historic character. The existing pool, too long for many users, received a new bulkhead, creating two pool zones. Separating lane-swimmers from learners and families enables everyone to enjoy the pool simultaneously. A whimsical mural, supported through public-art funding, celebrates the diversity of users and the neighborhood, reinforcing the message that all are welcome. Designers reconfigured the changing rooms and administrative areas, carving out a new 800-square-foot community room accessible even when the natatorium is closed. The design also improves the flow of traffic and reinforces community walkability.
This renovation is part of citywide efforts to bring aquatic recreation to underserved youth and swimmers of all ages, abilities and socioeconomic backgrounds.
LEAD ARCHITECT: ELS Architecture and Urban Design
AQUATIC DESIGN CONSULTANT: Aquatic Design Group
- Lap pool
- Moveable bulkhead
- ADA-compliant entry ramp