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SD Council Approves New Central Library

— San Diego City Council took an historic vote last night to go ahead with construction of a new central library downtown.

Artistic rendering of the projected downtown library as provided by the office of the architect working on the project.
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Above: Artistic rendering of the projected downtown library as provided by the office of the architect working on the project.

Artistic rendering of planned downtown library as provided by the office of the architect working on the project.
Enlarge this image

Above: Artistic rendering of planned downtown library as provided by the office of the architect working on the project.

Rendering of the proposed Downtown San Diego Central Library.
Enlarge this image

Above: Rendering of the proposed Downtown San Diego Central Library.

Anyone who has lived in San Diego for a while knows that the dream of a new central library has been in and out of the news for years. The architect, Rob Quigely, designed its imposing dome shape in the 1990s. The site on Park Boulevard in the East Village was chose a decade later, and now, finally, a contract will be signed to break ground. The First phase is estimated to cost about $150 million.

Audio

Aired 6/29/10

Anyone who has lived in San Diego for a while knows that the dream of a new central library has been in and out of the news for years. The architect, Rob Quigely, designed its imposing dome shape in the 1990s. The site on Park Boulevard in the East Village was chose a decade later, and now, finally, a contract will be signed to break ground. The First phase is estimated to cost about $150 million.

Mayor Jerry Sanders reminded the city council that $17 million has already gone into planning and well over $100 million has been scraped together so far to build it.

“We’ve invested nearly 20 years into planning for this new central library,” Sanders said. “As you make your decision, I want to remind you that not one cent of this project’s funding can be used for other city services. It can’t be used for branch libraries, can’t put additional police or firefighters on the streets, and it can’t be used to fix potholes.

Even so, opponents, like Hudd Collins, were scathing at what they see as profligate public spending at a time of severe budget crisis.

“Twenty million dollars from a state that’s going bankrupt. More money from this city that can’t afford it -- It’s crazy,” said Collins.

Councilman Carl DeMaio shared this view and Councilwoman Sheri Lightner was also unable to support the motion. She represented those who worry the plan calls for private donors to come up with another $32 million to finish the job. Without that, the doors won’t be able to open in 2013, the state mandated deadline.

My constituents consistently tell me that basic neighborhood services like branch libraries must be our priority,” said Lightner. “I continue to have serious concerns about the funding gap for this project, and it’s potential effect on our branch libraries. There’s no guarantee that the funding will be raised. If the funds don’t materialize the city will be liable for the funds needed to complete this project

But Mel Katz of the San Diego Library Foundation was adamant that once the council made the commitment, more philanthropists will step forward. After all, they’ve raised more than $30 million already on the promise of a dream.

Once this project comes out of the ground, with the donors we have behind us here, with our commitment and the Foundation commitment -- this $32.5 million will be raised,” said Katz. “We’ve talked about this and dreamed about this for so long. It’s amazing to think that this dream is almost a reality.

Former city attorney Mike Aguirre appeared in council chambers to issue his warning that the city is violating liability limit laws by embarking on a project it doesn’t have the money to finish.

Now the contract that you are signing is in my opinion unlawful,” Aguirre said, “because you are obligating yourself to $153 million and you don’t have $153 million dollars.

Aguirre accused the biggest donor, Irwin Jacobs, of hurting the city with his gift of $30 million to get the project off the ground.

But Jacobs held up the vision. He spoke of standing at the empty site where the library will eventually stand.

I could just imagine that building being there, and I would like to congratulate the architect on a wonderful design,” said Jacobs. “I think it’s going to be a beautiful addition to this city.”

The design has gone through numerous modifications to save costs, but still has its iconic dome. And the plan will create 1,000 construction jobs. That’s what convinced Councilwoman Marti Emerald to vote for it.

We also need to put people to work in San Diego,” she said, “and unfortunately we have construction workers who have been on unemployment for a very long time, and will soon be cut off because of actions taken by congress. “So I feel very compelled to get this project rolling as quickly as possible. We’ve got to break ground in 60 days to put San Diegans back to work.

Those “other ways” may well be the other big projects waiting in the wings for approval. The library vote could be a warm-up to bigger decisions on a new convention center expansion, a new city hall and a new stadium. But those dreams will have to be approved by a vote of the public.

Councilman Kevin Faulconer had the job of proposing the library vote to the eight concilmembers.

“And on behalf of all of you -- everybody who is here today and literally thousands of people across this city over a decade who have worked on this project, with a great deal of pride on behalf of all of you I’m pleased to make this motion to proceed today,” Faulconer announced.

The motion passed 6 to 2.

Comments

Avatar for user 'jimvsmij'

jimvsmij | June 29, 2010 at 4:54 p.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

Seems like a waste of money to me. How much money does an average library bring into San Diego each year? I bet it's mot much. Where are the studies that show spending money that could be used for public schools to make a public library makes students smarter and less likely to commit crimes? We should be focusing on renovating the convention center because we are in very real danger of losing the Comic-con which is one of Downtown main money makers. Once we have the convention center expanded and updated and the Chargers stadium built and we have surplus money, then, and only then, should we think of building non-necessary luxuries like a downtown public library that much of San Diego will never use.

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