“We feel that concrete progress is being made,” said Friends’ Expansion Committee in a joint release. “The expansion will be from the existing historical part of the library onto the adjacent property next door at 4817 Santa Monica Ave.”
The expansion committee noted a feasibility study for the library project determined that the existing building to be moved into at 4817 Santa Monica is substandard. Therefore, the least expensive alternative was to demolish it and to expand the existing library onto the adjoining property, while preserving the existing library’s historic core built in 1928.
Begun in 1916 with the existing building built in 1928, Ocean Beach Library is the oldest facility in the San Diego Public Library system. OB Library expansion tops the list for the City’s 21st-century library improvement program projects.
In 2016, for OB Library’s 100th birthday party attended by more than 400 community residents, a total of $3,000 was raised. “We used this opportunity to alert the public at that time that it was finally time to expand the OB Library,” said Friends Expansion Committee.
OB Library’s expansion was held up for a variety of reasons.
“Over the years, many factors including City budget issues, the Great Recession, threats of branch closures and lack of developer impact fees for the Ocean Beach area delayed the project,” said Friends Expansion Committee. “Finally, OB no longer qualified for federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) eligibility.”
The building and land at 4817 Santa Monica Ave. to be expanded into was purchased via a federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) loan in 2005. The rental agreements for tenants of the Santa Monica building were not renewed and the tenants vacated the building over a year ago.
A 2018 feasibility study done during previous Councilmember Lorie Zapf’s tenure concluded that the existing Santa Monica building to be expanded into the need to be razed, redesigned and connected to the historic portion of the OB Library. That conclusion was supported by the City Library administration as well as Obecians.
In January 2019, the Friends, along with OB community leaders, met with Mayor Kevin Falconer.
“He was enthusiastic and supportive of the expansion and directed his staff to begin the process,” Friends said.
In May 2019, FOBL lobbied the City Council for money to move ahead with the expansion project. “In the San Diego city budget that the City Council passed on June 20, 2019, Campbell worked with the other council members to secure a unanimous vote adding $500,000 to the capital improvement project budget for OB library expansion,” said FOBL. “That includes engineering and architectural renderings. Technically, this is the first step. Faulconer and Campbell have since added an additional $125,000 to the library project budget.”
The latest estimates from the City Library Administration is that OB Library’s expansion will cost between $10 million and $12 million.
That money will be well spent, FOBL said.
“We hope to see several things: a greatly expanded children’s area with space for children’s early literacy and discovery programs, a community meeting room to accommodate 125 people, a better computer area for classes and programs, updated technology — including an idea lab/maker space for children and adults, a Friends bookstore and display areas for local exhibits and artworks,” said FOBL.
Local public engagement on the library’s expansion is to occur this spring at OB Town Council meetings. Then, an in-house design team from the City Department of Public Works and the San Diego Public Library Administration will fill local residents in on detailed OB Library expansion plans.
“These meetings will refine the plans to meet community needs and a final design will emerge,” FOBL said. “The design phase started in January 2020 and the expansion project is estimated to go to bid by the fall of 2021 if funding is available. Completion is targeted for 2023.”
“The City, with completed plans in hand, perhaps by this time next year, will start looking for funding,” continued FOBL. “Whether a bond will be issued, or a philanthropist will come forward, or a combination of both — we won’t know.”
There is, however, one more critical step to be taken before OB Library expansion can occur.
“We need to secure funding for construction in the next fiscal year,” said FOBL. “This will include our community support to put pressure on the mayor and city council members to provide additional city funding, along with local philanthropic efforts, to fully fund the library expansion.”
City public budget hearings likely to consider funding for OB Library expansion will be held in May.