Why Does It Take a Village to Put a Roof on the OB Library?

by on January 31, 2012 · 17 comments

in Environment, Ocean Beach, Popular, San Diego

OB Library undergoing repairs. Photo by Gail Powell.

Editor: While repairs are going on, Ragster Anna Daniels looks into the funding for the new roof on the OB Library. About two weeks behind schedule, the re-opening of the Ocean Beach branch will now be around the first of March.

It all started with a forwarded email which expressed shock that the OB Library’s Spanish barrel tile roof had recently been replaced with crappy looking shingles. I sat here in City Heights and conjured up the image of the Ocean Beach library where supporters have protested potential budgets far too many times in the past four years. What a crime to sacrifice the architectural integrity of the building to a badly needed new roof done on the cheap!

I immediately called library administration to get the story on this. According to the spokesperson, the old wood shake roof has been replaced by custom composite tile. I had “mis-remembered” a Spanish barrel tile roof and so did others! This custom tile maintains the same “look” but provides fire retardant capabilities that the shake roof didn’t.

End of story? Not quite. I asked about the funding source for the new roof and was surprised to learn that there were multiple sources, which included building maintenance funds, a donation from the OB Friends of the Library and a contribution from Kevin Faulconer’s council office.

Why is the City depending upon volunteers who raise funds for the library by selling books for fifty cents or a buck each and the largesse of the council office to maintain the physical safety and habitability of a building that carries out one of its core functions?

The Library homepage describes the role of the Friends of the Library as

…a group of volunteers who support the Library and its services and programs through various activities, including fund raising events, volunteer support, programming support, book sales, and in other ways.

The main function of these groups is clearly to enhance the basic services and programs provided throughout the system. I spoke to a few retired branch managers and learned that while it was not common to use the donations for physical maintenance or improvements, it is not strictly precluded.

But here’s the rub- the City of San Diego has a dollar for dollar matching fund for those Friends donations, but they can only be spent on equipment and materials. This is a tremendous leveraging capability for the Friends. I have no idea how much the OB Friends of the library donated for the roof, but if it were say a thousand dollars, that donation would receive a thousand dollar City match for material purchases. It receives no match however for the roof. What a tremendous waste of all those hours spent by volunteers every weekend raising money in literally fifty cent increments.

The City of San Diego is clearly years behind in road maintenance. It is also years behind on deferred maintenance of its facilities. And the City has slowly and inexorably been strangling funding to our library system. The yearly budget circus includes the possibility of closing branch libraries and reducing hours or both. Library supporters have not permitted the closures while losing on the reduction of hours.

Every year since 2006 the library budget has been reduced and the impacts are not as clearly delineated as with outright closures or reductions in hours. Our council representatives can publicly go on record that they voted against closures, but they still extract hundreds of thousands of dollars from the library budget each funding cycle. That pernicious process becomes obvious when the funds are insufficient to replace the OB library roof.

Budget season is approaching, and we might want to keep that point in mind.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar RB January 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm

The city has sacrificed its branch system for a downtown monument and unfunded pensions.

The county operates 33 branches without a downtown monument. The county has upgraded all their branch libraries and replaces one or two branches a year with completely new buildings. Here is the link. Please clink on any branch to see why it is better to live in the county system instead of the city. Also look at their branch hours.


avatar Anna Daniels January 31, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Nonsense RB, but an utterly predictable response. City Property taxes are down, sales taxes are down and TOT taxes are now being divvied up by a cabal of hoteliers and developers. Our library department is funded through the general fund, which those taxes support. The County has a guaranteed annual income stream which is based on a percentage of property taxes raised. The city library department does not have the guaranteed percentage, and it makes a difference in terms of the discretion that mayor and council have finalizing a budget, which affects the services we receive in return.
Our general fund is on the hook for millions of dollars in debt service on the Qualcom expansion (remember that?), Petco Park and the first Convention Center expansion. It has been only recently that the debt service has been assumed by the Port District and CCDC. Those subsidies of wealthy sports team owners and downtown business interests have put an unsustainable pressure on the general fund budget. Something has to give, and the library is the department that keeps on giving. And just think- our mayor spent his summer vacation trying to figure out how to ram a new football stadium down our throats and the return of the convention center expansion , and Papa Doug is dreaming big, which means he is trying to figure out a way to stick his hands down into our collective pockets when we’re not looking.
And you want to say it’s a much needed new main library and pensions that are the problem? Yes, so predictable….


avatar RB January 31, 2012 at 1:09 pm

It is comical that Petco Park and the Convention Center are the plans of the wealthy downtown business interest and the $185 million central library is not. You got your downtown library and the OB library got none of the $185 million ($26 million robbed from the local schools). May be we could have bake sales in front of the new $185 million central library (or beg from the wealthy downtown patrons who use it) to fix the OB library.


avatar Anna Daniels January 31, 2012 at 1:41 pm

It flabbergasts me- seriously- that you cannot recognize the difference between taxpayer supported city services (all of our libraries) and taxpayer supported giveaways to the private sector (Petco Park, Qualcom Stadium, Convention Center) Wow RB.


avatar RB January 31, 2012 at 2:01 pm

I am also flabbergasted (is this word still used?) that you cannot see giant new libraries, streets repair, police, city development, new water front parks, and other taxpayer supported city services all going downtown while the other communities outside of the city’s center, like OB, crumble and go without.


avatar Count your blessings January 31, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Ocean Beach is receiving new sewer lines, a couple miles of paved streets, a million dollar bathroom, a gateway into its town, a new roof and carpet for its library (along with future design plans for expansion), trees trimmed on Newport, lifeguard tower renovations, and bicycle cops. I dont understand how you can say downtown gets all the goods and OB is left to crumble… I for one dont want to see a football stadium, grand library, or convention center come into my beach town.


avatar Anna Daniels January 31, 2012 at 5:12 pm

RB- so what you really meant to say is 1) the OB Library is not receiving fiscal support because of the investment of public funds in development DOWNTOWN. But you didn’t say that. 2) You are curiously unwilling to recognize the significant difference between subsidizing wealthy interests http://tiny.cc/e8qup who are raiding the public coffers and the expenditure of funds for public services which taxpayers expect and pay for. 3) But if you have to hold up a poster child for what has most harmed the OB Library, it’s the New Main Library, which by the way isn’t built or staffed yet and has absolutely no impact on the OB library roof. The current central library and the future one support not only your library, but all of the other ones in the system. Maybe you will never need to ask a librarian at central about how to find a vet who can tend to an injured skunk, or research a patent, or read an old copy of the Tribune, but for those who do need that info they aren’t going to get it from Petco Park, the Qualcomm Stadium or the convention center. But you can sleep well– the central library budget has been eviscerated in the past six years; it shows and it does affect the OB library.


avatar john February 1, 2012 at 1:19 am

I’m always befuddled when people point to a city’s recognized franchises like sports teams and portray them as liabilities which don’t pull their weight. Amazingly enough you even add the convention center to the list.
Tourism is the number one revenue source in the San Diego economy. How much revenue does your library bring in? Revenue that provides jobs for San Diego residents. You know, that thing that the Convention Center contributes when visitors come here and leave money? Or attend a Super Bowl game? Even regular Chargers games see fans from all over Southern California because we have the only pro team.
How short sighted of you is it while bashing these teams and facilities that you have not considered the city gets revenues from everything these visitors do and that trickles down to fund your precious library?


avatar doug porter February 1, 2012 at 6:08 am

you might want to add that there are numerous studies that show that the city realizes a net LOSS in revenues from big ticket items like convention centers and sports franchises.
yes, these things bring in revenue, but they also cost in terms of governmental goods & services. so, yes, they DO NOT PULL their own weight. they cost the taxpayers. the risks to investors (in sports franchises and the hotels that live off convention centers) are lessened, while the profits are privatized, meaning that the public is expected to give up support for gov’t services to support these big ticket items.
this is not to defend the building of the library–it’s got its own set of issues with regard to financial and services impacts. just don’t try to tell us that the net impact of those big ticket subsidies for millionaires are a net positive for the public simply because the word “tourism” is used.


avatar john February 1, 2012 at 7:32 am

I didn’t know such studies existed, can you link me to one? If you did and it’s legit you may accomplish the impossible: change the mind of someone on the internet.


avatar john February 1, 2012 at 8:00 am

To preempt your reply I did a little precursory research and studies are prolific on the sports teams aspect of this. They aren’t without flaws, most were drawn up based on other cities’ experience building stadiums and attracting new teams.
Most that look at San Diego and the Chargers specifically ultimately rely on projections, and of course manipulated statistics which can be molded to nearly any outcome.
What I don’t see and I don’t think you can find one is a comprehensive study involving everything you’ve included, particularly when including the convention center- though I did find critics of the rosy picture painted by the convention centers’ figures and they had merit.
I think such a wide scoped study would be nearly impossible to come to any real conclusions as there are so many variables involved, so many residuals as well. A businessman attends a convention, tells his family how great the weather was, maybe the next winter brings them all for a week. Not unthinkable, and remember that Super Bowl we hosted about 15 years ago? I recall the weather was spectacular that day, warm and you could see Mt. Woodsen from the beach.
The commentators kept raving about how nice it was here. How much would it cost to get that postcard into the homes of all the viewers of America’s #1 watched sporting event?
I can’t see how any study could have factored that in, any more than it could figure how much more beer got sold the night the Chargers won the AFC championship game on the road and everyone drove to the Murph for a celebration rally.
How much revenue will SDG & E lose when the guy at Abbott and Muir no longer lights up his house with the blue and gold? :-)

avatar john February 1, 2012 at 8:51 am

Finally to be perfectly clear about where I stand in the overall scheme, this from Don Bauder’s critical Reader article on the convention center’s people allegedly fudging numbers:


“There is a much bigger question here. The U-T just came out with a fatuous plan for building a Chargers stadium, entertainment district, etc. etc. in the greater downtown area. The question is with San Diego’s infrastructure — roads, sewers, water, fire protection facilities, etc. — a billion dollars in the hole, and libraries and rec centers closed, should ANY money be spent downtown? The answer is no. Because the downtown overlords have local politicians in their pockets, all the money gets steered downtown as the rest of the city rots. This has to end.”

Reflects my view on it. I’m not in favor of a taxpayer funded Chargers stadium anywhere. I just think we also shouldn’t treat them like villains and work with them as it’s beneficial for all if we both make some concessions and think of the long term. I don’t even watch football on TV let alone attend any games, but then I don’t drink and I think the alcohol ban is the worst thing we’ve done in memory.
I think the Chargers are a little different than most teams in that unlike George W. Bush for instance who pocketed something like $17 million as his share of a fat profit when he and partners bought the Rangers MLB franchise, saddled a city with a huge burden of a new stadium then flipped their interests and ran, we aren’t looking at a speculating owner trying to buy then sell for a profit.
As I commented in the VOSD article Anna linked to, it’s unclear how much of Spanos’ wealth is derived from the Chargers anyway.


avatar Frank Gormlie February 1, 2012 at 10:42 am

hahahahahahaha – that’s great John!

avatar mr.rick January 31, 2012 at 1:55 pm

The issue seems to be this. After the big show case library is built to spiffy up the main drag,so to speak, there doesn’t seem to be any money left for the pee-on’s. What kind of big corporation is gonna put their eye on OB or any other neighborhood. Maybe they’ll put their H.Q. in Logan or Lemon Grove. As long as the money is allocated towards what can generate the most taxes or corporate earnings, the needs of the rest of SD will just have to figure it out. We must just thank King Neptune we get the crumbs!


avatar john February 1, 2012 at 1:23 am

They’re putting money in a downtown library as a showcase because it goes hand in glove with downtown redevelopment and you can’t really be a destination of any status without such edifices being substantial.
The fact is almost nobody is using ANY library nowadays.


avatar OB Dude February 1, 2012 at 7:02 am

I wonder if the downtown library and school will become unaffordable and then city hall will eventually be able to move their offices into in the building???
Afterall, I hear Sanders is “afraid” to go to work because the current city hall building is not sprinklered. Was he afraid to go to work as a cop also?


avatar OBCindi February 11, 2012 at 7:31 pm

The reason it takes a village to put a roof on OB Library is the same reason why we are STILL waiting for promised improvements on lighting and restrooms on the beach….What’s this, the FOURTH year that we have port-a-potties at Brighton and Spray? I keep hearing its a “funding” issue, but if the city leaders are receiving a salary from OB-cian tax dollars, then I give them an “F” on their annual review. We DESERVE to have a city that is attractive to tourists, not all this never seen to fruition, bandaid on a broken arm BS!


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