OB Library Expansion Not in City’s Construction Pipeline Despite Promise Over 10 Years Old

by on January 14, 2015 · 27 comments

in Culture, Economy, Education, History, Ocean Beach, Organizing, Politics

OB library rally 4-30-11 006-ed-sm

OBceans rally to save the OB Library, April 30, 2011.

In a kick to the gut to OB supporters of an expansion of the Ocean Beach library, San Diego just announced the next two “waves” of construction and expansions of libraries across town – and they do not include the OB branch.

This despite the promise by the city to expand the current and historic OB library into a two -story building complete with a courtyard.  The city even purchased property next door in anticipation of the planned expansion. Architects were hired and models and plans of the new library were shown to members of the OB Planning Board.  The plans included retaining the main historic building. This was back in 2003.

The plans to expand the OB library were placed on hold and during the following Great Recession, then-Mayor Sanders tried to close the Ocean Beach branch. Residents opposed this, staging rallies and starting petitions, and a dozen OBceans even vowed to physically  block its doors from being shut permanently. Even then-Councilman Faulconer appeared at one of the rallies and opposed its closing.  Sanders relented, citing the OB resistance as what convinced him to take library closures off the table.

Returning to today, San Diego just announced the next two sets or “waves” of library expansion. In the first set, the four branches in the pipeline include Skyline Hills, Mission Hills-Hillcrest, San Carlos and San Ysidro.

Many of these branches do indeed need expansion or even new facilities, and there is no disputing the needs of these different communities. But the OB branch is  not even in the next batch, which include North Park, Otay Mesa, Paradise Hills and the Balboa branch in eastern Clairemont being scheduled.

This news is sorely disappointing to OBceans who have been waiting for over a decade for improvements to our facility. Perhaps it’s time to call Lorie Zapf, OB’s new councilwoman – (619) 236-6622.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page January 14, 2015 at 11:37 am

What is the matter with you people? How will we ever save up enough to build a stadium and a convention center expansion if we keep having to spend those precious dollars on things like a little library in OB? Or a fire station rebuild on Catalina. Let’s get our priorities in order folks.


RB January 14, 2015 at 11:49 am

The priority that suck up those precious dollars was the monument library downtown.
The county library system went with new branches rather than a central library.


Frank Gormlie January 14, 2015 at 1:50 pm

In the vernacular of the day, the new monumental library downtown is awesome! The old one was an embarrassment to the citizens of the city. Why can’t we do both? And apparently, according to the city, we are. But OB needs to be on that list somewhere.


Pete R January 14, 2015 at 2:19 pm

For what it’s worth, the Central Library was built with minimal public funds – it mostly came from donations.

“This historic level of private support means the library was built with no new taxes, bonds or even one cent of San Diego’s General Fund money.” http://bit.ly/1yirMdq


Frank Gormlie January 14, 2015 at 3:41 pm



Suzi More January 15, 2015 at 5:04 pm

I agree with Frank that the old ugly downtown library was an embarrassment. The new Central Library was not built with taxpayer funds, but with private donations. We haven’t been able to find a private donor for our OB Library……yet.


Anna Daniels January 15, 2015 at 5:51 pm

Hi Suzi! The new Central Library, like all of our libraries, was built with a combination of public and private funds. I think we would all agree that public funds should be expended for libraries.
The public funds were $20M from a State Library grant; $80M from redevelopment funds through CCDC; $20M from the San Diego Unified School District for the lease on their new downtown site in the library building. Private funds made up the $60M shortfall for construction and another $10M for operation of the building during the first 5 years.
State Library grants dwindled during the recession. Friends of the Library should check on their status. Your city council person and county supervisor should be on top of public monies that can be allocated for the library expansion.
The bottom line is that library construction and expansion will rely on both public and private funding sources. Library supporters should advocate for both.


Suzi More January 15, 2015 at 8:52 pm

Thanks so much for clarifying, Anna.


Geoff Page January 16, 2015 at 11:47 am

$80 million from CCDC for a project the public did not want to spend public money on. This is why CCDC is gone. The general public did not think this project was necessary yet public money went to it anyway. What would $80 million plus $20 million have done for all the local libraries that really are of value to the general public? But the architects, builders, and egotistical city politicians wanted it so now we have it and OB’s library sits holding an empty promise.


RK January 14, 2015 at 11:50 am

I can understand maybe that it needs improvements, but an expansion? The internet is pretty much your library. I mean don’t get me wrong, libraries are great for resources, but when you’re talking about the costs for an expansion, that’s a whole different story.


Frank Gormlie January 14, 2015 at 1:56 pm

It’s absolutely unacceptable for OB not to be even on the lists of expanded or new libraries. The community was promised one over a decade ago. It’s on the top of the Planning Board’s public facility financing list. The Friends of the OB Library have it high on their agenda.

Ultimately, it’s called political and economic pressure. Perhaps it’s time to do a survey of the libraries on the list. Obviously, there are communities with worse libraries than the OB branch and deserve to be at the top of the lists. We’re just saying that OB needs to be in there somewhere.


RK January 14, 2015 at 2:16 pm

I understand where you’re coming from Frank.


Christo January 14, 2015 at 11:52 am

We got a remodel just recently. You sat on it. With that new bench and all, aren’t we good for another century or so?


Frank Gormlie January 14, 2015 at 1:48 pm

Haha, Christo. Ah know what ya mean. Actually have not sat on it yet.


Christo January 14, 2015 at 7:41 pm

It’s nice. A welcome addition. It’s great to see wonderful things come out of conflict.


Sophie January 14, 2015 at 3:02 pm

I am sorry to read this very disappointing information. The O B Library, iconic though it is, is the oldest library in the San Diego system. As for expansions, O B could use a community room in its library, and perhaps even meet other unmet needs of our town.

I hope Laurie Zapf reads this blog, and takes whatever action is necessary to “kick us up” on the “LIST”….


Old Hippie January 14, 2015 at 3:44 pm

Sophie – I think it’s up to all of us OBceans to put pressure on Lorie Zapf’s D2 office – in a nice way of course. Her number is 619-236-6622.


unwashedwallmartTHONG January 14, 2015 at 5:13 pm

One truly has to prioritize these days. First, bring in the corporations to run the charter schools. When that is done, & all the schools are run by corporations who we cannot even audit, then the libraries won’t be needed. The children won’t remember when, before the charter schools dumbed them down to real dumb. Funny, I was just on the phone w/ an acquaintance who took a tour of the downtown library just today, & she said it is truly wonderful. Now, hard decision here, do we need a million dollar war memorial over by Abbott & Newport, or do we need an improvement to the library? Seems like we have to prioritize again, don’t we. Not to bring in the fallacy of false alternatives here, jus’ sayin’


Gretchen Newsom January 14, 2015 at 5:24 pm

Councilmember Lorie Zapf will be at our OB Town Council meeting on Wednesday, January 28th at 7pm at the Masonic Hall – this will be an opportunity to hear her legislative priorities and inform her of OB’s priorities and concerns, such as the OB library expansion. I hope to see you there: https://www.facebook.com/events/839607382772043/


unwashedwallmartTHONG January 15, 2015 at 8:35 am

How do you pronounce Zapf? Is it similar to the sound one hears when one is tazed? Or is it more like the sound an 88 year old pensioner might make when a certain sphincter valve fails to function properly? Confused here.


Anna Daniels January 14, 2015 at 10:30 pm

Here’s some historical info that may be helpful in presenting your case to Councilwoman Zapf, Mayor Faulconer AND new library director Misty Jones:
“In 2002, the City Council approved a program to build or improve 24 libraries throughout San Diego, including a New Central library.” Ocean Beach was on that original expansion list.
As recently as 2008, Ocean Beach appeared on a list of City of San Diego & CCDC Projects. The construction costs were $10,186,500 for an expansion to 15,000 ft.
In 2010, over $2M in capital improvement funds were (I vaguely remember) used to fix the roof and other maintenance.
Thirteen years have passed and why is Ocean Beach (and so many other branches) on hold? While San Diego residents love their libraries, the City Council has not been willing to put our money where our values are. The library ordinance, which would have guaranteed a percentage of the general fund for operation of the system, has been waived every year since 2004. The library continues to receive a disproportionately small portion of the general fund, as other departments (Park & Rec, Police) have received a bigger part of the pie.
The income sources and funds for capital improvements have been raided (Kevin Faulconer voted to move a big chunk of money out of the Library Improvement Fund in lieu of closing seven branches, including OB, about 7 years ago.)
What started out as an ambitious plan that was crafted in 2002 with a great deal of community input has devolved into a piece meal approach to which libraries are expanded or built. That approach depends on what funding is available, and how hard specific districts or interests lobby for a particular branch.
But the worst thing that happened was the conscious use of the financial crisis we have gone through to redefine the city’s core services as safety (police & fire) and to make libraries and park & rec second tier. This reflects libertarian/conservative values but is not indicative of how residents view the importance of libraries (and park & rec).
If you want the OB Library to be put on the radar, I would encourage you all to pay attention to the library budget for FY 2016 and advocate for more operating and CIP funds for the whole system.
PS. Everything is not on the internet. Last night at our Free Press editorial board meeting, Frank Gormlie described going through microfilm at the Central Library to read the original San Diego Free Press newspaper.
“La Jolla library became the first branch of the San Diego Public Library (1910)” from Turning the Pages by Clara E Breed (also not on the internet) Ocean Beach opened in 1916.


john January 14, 2015 at 11:24 pm

Rehabilitate the existing and plan a simple addition under 5,000. Quality over quantity. Advocate a philosophy of conservation, stewardship and respect for the land. Why are you comfortable with a massive expansion (15,000 sf)of a Library? Oppose all projects too great in mass and scale. Keep land planning/ conservation philosophy consistent. Keep OB unique. The land (negative space) is the valuable asset, not the stucco box (positive space) . Nature is your library.


Anna Daniels January 15, 2015 at 10:45 am

Residents have a consistent expectation about what services their library should provide. One of those services is community meeting space and OB library does not provided that service. Not surprisingly, there is a standard for library construction and expansion that attempts to provide equity throughout the system. One of those standards is 15,000 sq foot libraries. That is pretty much the minimum amount of space needed for accessible book/magazine/multi media resources; adequate seating and tables; adequate number of computer terminals and space to use personal technology; sufficient area for friends of library to store books; community rooms.


Laura Dennison January 15, 2015 at 2:08 pm

In 2005, the city purchased the building next to the library, known as the Gee Office Building – 4817 Santa Monica Ave, with HUD funds specifically for the cultural/educational purpose of expanding the OB library. The building was paid off, but “re-mortgaged” in the downturn. I’ve been told that HUD doesn’t like it when a city makes a specific capital expenditure with designated HUD money, only to have the city use it for another purpose. So the purchase of land for our little OB library is not an issue. Getting private “seed” money to get the ball rolling is the main obstacle. Any ideas? Anna Daniels, please come to the Library Friends meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 20!! We could use your memory and expertise!


Debra January 16, 2015 at 10:16 am

(I agree with john).


Judy Collier January 15, 2015 at 1:18 pm

I am thrilled that the OB Rag is lifting the banner for the OB Library expansion. The Ocean Beach Friends of the Library, a volunteer group, has been trumpeting the call for our library’s expansion. Despite a small number of truly active members, in the past year some of us have met with: Mayor Falcouner, Council Members Ed Harris and Lori Zapf, their aides Chet Barfield and Conrad Wear, an aide to Toni Atkins, Jay Hill, head of the San Siego Public Library Foundation, and Misty Jones, head librarian. We have divided up the OB organizations and are attending as many community meetings as we can. We are not paid professional lobbyists, so we are learning on the job. We appreciate the help anyone can offer us. We meet on the third Tuesday of the month at 2:00 p.m. in our historic library, and our next meeting just happens to be next Tuesday, Jan. 20. Or, you can email me at ghudi92107@yahoo.com, or call me at 619 223-1890. Thank you for your support!
Judy Collier, President
Ocean Beach Friends of the Library


Suzi More January 15, 2015 at 5:20 pm

Well said Anna, Laura and Judy. Frank, we appreciate the support you’ve given to our great little library over the years. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if our services could be expanded and if community meetings could be held there?
Suzi More, Secretary
OB Friends of the Library


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