Friends of the Ocean Beach Library Have High Hopes for its Expansion

by on July 7, 2016 · 3 comments

in Culture, Environment, History, Media, Ocean Beach, San Diego


The Friends of the Ocean Beach library and its staff have high hopes for the expansion of the branch – one of the oldest in the City’s system.

It was in a cool, air-conditioned backroom where I sat down with head librarian Matt Beatty and Laura Dennison, one of the co-chairs of the Expansion sub-committee for the Friends to discuss the library’s expansion plans.


Laura Dennison and Matt Beatty

The basic idea is for the library to take over either parts of or all of the building next door, which is already owned by the City – bought over a decade ago in anticipation of the OB Library’s rehab and expansion.

The next door building – now inhabited by law firms – all with leases with the City – is so close to the Library, that the hopes are that they can be connected at some point, with a computer lab, meeting rooms and staff offices for the librarians.

Eventually, the hope is that the entire building next door – called the “Gee Building” after one of the original tenants – will be fused with the current library structure, with new electricity, an elevator, ADA-compliant restrooms, space for counseling and study, a Teen Room, and space for the Friends of the OB Library to hold all their books, including space to sell books.


The Gee Building is literally right next door to the current OB Library.

Friends of the OB Library also hope that the exterior west wall of the library will be opened to the patio, where they’d love to see an atrium.


Matt and Laura at the gate to the Gee Building.

As Laura and Matt described their hopes, they admitted that those grand ideas are tempered with all the obstacles that any expansion of the library has to overcome, not the least is funding for the expansion.

One of the biggest challenges is the upcoming feasibility study that the City will conduct for the expansion. Already funded with $200,000, as announced at community meetings by Councilwoman Zapf’s staff, the study will determine just what can be constructed with the limited resources available. It will be out probably sometime this September, Matt told me, just in time potentially for the OB Library’s great centennial celebration. (OB’s original library was over on Abbott Street, in what is now New Break, according to OB historian Kathy Blavatt.)


Patio at the Gee Building.


Interior of the ground floor space.


One of the potential hurdles was the degrading of the Library’s position on the capital improvement funds – which currently sits as the top number one priority on the OB Planning Board’s list. Laura was concerned that the library would be dropped to number 2, supplanted by the lifeguard station.


Will this wall be part of the expansion?

But she reported today, that in fact, John Ambert, the Chair of the Planning Board, made a motion at last night’s Board meeting, to reinstate the library as the planner’s premier funding priority. “There was no problem at all,” Laura said.

Obviously, the largest hurdle is finding funding for the actual construction of the expansion. Laura talked about state and federal grants – but also said they look to the City of San Diego as well for the monies.

Another challenge in forging ahead with the expansion, is dealing with all the leases to the Gee Building as some won’t be up for two years or so. Although three will be up by the end of this October. The City will probably have to order a study of potential asbestos in the Gee Building before it can move ahead and knock down the interior walls.


Top of the exterior stairs of the Gee Building.

A decade ago, the City spent a quarter of a million on a rehab and expansion plan for the OB Library. Models were made, drawings were created, expectations within the village were raised. Then the Great Recession hit, and everything flew off the table.


Laura Dennison

When I asked Matt and Laura why the library just couldn’t use the old feasibility study, they patiently explained to me that the prior study was on tearing down the Gee Building, buying the gas station across the alley from the Library, and constructing a 2-story facility using the core historical section.  It was to be a brand new, modern library, with a courtyard, garden ….

Everything has now changed. The old study is out of date – obsolete – and new plans have to be drawn up completely from scratch. And the new feasibility study will figure out what can occur in the expansion in the short-term.

So, in 2 years, the OB Library could very will extend into “the Annex” where there’s a modern computer lab, offices for the librarians – who don’t have private desks now – and community rooms and space. Matt cautioned that in the immediate term, both buildings could have separate entrances until the building are connected.


Head librarian Matt Beatty

It was pointed out that the community needs a place where books can be  sold. The private section has utterly failed on this in Ocean Beach. And the Friends could create that space – independent of the Library – where books could be purchased.

Wow! Just think: a new expanded library and a non-profit book store.

The hopes are there. Let’s see what the feasibility study says – we’ll find out this Fall – as we’re celebrating a hundred years of lending books in Ocean Beach.

At the end of our meeting, some old drawings of the decade old plans for the OB Library were unfurled.

Here they are – remember this ain’t gonna happen, something else. What that something else is up to the community.


Artist rendering of former design.


Different view of OB Library’s former plans.


Another drawing of prior plans. Laura liked this image as it was the only one with a VW bus.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Tessa July 8, 2016 at 4:31 pm

Wonderful news! Congratulations all around!
How about a special section emphasizing our spectacular natural environment -ocean, cliffs,rare plants and birds,marvelous weather,surfing,etc., -perhaps for the teens,or for all?
As for a bookstore-great!


Rusty K July 8, 2016 at 5:27 pm

As an OB resident I’m delighted at the prospect of an expanded library, as described.


Dave July 9, 2016 at 12:38 am

I love the library, and while I always believed there was room for improvement, it served my family well during our time in OB.

That said, I went back in about a week ago after frequenting Pt. Loma for the last year or so (our old home is now a vacation rental and we got priced out to the Sports Arena area) and was blown away at how stark the “homey” site I’d brought my daughter to for years seemed in comparison to our new local branch.

I see no need to tear down the gas station and occupy that site, but an expansion into the office complex next door would do the facility a world of good…


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