At their February 28, 2010 meeting, the Escondido Library Board and the Trustees of the Escondido Library Endowment Foundation gave the Escondido City Council a presentation of a “phased approach” to develop a new library, by upgrading the old library and adding to that building. On June 16, 2010, that Council (Mayor Sam Abed, Council members Olga Diaz, Ed Gallo, Mike Morasco, and Marie Waldron,) approved $200K to make additional studies and put together a conceptual plan. On February 16, 2011, that same Council approved $188,555 for the Group 4 Architecture, Research + Planning, Inc. to create a conceptual design for the first phase of the library expansion. On October 16, 2013 that Council (minus Marie Waldron plus John Masson) received the Group 4 report, and the Council directed city staff to look for ways to fund the expansion. The Council approved another $257K for the project on June 18, 2014. Last year, on August 18, the Council directed staff to hire consultants to conduct polls and provide strategies for a general obligation bond measure to fund the expansion.
At last Wednesday’s meeting, the Council was presented with item 23, Library Expansion Update: Survey Results. The results were encouraging to library supporters, indicating that the super-majority of voters required for a $50M bond was out there. Staff requested the Council to direct them to either pursue placing a bond measure on the November ballot, or to pursue an alternative public/private plan. The Council gave neither of those directions.
Instead, as J. Harry Jones has so well described, http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/mar/25/escondido-library-grape-bond/all/?print they instructed the staff to develop a plan to build a brand new library where the parking lot for the California Center for the Arts is now, along with a parking structure, and maybe a new pool. I don’t think anyone was more surprised than I, when Masson quoted Eminem, basically arguing that if you are going to support a bond measure, why not have it pay for something really great? Diaz interjected that Masson couldn’t just quote the lyrics, he had to rap them. The rest of the Council looked startled. Masson was very enthusiastic, this would centralize the library, perhaps there could be a café/terrace overlooking the park. Suddenly, the other three male members, three members who had voted to close down the East Valley Parkway Branch of the Escondido Public Library, seemed to have a great change of heart about libraries. Gallo observed that Escondido had a history of building things too small. (How long has he been on the Council or Planning Commission?) Morasco observed that there would not be time to put a bond measure for such a library on the November ballot, but that election would not be the best time for such a measure anyway. Even Abed avowed the entire Council was passionate about the library. (What now?)
Diaz observed the $50M would probably not be enough for such a project. She loved the idea of a new library in the park, but had not moved that concept forward because she never believed there would be support. She seemed a bit worried that the project would ever be executed. She asked Elmer Cameron, long-time member of the library’s board of trustees, what he thought, would he prefer to go with the expansion idea or the new library? Cameron too, seemed pleasantly surprised at the turn of events, and expressed his support for a new library. Addressing the other members, Diaz said she wanted a promise that they would follow through with this idea.
Time alone will tell if this is a promise that will be kept.