Why is library omitted from the plan?
By Dr. Anthony McIvor
February 27, 2018 (La Mesa) -- Tonight the City Council agenda includes a returning item: engagement of an urban planning firm to update feasibility tests for the Civic Center site. Included are the introduction of market-rate housing, as well as office and/or governmental use, park and parking uses in combination with another civic building.
And once again we see a baffling omission. Surrounding cities – from Alpine to IB – are proudly opening – and winning awards with – new town libraries. Just yesterday, San Diego Mayor Faulconer lauded libraries as “…hubs for inspiration, discovery and opportunity.” But in La Mesa, the long-delayed new library continues to get the crickets treatment at City Hall.
When La Mesa’s library was torn down to make room for a new La Mesa Police Department headquarters, plans were drawn up and a civic commitment made for a 20,000 square foot library. The County generously agreed to forego payment for the land given to the police headquarters, in return for La Mesa’s construction of the new library.
To serve patrons during construction, the library was warehoused in a temporary 10,000 square foot facility then designed for city offices on Allison Avenue.
Today, after 12 years, the library remains unbuilt and the County now seeks payment at full value, as La Mesa has defaulted on the original agreement. Apparently, La Mesa’s leadership would prefer the city’s general fund take the financial hit, rather than honor the commitment to the library.
Councilmembers have vowed to take the fight for La Mesa’s ferrets all the way to Sacramento, but on Allison Avenue, smack in the city center, the circulation figures, daily visitation numbers and diverse programs for thousands of city residents – despite a wholly inadequate space – do not move them. Worse, some have actually connived in the heartless and easily disproved fiction that the promised library was actually built. And yet patrons arrive, seven days a week, fingers crossed for an open seat, while all too often the staff must turn away book donations for simple want of space.
As the Council once again gears up to spend money exploring schemes for the city center, citizens could reasonably ask whether this time, at long last, completion of the town library will be front and center.
Perhaps a better question would be “if not now, when?”
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