Lane Field site. "Most San Diego voters do not use the downtown library in a given year.... Most voters say that the central library should not be located downtown...."
  • Lane Field site. "Most San Diego voters do not use the downtown library in a given year.... Most voters say that the central library should not be located downtown...."
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Convinced that the City of San Diego had made a mistake when it acquired only half a city block for its new public library, civic luminary George W. Marston stated in 1899, "I believe the city will regret for all time its error if it should let this opportunity pass without obtaining the full square of land for the library.... As a businessman, I cannot think of anything that this city could do that would bring better returns to it than the use of forty or fifty thousand dollars to place the Carnegie library building where it ought to be and with adequate grounds about it. What I regret to see is the disposition to look for the cheapest possible place rather than the best."

The San Diego Union describes the current library building as a "disgrace," "derelict," "dilapidated," and a "civic embarrassment."

The San Diego Union describes the current library building as a "disgrace," "derelict," "dilapidated," and a "civic embarrassment."

Ninety-two years later, Marston qualifies as a clairvoyant. The building that replaced the original Carnegie library in 1954 on the same half-block on E Street, between Eighth and Ninth avenues, downtown, is overstuffed and has become the object of insults hurled by politicians and editorialists. The facility cannot be permanently expanded on its present site unless the city buys out or condemns an apartment house on Ninth Avenue and commercial properties on Broadway.

Map storage, current library

Map storage, current library

It seems the library building has been allowed to deteriorate by a city administration determined to build a new library somewhere else — but only downtown, and only on the cheapest possible land, far away from the center of the city's population.

Suggestions for a new central library site have come and gone with a tidal regularity since 1977. In November of that year, a San Diego City Council committee was expected to endorse plans to expand the existing building over the whole city block, but that vote was canceled when the Centre City Development Corporation suggested building a library in the Horton Plaza redevelopment area.

The librarian suggests moving the library's Technical Services department off-site.

The librarian suggests moving the library's Technical Services department off-site.

That idea eventually wheezed away, and the new library, perpetually on the drawing boards, has lurched from one site to another ever since: Horton Plaza, the Community Concourse, 12th Avenue and C Street, the Hillcrest Sears building, Centre City East, the old Navy hospital, the County Administration Center....

Shelves, current library

Shelves, current library

The latest proposal was unveiled last January when Mayor Maureen O'Connor announced during her 'State of the City address that she has selected the site of the old Lane Field baseball stadium as the ideal setting for what she dubbed a "storybook library."

Mayor Maureen O'Connor announced that she has selected the site of the old Lane Field baseball stadium.

Mayor Maureen O'Connor announced that she has selected the site of the old Lane Field baseball stadium.

The waterfront parcel at the foot of Broadway, between Harbor Drive and Pacific Highway, is now a 760-space parking lot. O'Connor later noted that the land was especially attractive because it is owned by the San Diego Unified Port District, which might be persuaded to donate the property to the city.

Proposed library  design. "Suddenly O'Connor's face turned crimson and she said, almost hands-on-hips, 'Because I'm mayor and I don't want it there!'"

Proposed library design. "Suddenly O'Connor's face turned crimson and she said, almost hands-on-hips, 'Because I'm mayor and I don't want it there!'"

The mayor's proposal includes a plan to finance construction through private contributions and a claim that the Sony Corporation of America has agreed to provide a small cash subsidy and a large amount of computer equipment to the new facility. O'Connor's unilateral decision on the Lane Field site avoided having to put the new library building up for a public vote in the form of a bond issue that could increase property taxes and, in the process, also shut the public out of the library-building and site-selection efforts.

The mayor had good reason to prefer to ignore the public's impressions of local libraries in general and Lane Field in particular. Five months before the mayor's "storybook library" announcement, a special committee of the volunteer, nonprofit group of private citizens known as Friends of the Library commissioned and paid for a public opinion survey. The $6900 study was conducted by Decision Research, a respected opinion polling firm that specializes in political issues. Longtime city council aide John Kern oversaw the design of the study, which was to help preview public reaction to placing a library bond issue on the November 1990 ballot and to assess the public's mood regarding the need and location for a new main library. After the results of the private study were circulated inside city hall, the city council decided against placing a bond measure before the voters. And ever since, various politicians, city hall administrators, and members of Friends of the Library have denied ever seeing the study, some even implying that there never was such a study.

The findings of the Decision Research study, culled from long interviews with a statistically valid sample of 403 registered voters in the city of San Diego, contradict the views of the small cadre of people who insist San Diego needs a new central library, whether on Lane Field or at any other site. Excerpts from the report's summary: "There is no underlying indication that the voters are dissatisfied with library service.... The voters clearly indicate that the highest priority for additional spending by city government should be on public safety and health services.... Only about one-third of the respondents report having a member of then-household using the central library each year; most San Diego voters do not use the downtown library in a given year.... Most voters say that the central library should not be located downtown.... When asked to choose a location for the central library from among the present site, Lane Field, north of Interstate 8, or Mission Valley, the preferred choice of location is Mission Valley. The downtown locations are considered unacceptable by a majority of the voters....

We can see no political advantage to locating a new central library downtown, and there are surely disadvantages to such a location."

In the face of such public resistance, why would O'Connor insist on building the library at Lane Field? Sal Giametta, the mayor's aide and point man on the library, declares, "I'm not familiar with that study. I haven't seen it. And I'm not sure the mayor has either." He goes on to talk about there being "no more majestic site" for a library than Lane Field and adds, "If you allow detractors to enter into the equation, you're never going to get a library." According to projections from Decision Research's report, 67 percent of San Diego voters would prefer a library in Mission Valley, and the majority opposed Lane Field or anywhere else downtown. Coincidentally, a bond issue would require a yes vote from 67 percent of the electorate.

Even some people who presumably stand for the free flow of information that libraries represent claim to know nothing of the Decision Research study. Betty Sherman, executive director of Friends of the Library, which contributed most of the money to fund the study and which now supports the Lane Field site, stated in a telephone interview that she wasn't aware of such a study. When she realized that I had a copy of it, she changed her mind. "Oh, I have seen it. But there was really no result. About one-third [of those polled] were capricious, one-third wanted Mission Valley or somewhere, and one-third wanted it seaside. The basic thing is, we'll take a library anywhere we can get it."

Sherman had, in fact, written about the study in the September 1990 Friends of the Library newsletter. Again mischaracterizing the report's findings, she wrote that the Decision Research study and several others show that "for the IMAGE and PROPER USE of a Main Library, all indicate that a 'HUB LIBRARY' be located at least near the heart of the city.”

Five years ago, when the Friends were enthusiastically behind moving the new library to Hillcrest, at the site of the abandoned Sears building, Sherman had a different definition of "the heart of the city." In an April 1986 Friends newsletter, she wrote, "Statistics have uncovered the fact that the center of population in the city is located somewhere near Linda Vista. This lends strength to our argument that the regional concept for a main library should probably see it located in UPTOWN and that we need good accessibility and adequate free public parking, for patrons coming from as far as 25 miles away. Let's let San Diego think modern and not rebuild the past into a monstrosity set in the middle of [down] town with no access or parking."

Time and again, when the public has had a chance to voice its preference for the site of a new central library, downtown has come out the loser. A 1985 survey conducted for the downtown business group San Diegans, Inc., found that 85 percent of the businesses based within a four-block area of city hall never used the library for business research. O'Connor, in her efforts to justify building on Lane Field, claims that part of the new library's function will be to cater to business. But 87 percent of the businesses surveyed in the San Diegans, Inc., study stated they weren't interested in having a business division added to any new downtown library.

In 1986, public opinion polls overwhelmingly supported the old Sears site on University Avenue in Hillcrest for a new central library. The idea had originated with Love Magness, wife of then-library commissioner Bob Magness. The concept appealed to large portions of the population who resist going downtown and who liked the accessibility of the Hillcrest location. The idea was endorsed by numerous groups, including the Friends of the Library, the board of library commissioners, and the Mayor's Ad Hoc Library Task Force. Then-city councilman Bill Cleator made approval of the Sears site a theme of his campaign for mayor. His opponent, Maureen O'Connor, favored a downtown location for a new library, offering a sketchy idea for a multiuse high-rise on the present E Street site, where seniors' housing might be built above six or eight floors of library space. No more was heard of the idea once she was elected.

Feeling the public pressure to place the library at the Sears site, the city council approved the purchase of the 12.2-acre parcel for $9 million in May of 1986. But after O'Connor's election in June, the city hall apparatus seemed incapable of considering a library site outside downtown. City engineering reports on the suitability of converting the Sears building were uniformly negative, and city manager's reports on the viability of constructing a new building on the lot were tepid. In the end, even though the city owned the land — a site supported by the public and with plenty of free parking space — the city council decided in December of 1986 to dispose of the newly purchased property and to search for a new location downtown. The Hillcrest property was sold off for a kind of monument more consistent with the city's highest aspirations: a shopping center.

"There was absolutely no rational reason not to put the library at Sears, none at all,” declares ex-councilman Cleator. "The new library should be in a place that people can get to easily. The reason I fell in love with the Sears site was it had freeway access, buses, and plenty of pedestrian traffic. The only thing it didn't have was the trolley." Cleator says that, apart from the transients who hunker down in the downtown library, the main problem there is parking. He believes the same problem will exist at Lane.. Field, which isn't large enough to accommodate all of the parking pressures evident in the area now, much less when a new library building, nearly three times the size of the present facility, is plopped down amid the cruise ships, Navy buildings, restaurants, and hotels.

So why was Sears finally abandoned? "It was my feeling that my colleagues weren't about to let Cleator have a success," he explains. "It wasn't so much the issue of keeping it downtown. It was personal. It was politics."

Strangely, Councilwoman Judy McCarty, who is now an ardent supporter of Lane Field, was one of only two city council votes Cleator was able to marshal in favor of the Hillcrest site back in '86. At that time, she said downtown had an "access problem" that was a major argument against an urban location, and she fretted about the city being unable to afford a "Ihj Mahal" library. But today McCarty seems passionate about Lane Field, a parcel of land hemmed in by impending high-rise developments on all sides and which could not be farther away from freeway exits unless it were underwater. In a recent op-ed piece in the San Diego Union, McCarty wrote, "This harborside location is in an uncongested area near public transportation and can be reached in a car or on foot by people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. It is also near major freeways."

Another example of the strange nature of the library-site question is this encounter with Mayor O'Connor, related by graphic designer Eric DuVall. "I was living in University Heights in 1986, and we were community activists involved in the University Heights Community Association. I used to patronize Sears and thought it was a fantastic site for a library. Two or three people in the association didn't think it was a good idea, but they were people with ties to the Centre City Development Corporation or whose firms hoped to do business downtown.

"After the city purchased the property, Mayor O'Connor was elected and she was still against the idea. I thought, 'There's gotta be something one of us doesn't understand.' But the only way to talk to her was to sign up for one of those Meet the Mayor things, where they give you five minutes. I went in on a Tuesday night.

"In front of me was a firefighter with a disability problem, and after me was a Brownie troop that was going to sing carols to her. Sal [Giametta] briefed me before I went in.

"He said the mayor felt the library ought to be centrally located. I said, 'I do too.' He said, 'It should be some kind of monument.' I said, 'Yeah! Yeah! I agree.' And for those reasons, Sal said, it should be downtown. I said that Sears was a three-minute shot down 163 from downtown.

"So they take me in and [mayoral press aide] Paul Downey and another guy sit down at my flanks, like they're ready to lunge at me if I make a false move. I was introduced to Mayor O'Connor, who was sitting way back from the table. She wasn't comfortable.

I tried to engage her in conversation, ask her questions, get her involved, but she just sat impassively, listening. Finally I asked her to give me some idea what fault she found with Sears. Suddenly her face turned crimson and she said, almost hands-on-hips, 'Because I'm mayor and I don't want it there!' I didn't know how to respond. Downey and the other guy got up noisily, signaling the interview was over. It was surreal."

The political contempt for the public's will regarding the library has served to obscure a crucial question: Do we really need a new central library building? After all, patronage of the downtown library has been declining for almost 15 years as the city has decentralized. Today, 88 percent of the system's circulation takes place in the 31 branch libraries scattered among the city's suburbs. In 1990, two northern branches, Rancho Bernardo and Rancho Peiiasquitos, together circulated almost three times as many children's books (116,709) as did the central library (39,543). And yet, in her "State of the City" address, the mayor declared that children (very few of whom live downtown) would be primary beneficiaries of a Lane Field library.

Patronage patterns in the Decision Research study showed that the central library was virtually a downtown branch library, with most of its users living close to downtown. Overall, the study found men evenly divided on the question of whether a new central library is needed at all, and merely a plurality of support for a new library (46 percent to 32 percent) existed among women. People surveyed said they were generally satisfied with library service in the city.

When politicians and the library lobby claim San Diego needs a new library, the reasons given have never had anything to do with a lack of service at the existing facility. More often the reasons are couched in terms such as "A great city needs a great library" or something about our having to prove to tourists that San Diego is "world class." The library's primary function as a public source of information has become secondary to the site question and the supposed need for the building to make some kind of statement. When asked for reasons why the library should be located downtown, Mike Madigan, local development company executive who is leading the fundraising campaign for the mayor's Lane Field proposal, started talking about civic monuments and the Sydney Opera House.

The San Diego Union, in both editorials and news columns, describes the current library building as a "disgrace," "derelict," "dilapidated," and a "civic embarrassment." Local politicians cite the large, new libraries in Dallas, San Francisco, Chicago, and Denver, suggesting that San Diego's library will be built to satisfy the edifice envy of politicians who see other large cities investing in major new libraries. To accomplish this, library boosters tell people that their central library building is outmoded and beyond saving; as a result, little or no money or effort is expended to maintain or upgrade it, and the building does deteriorate through neglect. But so far, as the opinion polls show, this strategy of concocting public desire for a new central library has backfired.

The public portions of the library have a funky, no-frills seriousness that some people like. In response, city librarian Bill Sannwald says, "Yeah, I guess it's okay — if you like '50s architecture." Sannwald, whose previous experience includes two years' overseeing the library system of Ventura County and working as a consultant on the construction of a new library in Thousand Oaks, has expressed nothing but disdain for San Diego's central library building since he arrived in 1979.

In an interview, he remarked that when he was first offered the job of city librarian, "I at first turned it down after I saw how depressing the building is." No wonder the place looks like nobody takes any pride in it. Sannwald says he was brought in "to get a new library built," and yet he "had no position” on the Sears site in 1986. "The city manager had no position on Sears," he explains, "so I had no position."

It appears that Sannwaid and the city administration are deliberately keeping the library locked in 1950s drabbery in order to force construction of a new library — but only downtown. Declares former library commissioner Bob Magness, "The librarians are implicitly discouraged from having any constructive ideas about getting more public space for books."

For nearly 20 years, internal library studies have suggested ways in which the central library building could be better used. Very few of these ideas have ever been implemented. Sannwaid says that's because "a new library has been right over the hill for so long. At one point [Mayor] Roger Hedgecock told me, 'We're going to start you a new library building before the end of the year [1984].'" But in 1986, Sannwaid was quoted in the Union saying the library selection process could take five years. It's reasonable to expect that once a site is selected, it would take at least another two or three years to complete construction.

Given that time frame and the number of possibilities at hand for relieving crowding at the present central library, some of the suggestions might have been put in place as interim measures.

Sannwaid and his assistants claim the lack of public space is one of the main problems with the building. But a 1980 report by the Central Library Renovation Committee (an internal report prepared by city librarians) recommended completely reorganizing the building and moving the library's Technical Services department off-site. This department, located along the second floor hallway leading to the California Room, processes new books for distribution to the entire city library system. There is still no compelling reason for it to be occupying 7700 square feet of valuable library space.

The city has just renegotiated its leases on 300,000 square feet of offices in three buildings outside city hall, taking advantage of the real estate slump's falling rents. This seems a propitious time to move Technical Services, the library's administrative offices (which take up about 8000 square feet on the third floor), and much of the unused collection in basement storage. Although such proposals have been talked about since the late 1970s, none has been acted upon.

Jim Hall, owner of the property directly behind the library on Broadway, says he offered two years ago to construct a building there and lease space and parking for the library's administrative staff. "Bill Sannwaid hasn't shown any interest in the idea," says Hall. "I guess he thinks freeing up space in the library for books will work against his plans for a new library." Library officials say they don't want merely to lease space behind their building, and Hall isn’t interested in selling the property. "But if they're sincere that they want a new library on the waterfront, they're six or eight years away, minimum," Hall observes. "Either way, they need some more temporary space before they move."

And if the central library is so crowded and short of space for users, why is the city about to open a gift shop on the first floor?

Sannwaid says merchandising stationery, museum-quality knick-knacks, and coffee mugs and T-shirts with library themes "will help the image of the library." Bruce Herring, the deputy city manager whose brainstorm spawned the gift shop idea, says it's a "revenue-generating opportunity." As the plan is now laid out, the library will keep, at most, only a third of the revenue generated from gift shop sales. The city's general fund and the private consultant overseeing the shop's management will divide the remainder of the money. The shop will displace the volumes of U.S. patents currently on the south wall, which will be moved to the southwest corner of the Science and Technology section. Four tables and about 25 chairs would have to be removed in that corner to make room for the patent books.

Other suggestions for improving the existing building, such as replacing the obsolete air conditioning system, would take a major investment of money. But even if a new library is built, it's expected that the existing building will either be leased out by the city or continue to be used for library functions. Either way, it will need a new air conditioning system, and waiting only jacks up the cost.

But library officials appear to wield the malfunctioning air conditioning as a bludgeon to help gain a new building. For months at a time, Sannwaid has kept a bucket outside his office to catch water leaking from the air conditioning system, whether any water was leaking or not.

Even relatively minor, cosmetic proposals for improving the building have been ignored. Carpeting the building; painting over the fine but drab wood paneling with more appealing colors; hanging decorative murals, prints, and banners for a less institutional look — are all relatively inexpensive suggestions from the library's own staff. Adding indoor plants and improving signage would do wonders. But Sannwald seems content to preside over a "depressing" structure and to decline to maximize the building's potential.

If, in spite of political machinations, the public doesn't want a new library at the Lane Field site, there is a place where San Diegans indicate they might like a central library — Mission Valley. Once again, Love Magness first spotted the location. Her husband, the former library commissioner, an opponent of the Lane Field site, had mentioned that a place for the library should be found in Mission Valley. One day she was coming out of a store at the east end of Mission Valley Center, and she looked across the San Diego River and there it was: 90 acres of vacant land on the north side of the river channel.

When Bob Magness checked it out, he found that it is owned by the CalMat Corporation, which runs a gravel pit nearby. CalMat calls the parcel Rio Vista West, and when a company representative showed Magness the conceptual plans for the site, Magness was delighted to see that a library had been penciled in along the north bank of the river. Given the valley's location as a meeting point for five freeways, its available bus service, residential units within walking distance of the site, and a late-1990s extension of the trolley line along the north bank of the river, the place seemed perfect.

In August, September, and October of this year, Magness brought a succession of people to the vacant lot to show them where he believed the library should be built. These visitors included Sannwald, former library commissioner Barbara Luce, Betty Sherman, and a few city officials. He says they all expressed enthusiasm for the land's potential; the site is large enough to accommodate both a major building and adequate parking, it is more accessible than Lane Field, and it doesn't have a problem with transients. Magness found CalMat executives willing to discuss the idea of placing a new central library on the land. "If it's going to take a bond issue to build a new library, and I think it will, you've got to have a site that people are excited about," Magness argues. "And in a $100 million bond issue, the land cost isn't that big a deal."

Magness seemed to be generating some momentum for the site until one day in early November, when he got a call from Don Cerone, CalMat's vice president for land management. "Cerone said that Rio Vista West's land-use plans were too far along to accommodate a library site,” Magness relates. The call came just two days after Magness had taken a high-level city official to the Mission Valley site. The timing of Cerone's getting cold feet "just seems too strange," Magness reflects.

When asked about the incident, Cerone said he has not talked to any city officials about the site but conceded he did "not want to get involved in the politics of it." Cerone said his company frequently asks for permits from the city, and given the mayor's desire to build a library on Lane Field, "we don't want to be some kind of adversary with anybody in the city." Besides, he claims a 390,000-square-foot behemoth — the size of the new library as projected in a recent consultant's report to the city - is just too big to fit in with the company's development plans. These include residential and retail elements in a "transit-oriented development," built around the trolley line. The library CalMat had penciled in was envisioned as a smaller branch library.

Cerone believes that even if a larger building could be worked into the company's plans, "I doubt the city can afford market rates for the land. They'd be looking for some kind of subsidy. It's not at all realistic. I might agree that the library ought to be in Mission Valley, but we're not the right place. It's a little bit of dreaming."

Discussion of alternative sites for a new main library has been smothered by the city council's unanimous vote early this year in support of Lane Field. This has kept the air clear as the mayor and the library lobby get ready for a showdown before the board of port commissioners, scheduled for December 17. "She asked us to hire a hall for the meeting," observes port director Don Nay, who has shown no interest in handing over Lane Field to the city, "and now we're seeing solicitation letters she sent out to get people to fill it up." Just after the mayor proposed Lane Field in January, letters from the public to the port district were mostly against the idea, according to Nay. Now he says there seems to be an orchestrated campaign to get letters sent in support of Lane Field. "The more letters now, the less force they'll have," he declares.

The port's parent agency, the California State Lands Commission, told O'Connor last February that a municipal library on Lane Field was "inappropriate and unacceptable" because it would violate laws governing the use of state lands. A three-member committee of local port commissioners that has been studying the issue has also discouraged the mayor from trying to forge ahead. Such a gift of land to a municipality might even violate the state constitution, according to lawyers working for the port. Undaunted, O'Connor has been intensively lobbying port commissioners and pressuring the mayors of Imperial Beach, National City, and Chula Vista to lean on their appointed port commissioners to get behind her plan.

She is said to have two favorable port commission votes (Ray Burk and Lynn Schenk), with Clifford Graves on the fence and Robert Penner trying to compromise. The mayor only needs four votes.

On December 17 at the Holiday Inn on the Embarcadero, with library supporters in tow and well rehearsed (O'Connor organized a December 11 pep rally at Hoover High School for supporters of the new library), the mayor is expected to unveil a Lane Field proposal that will be palatable to the port and the state. "What's happening is, everyone's trying to get in someone else's pocket," Nay explains.

According to port district sources, O'Connor is floating the idea of a land swap to include the port district, the U.S. Navy, and the Catellus Organization (formerly the Santa Fe Land Co.). Evidently O'Connor does recognize Lane Field's access problem, so she is trying to work out an agreement whereby the Navy would give back to the port district the 145,000 square feet of land it holds on a long-term lease along the northern flank of Lane Field. This would allow B Street to be extended all the way to Harbor Drive. At present, B Street is cut off at Kettner Boulevard by the Santa Fe train depot. Catellus would also have to cede property in such an arrangement. It is unknown what incentive O'Connor might offer the Navy and Catellus in exchange.

The port district has wanted to extend B Street to the harbor to help relieve traffic generated by the cruise ships, harbor excursion boats, and water taxis docked in the area. But the Navy has claimed that it must receive fair market value in selling its lease back to the port, a figure the Navy has placed at around $25 million. "We think we do need that parcel for the cruise ships," says Nay, "but not for $25 million. We don't need it that badly."

Applying the Navy's estimate to the adjacent Lane Field land, which comprises 245,000 square feet, the value comes to about $42,240,000. The port is being asked to hand this property to the city for nothing.

And the Lane Field site will soon be surrounded by new development. The port plans to expand its cruise ship berthing capacity from the current two ships to five, with all the necessary baggage handling, ticketing, and office space. The Navy has major building plans on its eight-block complex south of Broadway, and Catellus plans to place high-rises on its property west of the train station, which is now covered mostly by parking lots. "Where the hell is everybody going to park?" asks Larry Kaye, an attorney who chairs the port's Cruise Ship Advisory Committee. "On a Saturday it's bedlam down there. There's no way you could fit a huge library and adequate parking on that lot."

The city recently paid a library planning consultant $24,750 to work out three different library building options. Although city officials have claimed the plans aren't "site specific," they are clearly tailored to Lane Field. A map shows the proposed building placed at the corner of Pacific Highway and Broadway, next to a public park honoring the America's Cup races.

The most practical of the options envisioned by the consultant is a seven-story, 393,700-square-foot building. This is much larger than the existing central library (144,524 square feet) and all 31 branches (183,263 square feet) combined. Estimated cost of building the structure is $91,282,600, quite a bit more than the $70 million the mayor claimed in her "State of the City" address. And the $91.2 million does not include the price of building the parking spaces. The consultant's report states, in small type in a footnote, "Parking costs could be financed apart from the new Central Regional Library building."

Dick Waters, the Texas-based consultant who produced the report, says the parking he envisions for the library will not be free to either the public or the library staff. Therefore, a parking garage could be financed with revenue bonds, which do not require voter approval. The bonds would be repaid through parking fees. Revenue bonds have been used in the past to build the Sports Arena, city police headquarters, and the Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater and Science Center.

Waters estimates that each parking space would cost $12,500 to build, though that ignores any extra expenses necessitated by the high water table on the Lane Field site. The water table, in fact, would severely limit the amount of underground excavation allowed, because of restrictions recently adopted by the state water board. Though the report is ambiguous about the number of spaces needed, at one point it recommends 200 parking spaces, 50 for the staff and the rest for the public. Given the stated functions of the building as a cultural conglomerate, with amphitheaters, a large children's complex, an auditorium, a television studio, meeting rooms, a sculpture garden, a gift shop, and various galleries, plus the tourist and maritime-related uses O'Connor is trying to slap on to make it all legal, this is an absurdly small amount of parking.

Elsewhere the report claims the site could conceivably accommodate 525 parking spaces underground. This is the figure O'Connor's library lobby has embraced. If technically feasible, building that many spaces would cost approximately $6,562,500. Financing the parking in such a way that the public is required to pay to park in order to visit the library ignores one of the chief complaints about the existing central library, i.e., the lack of free parking.

Plans for financing construction of the building, much less paying for the parking, have remained murky. The city has no plan for where the $9 million to $10.7 million a year will come from to operate the "storybook library." The central library's current annual operating budget is $7 million. Nor is there a plan for relocating the 760 parking spaces that will be displaced by the library building.

"She announced this [Lane Field] idea at her last 'State of the City' speech," muses Don Nay. "I wonder what she's going to say in her next one?"

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