La Mesa City Council members (photo of crowded library in background)
8074 Allison Avenue, La Mesa
Although the La Mesa branch library wasn't included in the study unanimously authorized by the La Mesa City Council on August 11, La Mesa Friends of the Library president John Schmitz implored the council to give the branch library some consideration in a project involving the civic center/old police station site.
The council voted to allocate $116,900 for Keyser Marston Associates to prepare a feasibility study and master plan. Gruen Associates, an urban planning and architectural firm, is a subcontractor for the proposal that includes an approximately 20,000-square-foot city hall, another building that size for use by another governmental agency, a 180-car parking garage, and a civic plaza or square. An October workshop will consider four concepts. Assistant city manager Yvonne Garrett said the results will be brought to the council in early 2016.
Schmitz said, "I am here to implore you as part of your study to please include some support to provide a permanent library, a larger library than what we have today." He reminded the council of a 2005 agreement between the city and the county: La Mesa would build a library or pay the county for land where the branch once stood.
La Mesa's old library in the civic-center complex
La Mesa’s civic center site consists of 3.5 acres (see comment below for the boundaries and additional information about the old police station site.) On the civic center land are city hall (which opened in 1957), the fire station, library, U.S. post office, Helix Water District, and the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce. The district and chamber are no longer on the site.
The old police station was located on a 1.2-acre site on the southeast corner of Allison and Date avenues. The new station is across the street at 8085 University Avenue. That was the location of the 9000-square-foot library branch built in 1953, librarian Denise Stutzman said in an August 12 interview. The building also housed Lamplighters Theatre (now located at 5915 Severin Drive).
Change came to the center in 2004, when La Mesa voters approved a $25 million bond measure to improve the police and fire stations, according to the report.
La Mesa branch library since 2008
New stations were built, and the city constructed a 17,000-square-foot building that houses the post office and the 10,000-square-foot branch library. Stutzman said the library moved there in 2008. The former post-office site is a temporary parking lot on Date Avenue. It's the site of Friday farmers’ markets.
Stutzman said La Mesa is third in terms of circulation in the county system (in first place is Vista, followed by San Marcos). During the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015, Stutzman said 776,782 items were checked out of the library.
At the August 11 meeting, Schmitz said circulation would "probably be higher if we had the capacity." Later, he said, "It was my understanding" that the location was "interim" and referred to the 2005 agreement.
Garrett said "unfortunately" the city didn't receive any of the state library bond funds available between 2000 and 2005. She said the city was aware "we have to pay value for the old library site within a 2016-2018" time frame.
When vice mayor Bill Baber asked about La Mesa's legal obligation, city attorney Glenn Sabine said he will report on it at the September 8 council meeting.
Spencer Wilcox, Helix, and Deborah Ives
Schmitz recommended that the master-plan study include contacting the county or District 2 supervisor Dianne Jacob about the branch. Mayor Mark Arapostathis noted that the proposal includes a building designated for a public agency.
Furthermore, Schmitz said the Friends of the Library bookstore is also a meeting room where space is limited to about 20 people. (Stutzman said the room measures about 349 square feet.)
On August 12, I met bookstore manager Deborah Ives, and Helix (her five-year-old bichon-poodle mix is named for the double curl in his tail). Ives touted half-price sales and said later, "The shelves are on wheels." When groups like the chess club or knitting club meet, shelves are wheeled to the back of the room.