Whole lot of plans and paperwork to go before a new library occupies this site
  • Whole lot of plans and paperwork to go before a new library occupies this site
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The 22,000-square-foot lot at the intersection of Jackson and Golfcrest drives is not a park-and-ride, a parking lot for apartments on Golfcrest, or a place for Cowles Mountain hikers to park on weekends. The lot (the site of an Arco gas station that closed in 1994) is to the right of the 9500-square-foot San Carlos branch library. Signs in the lot declare "PARKING FOR LIBRARY USERS ONLY." Near the corner is a sign displaying the rendering of a new branch building on the site.

Hazardous material mitigation is ongoing, but California Department of Environmental Health officials "feel that the lot is ready for building…when the city is ready."

Hazardous material mitigation is ongoing, but California Department of Environmental Health officials "feel that the lot is ready for building…when the city is ready."

The City of San Diego began leasing the site in 1995, agreeing to pay Atlantic Richfield Company $1 annually until remediation of hazardous substances is completed. However, a new building committee (consisting of citizens) that began meeting earlier this year is also "looking at other city-owned land in the area in the hopes of finding a larger lot," said senior public information officer Marion Moss Hubbard. She responded by email on September 10 and 11 to questions about comments made during the September 2 San Carlos Area Council meeting held in the library.

During branch manager Rita Glick's report about programs, a woman asked if notices would be sent to notify people in apartments about parking. People in the audience mentioned park-and-ride use and the lease.

Due to a full agenda, Glick didn't respond. During a report by Cassie Weinlein of District 7 councilman Scott Sherman's office, another woman referred to use of the lot by hikers. "Not anymore," said Jay Wilson, Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation executive director. The lease terms "were strictly parking for the library," he said.

I wondered why the lease was discussed, and asked Hubbard about that and for an update on expansion plans.

The branch opened January 9, 1974, and I wrote about expansion plans in July 2013

In November 2014, Sherman staffer Ryley Webb said hikers would be allowed to use the lot on weekends, an arrangement to divert hikers from residential streets.

Hubbard wrote, "The subject [of the lease] arose from discussions in "committee meetings in an effort to secure the site prior to beginning a building campaign."

Weinlein sent me a copy of the lease that started July 20, 1995. It expires when the title is conveyed to the city or "the option to purchase expires." The city has the option to buy the property for $150,000 when "appropriate governmental agencies" certify that no further remediation is required. Arco would notify the city about this in a certification notice. San Diego then has 60 days to notify Arco about the city's decision. The purchase closes 120 days after receipt of the certification notice.

Hubbard said a July 2015 committee report on the San Carlos Friends of the Library website contained the latest information about expansion plans.

According to the report, California Department of Environmental Health representatives said mitigation was ongoing "and will continue in the indefinite future; however, they feel that the lot is ready for building…when the city is ready."

Current San Carlos library

Current San Carlos library

Furthermore, architect David Pfeifer of Domusstudio "presented some new design ideas." The "design must be re-evaluated as the library’s and community’s needs have changed over the last 20 years." The committee "will post updates as they become available, and there will be opportunities for community input."

The current cost estimate is $20 million for a 25,000-square-foot building. Sherman confirmed funds were available to purchase the lot and complete the design phase.

The $150,000 for the lot consisted of a $100,000 TransNet loan and a $50,000 bequest, according to a July 13, 1995, San Diego Union-Tribune article by Sarah Schaffer. She quoted Erica Fuchs, spokeswoman for then-councilwoman Judy McCarty. Schaffer wrote, "The lot will double as a park-and-ride site until the San Carlos community raises the money to build the extension and pays back TransNet."

McCarty and Wilson serve on the citizens committee.

As for enforcing library-only parking, Hubbard said, "There is no need for enforcement on the lot since residents are being cooperative."

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