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Ocean Beach Library expansion plan moving forward, but some want more community input

A rendering depicts the expansion plan for the Ocean Beach Library.
(City of San Diego)

San Diego’s project manager agrees to work toward having another community meeting soon to discuss the design.

A project in the works for two decades may be on the verge of becoming reality with a plan to expand the Ocean Beach Library by more than 80 percent with a new community meeting room, a teen area, an outdoor gathering space and more.

But not everyone who attended a city of San Diego presentation to the Ocean Beach Planning Board on Nov. 3 was happy, with some contending there has been inadequate community involvement.

The estimated $8.5 million expansion of the San Diego Public Library branch at 4801 Santa Monica Ave. would include demolition of a two-story adjacent building known as the Annex, remodeling the existing 5,095-square-foot library and building a 4,205-square-foot, 22- to 25-foot-tall extension. In addition to the teen area, outdoor courtyard and community room (which would include a kitchenette), the extension would include study and storage rooms, office space, an expanded book collection area, new restrooms and new landscaping.

The 1,282-square-foot community room would be accessible after library hours, and the library entry would be revamped to include a disabled-accessible ramp to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The project has been helped along by an anonymous $3 million donation for construction, according to Dan Dennison, a former Planning Board member who said the library expansion has long been a top capital improvement recommendation to the city.

“There are many reasons why the OB Library is such a vital part of the OB community and the expansion is considered to be one of its most important needs,” Dennison told the Point Loma-OB Monthly. “This expansion effort has been in the works for over 20 years and finally we may be able to proceed.”

A rendering depicts a planned outdoor gathering space at the Ocean Beach Library.
A rendering depicts a planned outdoor gathering space at the Ocean Beach Library. Another option would include movable planters.
(City of San Diego)

Shannon Stoks, an architectural designer who is managing the project for the San Diego Engineering & Capital Projects Department’s in-house design team, said during the presentation at Water’s Edge Faith Community church that the project is in the “30 percent design” phase, which aims to lay out the major design elements and establish the cost and timeline. She said the estimated $8.5 million price tag likely will be updated to account for increases in construction costs.

The plan will need a coastal development permit to ensure compliance with the California Coastal Act. Stoks said the city intends to seek the state-required permit within the “next couple of months.”

Despite the long wait for the expansion, some who attended the presentation thought the current process is going too fast.

Though Stoks said the city intended to return for another presentation once the CDP process had begun, Randy Hanna of Hanna Gabriel Wells Architects in Ocean Beach joined others in saying that would be too late. Several residents asked for more opportunities for public input on the design before the city applies for the CDP.

“Once you’ve submitted for the coastal development permit, you’re not changing your plan,” Hanna said.

Stoks said the current concept incorporates input already collected from the Friends of the Ocean Beach Library and other community residents during previous planning for the expansion.

But she agreed to explore having another community meeting soon to discuss the design, though she didn’t set a time frame.

Hanna and others also questioned why the city is handling the design in house rather than open the project to bidding from private architects.

Stoks said city estimates determined that private design would cost $1.5 million vs. $1.1 million in house.

The front of the Ocean Beach Library is shown in this rendering of a planned expansion.
(City of San Diego)

Some residents expressed a desire for a mural or other artwork on the building. Stoks said she would check with the city Historical Resources Board about that possibility. The library is historically designated, so there are limits on what can be done.

The project also will have to built around the local summer construction moratorium and will require Native American monitoring of the site during construction, Stoks said. The library also will be brought up to current energy codes.

The Ocean Beach Library was originally located on Abbott Street in 1916 and moved to its current spot in 1928.

The formerly 3,670-square-foot library was expanded to its present size in 1962. It has a circulation of about 136,000 books a year.

The Ocean Beach Library was built at its current spot in 1928 and was expanded to its present size in 1962.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The Spanish-Monterey-style library was designated historic in 2002 by the city of San Diego for its architecture and contribution to Ocean Beach culture.

Its two large urns, installed in 1993, contain time capsules with assorted local items that are scheduled to be opened in 2043.

The library has been closed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Friends of the OB Library said in October that it won’t reopen until 2022, possibly in January, because of staffing shortages.


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