What is the overall vision for the Downtown Library and mixed-use project?
The library/mixed-use project will be a keystone development in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz that contributes to the well-being of our community in multiple ways, now and in the future. Through a cost-effective combination of complementary uses and partnerships, the project provides the first-class library our community wants and deserves, affordable housing our community needs, street-level business opportunities for local jobs, and environmentally-sound shared parking supporting all downtown uses.
The library/mixed-use project also creates a permanent home for the Downtown Farmers’ Market with covered, year-round community space.
Why are all these being combined into one large project?
Leveraging resources and creating partnerships allows for sharing of infrastructure and associated costs, making the project more economical for all involved. This also allows voter-approved Measure S funding to go toward construction of a 21st-century library for the next generation.
Who supports the project?
A wide range of community organizations and individuals are strong supporters and advocates of the downtown library/ mixed-use project, including: the Downtown Association, Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries, Santa Cruz County Business Council, the Downtown Library Advisory Committee, the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce, the Carpenters’ Union, Santa Cruz Genealogical Society, the Library Advisory Commission, as well as many individuals representing sectors such as education, affordable housing, cultural organizations ... and librarians!
Has the City Council weighed in on this issue?
Yes. In a series of actions over a period of several years, the City Council has indicated its support for 1) having a first class library downtown, 2) supporting Measure S to provide construction funds, and 3) preference for the Lot 4 site because of the potential to achieve multiple community goals (library, housing, commercial vitality and community uses) through cost effective construction and a beneficial combination of uses.
In December 2016, the City Council directed the formation of the Downtown Library Advisory Committee to identify future library needs, define scope of library services and evaluate remodeling the current site, building new on the current site and participating in a multi-use facility on Lot 4. DLAC completed its report in January 2018; in September 2018, the City Council endorsed the DLAC report including option B which relocates the Downtown branch to a multi-use facility on Lot 4.
How much would a new library cost and how is it funded?
In 2017, several options were studied to either remodel or replace the downtown library, and cost estimates were developed for each one. Today, those estimates would undoubtedly be higher. For the purpose of comparison, the 2017 estimates are:
Option A: Partial remodel of the existing building to stay within Measure S budget of $23 million.
Option B: Building a new library as part of a mixed-use project: $26,674,381 ($3.7 million in additional to bond amount).
Option C: Full renovation of the existing library: $37,785,761 ($15.8 million in addition to bond amount).
Option D: Construction of a new library on existing lot: $49,313,846 ($26 million in addition to bond amount).
The summary of each option can be found here:
Any of these options would be funded by a combination of Measure S funds and additional sources. Option B is the most cost-effective way to achieve the full range of desired services for a first-class library serving downtown and the entire system.
Can’t we just renovate the existing Downtown Library?
Renovation of the existing downtown library was very thoroughly explored over a period of many years, in both the original Facilities Master Plan and again as part of the DLAC process. The abysmal condition of the current building has become increasingly obvious, in addition to functional problems of the space layout. The current library, while still functional to the casual observer, is suffering a long list of serious deficiencies including asbestos in several areas, obsolete infrastructure, aging systems, inadequate wiring, a leaky roof, poor disability access, outdated use of space, failing plumbing and heating, inadequate emergency exit routes, and more.
A full renovation of the existing building, at roughly $38 million, would provide the recommended 44,000 square feet of total space, and meet all library program goals including teen space, meeting rooms, study/tutoring spaces, genealogy and local history collections, and expanding computing resources. However, this would require raising approximately $15 million above the available bond proceeds, and the library would be closed for at least two years.
If we build a new library, will there be any new services or programming added?
Yes! Building a new library as part of the mixed-use project will allow the library to reach all its program goals including nearly doubling spaces for children and teens, creating study/tutoring rooms, and expanding computing spaces. Additional public spaces will also allow the library to offer more programs throughout the week for patrons of all ages and interests.
Building on the successful experience of libraries nationwide, the new library would have a Teen Room, separate from the Children’s Room, where teens can access library computers for their homework, work with friends on group projects, or just hang out. The current library only offers a small section for teens as part of the Children’s Room that is not appealing to teens and thus often goes unused. The Teen Room would be designed so as to not disturb other library patrons. There will also be private/group study rooms offering students a quiet space to study or to tutor others.
A new library would also have a dedicated Discovery Lab where programs such as Robotics, Code Classes and Maker’s Spaces will offer students valuable learning experiences.
Where would the Farmers’ Market move to?
The Farmers’ Market would relocate to the City-owned parking lot on Front Street, occupying space from Cathcart (behind Kianti’s) to behind the Del Mar Theater. It would be improved as a permanent home for the Market, with use as a parking lot and/or event space on other days.
Will the planned new space for the Farmers’ Market have the same layout and features as the existing location?
The shape of the proposed new space is different from the current space, but the same features would be provided with significant improvements for power, circulation, sheltering from weather, and orientation to other downtown uses. Farmers’ Market staff and vendors have worked with city staff to develop several tentative options for layout, which accommodate the same number of trucks and amenities.
Does the Farmers' Market staff and board of directors support the idea of moving?
Yes! In 2018, the Farmers’ Market board of directors voted in favor of moving to a new, permanent location downtown. Farmers’ Market representatives have been in regular discussion with the City for several years, focused on ensuring the long term success of the Farmers’ Market. Anticipating the possibility of the library/mixed-use development, the City and Farmers’ Market have explored other possible sites and particularly the features that could be incorporated to create an even more functional, permanent home for the Famers’ Market that functions well for both farmers and customers, and allows for future growth. Preliminary plans have been explored, and funds have been identified.
Will affordable housing be a component of this mixed-use project?
Yes! It is critically important for this project to include affordable housing because our community needs and supports it. Although no specific design has been developed yet, preliminary analysis suggests that approximately 30 to 60 units can be provided on upper floors facing Cedar Street, depending on unit size and specific design. It’s anticipated these would be small units, studio and 1-BR, built in partnership with an affordable housing provider.
Is it true that the project is a mainly a parking garage?
Not at all. In fact, the proposed new library/mixed-use project, is in line with current thinking in successful downtowns around the country, focusing on the 21st century concept of “shared parking” and is envisioned to deliver several key community goals: a first class new library, affordable housing, active street-level use for local businesses, and transportation and parking facilities that support all of these functions in the greater downtown area. Like many well designed mixed-use buildings, the parking will not be a prominent design feature. From the outside, it may not even be obvious that parking is a part of the project.
Why do we need another parking garage?
A new parking facility will replace lost parking, respond to current and future demand, and support community goals of housing, community vitality, and environmental best practices utilizing the 21st century concept of “shared parking.” The proposed project can provide off-site parking for new downtown housing, a forward-thinking strategy that enables new housing projects to include more units on site, and greater affordability. There is already a shortage of public parking available in the lower half of downtown, where much of the new housing will be developed. The concept of shared parking is a fundamental best-practice for smart cities: rather than requiring dedicated, exclusive parking for each development, a shared parking model makes the most efficient use of space, serving more users at lower cost. Over 200 existing parking spaces downtown are expected to be lost within the next few years. Currently the city leases several privately-owned lots for public parking, but development plans for residential and mixed-use projects on these lots are now in the pipeline, and the public parking will soon be disappearing. The demand for downtown parking is already high, with hundreds of people on the waiting list for monthly permits.
Could we do a project that is a mix of library and affordable housing, without including parking?
There are neither the financial resources nor policy justification for this approach. Fundamentally, the Cedar/Cathcart lot is already heavily used to provide parking, and the parking district is faced with the near-term loss of over 200 spaces as development occurs on privately-owned downtown lots. It would be profoundly detrimental to our downtown commercial district, jobs and services to also eliminate the spaces the Cedar/Cathcart lot without replacing them. In addition, income to the Parking District is explicitly intended to provide adequate resources for the reasonably anticipated demand, in addition to supporting related services and transportation alternatives. The parking fee structure downtown was adopted by the City Council, and supported by downtown businesses, with this in mind.
Any new development downtown is required to provide parking to meet the needs of the on-site uses. Even if the parking garage wasn’t included in this project, the library, housing, and commercial uses would be required to have on-site parking.
Would parking fees fund the project?
Parking fees would be used to help fund the parking component of the mixed-use project, but could not be used for the library construction or operation. Parking fees are restricted to uses for the primary function and related needs of the Parking District. Revenue from parking fees would, however, be used to offset a fair share of the site preparation and infrastructure costs for the overall mixed-use project. The concept of shared costs is an important factor that makes the mixed-use approach so appealing, both for this specific project in Santa Cruz, and for similar mixed-use library projects throughout the country.
What is the origin of this project?
In 2013, the Santa Cruz Public Libraries created a Facilities Master Plan to evaluate current library structures and make recommendations for improvements. The Master Plan identified the Downtown Library as a critical resource for the entire region since it houses a number of special collections (genealogy, history and music), holds the largest print collection, and maintains the strongest patron use in the system. The Master Plan recommended an extensive renovation or complete replacement of the Downtown Library because of deferred maintenance, failing infrastructure and lack of adequate disabled access in the current 44,000 square feet structure.
In June 2016, voters approved Measure S, a $67 million library facilities bond measure, of which approximately $23 million was designated for the Downtown Library improvement project. Understanding that $23 million would likely be inadequate for the Downtown branch, in the fall of 2016 the City requested a study to examine the feasibility of including the library in joint use project with a parking garage on existing city-owned property downtown.
At the same time, the city was faced with current and growing need for additional downtown parking, to support anticpated growth in housing, jobs, community services and events in the downtown area. Lot 4 (Cedar between Lincoln and Cathcart) is large enough to accommodate a combination of uses. Group 4 Consutants completed the study finding the multiuse project on Lot 4 would be “less expensive” than other options, and an “ideal location.”
How will a new library address security issues?
A sense of safety is essential for public library users. The new library will be able to make significant improvements through a combination of design, features and policies. These would include more distinct activity zones for different audiences, improved sight lines for staff, increased number of public bathrooms, consistently enforced code of conduct, and state of the art security systems. The goal will be to provide an environment that is both welcoming and safe for a wide range of users.
A partial renovation will NOT allow for any safety considerations, such as: congested entryway, eliminating hidden corners, improved sightlines.
What technologies will a new library have that aren’t part of the existing library?
The library’s existing electrical system cannot support current levels of computer use, so access to emerging tech resources is severely limited. The new library will have “Cat 6” wiring, electrical upgrades and expansion, fiber to the building, upgraded WiFi, laptop check out, wireless printing, expanded number of PCs, childrens and teen technology, maker space, and innovative tech such as virtual reality. The current library has 27 computer stations, and the new library will have around 69.
By sharing the cost of the construction in a mixed-use project, the library can allocate more funds to provide more tech resources for both patron services and improved operations.
How does it make sense to “bury the library” under a garage?
“Bury the Library” is a misleading term created by opponents of the library/mixed-use project – but nothing could be further from the actual plan. The library itself will define the character of the project – it will be the cornerstone of the project, complemented by housing and streetfront commercial uses. Ground-level access is critical to ensure maximum public access to the library. The library will feature street-level access to ensure maximum public accessibility to the library, with parking and other transportation elements secondary to the library, housing and street-front businesses serving the public.
Sharing parking and other infrastructure is now recognized as a best practice from both an environmental and urban design viewpoint. Communities throughout the country are energized with projects that combine libraries, housing, office and commercial uses, health facilities, entertainment and government functions – along with shared parking facilities that serve all these uses most efficiently.
Mixed-use buildings in Santa Cruz County are a proven way to maximize space, reduce costs and support job-creating local enterprises. The Locust Street parking garage, for example, is also home to Atlantis Fantasyworld, Limelight Café, Mandarin Gourmet, and the City’s parking office. The Soquel Avenue parking garage, is also home to Oswald Restaurant and several local businesses. In Watsonville, the public library is part of a major mixed-use project that also contains courtrooms, city offices, and community spaces as well as an adjacent parking garage that serves all uses and the nearby business district. Combining parking with other downtown uses is considered best practice in successful cities worldwide.
What aspects of the parking garage and the mixed-use project support green building strategies and the need to address climate change?
Downtown Forward supporters agree on the goal of reducing single occupancy car trips and reliance on carbon-based fuel and we believe the library mixed-use project is aligned with environmental principles. By developing consolidated parking facilities, over time we can repurpose many of our older, inefficient parking facilities into more sustainable and productive uses. By utilizing a shared parking model that supports housing downtown, we can reduce the overall number of car trips being taken into the city by many of our downtown workers who currently commute from other parts of the County and beyond. By focusing new housing in the downtown area, we allow people to live closer to work, services, attractions and stores, thus reducing overall reliance on cars.
Additionally, the City Council can give further direction to seek excellence in green building practices for this project. Electric vehicle charging stations would be maximized. Opportunities for solar and other energy efficiency elements would be pursued. The project would also benefit from alternative transportation programs and options that are provided by the Downtown Parking District.
If we build a new library, what happens to the existing building?
If the new library/mixed-use project moves forward, the existing library will remain open through construction. During that time the City Council will give direction on a process to determine the future of the existing building. This process would involve community input as to priorities and new ideas. New uses could include affordable/workforce housing and/or community uses.
Won’t the garage sit empty for much of the time?
Downtown parking facilities are already often at capacity, and there’s a long waiting list of downtown workers seeking monthly parking permits. The proposed project takes this into account, while also looking ahead proactively to build for what our community will need in future years.
It’s estimated that over the next few years, about 10% of all current parking spaces downtown will disappear due to development on surface parking lots that are privately owned. At the same time, we’ll see a dramatic increase in new housing, offices, retail, and community activities downtown.
How much parking will be included in the project? Would it add, subtract, or result in no net change in available parking spaces downtown?
The library/mixed-use project could include a maximum of up to 600 total parking spots. Under the current plan, 370 of those would simply replace existing parking that will be lost to new construction. The 230 new spaces represent a gain of less than 10% in the overall quantity of parking available downtown today. At the same time there will be a significant increase in residential, commercial and community uses downtown, thus increasing demand. Note that these numbers are very preliminary and may change as different policy decisions are made.
Is this project related to other housing projects being considered for downtown, including the Calvary Church project and proposed Metro Center project?
In many ways, yes. The parking component of this project is related to other downtown housing projects. By helping to meet the parking requirement for other affordable housing projects through a shared parking facility, it can result in a greater number of affordable units and greater affordability, than if these projects were required to accommodate their required parking on their own site. In addition, the current library lot could potentially be used for a 100% affordable housing project.