Capitola library site decision put off two weeks

By Jondi Gumz, Santa Cruz Sentinel

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CAPITOLA >> With Mayor Dennis Norton away in Maui, Vice Mayor Ed Bottorff was reluctant Thursday night to make “a big decision” selecting a site for a permanent library to replace the existing 4,320-square-foot temporary branch.

The council voted 3-1 to postpone the decision for two weeks, with Councilwoman Stephanie Harlan opposed.

She supports the existing site at 2005 Wharf Road.

“I can’t imagine anything would change my mind,” she said, recalling how the council promised affordable housing, since built, next to the library and a tot lot. “It’s not fair to change.”

The branch is part of the county library system, which recommended a facility of 12,000 square feet to 15,000 square feet in Capitola.

Such a library could cost up to $12.9 million. The city has $2.6 million in redevelopment funds available.

Bottorff said he is a proponent of the “civic center” concept, which would move the library into a complex with city hall.

The city’s ad hoc library committee looked at potential sites, focusing on city-owned property, finding the existing site is close to multifamily housing, near 41st Avenue retail for those bunching errands, and has easy access to central Soquel, a community served by the Capitola branch.

But more land would be needed to put up a 12,000- to 13,000-square-foot building.

The other option, using the city hall site and Pacific Cove parking lots, could move police out of the flood zone but would be a complicated hillside construction project unable to tap most of the redevelopment money and create summer parking challenges.

The committee favored the Wharf Road site.

“The site is so perfect and it’s served the community so well,” said Councilman Michael Termini, noting Capitola is contracted to open the library by 2018 or lose that redevelopment money.

Committee member Gayle Ortiz suggested the council consider asking voters to extend the quarter-cent sales tax expiring in 2017 to fund a library “that we can all be proud of” rather than waiting for a countywide parcel tax initiative.

“We need to step up our game and decide on our own plan,” she said. “Scotts Valley built their own library. I don’t see why we can’t.”

Plans for a countywide tax measure on the 2015 ballot were shelved in December after a voter poll showed declining support.

City manager Jamie Goldstein said pressure to decide “has abated” since the ballot measure is off the table.

The civic center concept will be presented in two weeks.

The council voted 4-0 to approve a change in tourism marketing fees to be paid by guests at hotels and vacation rental management companies such as Beach House Rentals. If other jurisdictions agree, the fee will be $1.75 to $3 per room per night, depending on the lodging’s revenue per available room.

Police Chief Rudy Escalante said the Monte Foundation wants to return to Oct. 10 to put on a fireworks show to benefit the city.

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