City Gives Go-Ahead to Downtown Library

NBC 7 San Diego

The San Diego City Council voted Monday 6-2 to approve a $185 million facility in East Village.

Still, there's no shortage of doubts and dire warnings about the project, with some calling it an economic boondoggle and others calling it a gold-plated day-care center for the homeless. Then there are critics who wonder why anybody needs a library when many have home access to the Internet.

Everybody can agree, though, that 55 years have taken their toll on San Diego's Central Library, which is outdated, despite efforts to keep it techno-ready for 21st century needs. It is also overstuffed with a collection so vast that a third of its books are housed below ground, unavailable for idle browsing by the public.

Library staffers mourn the lost opportunities.

"It's part of the 'browsibility' and beauty of the library, when you are able to explore and really let your imagination soar, depending on what's on the shelf," said San Diego Public Library Director Deborah Barrow.

Backers of the new library  believe that it will take patrons well into the future while safeguarding the past, providing space for authors, meetings and screenings -- and two floors for a charter high school with 400 students.

Families living nearby eagerly anticipated the building's opening.

"We are always looking for opportunities to do different things that are learning experiences for her, but also fun," said East Village resident Christina Kirby, referring to her daughter. "We're very excited to have it so close."

As part of a lease agreement with the San Diego Unified School District, the city is pledging as collateral the municipal property that encompasses the Hilton Torrey Pines Hotel, which is tentatively valued at $34 million.

Groundbreaking is scheduled for August 1.

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