Oakley took another step toward relocating its library to downtown with a plan that would have a developer help pay to build it at the Civic Center campus.
On Tuesday the council unanimously agreed to spend $60,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to hire a consultant, Urban Field Studio, to research financing and site planning alternatives and draw a concept design for the library portion of the project.
Under the plan, a high-density, multi-family housing project would be built on the city block bound by O’Hara Avenue, Acme, Second and Ruby streets where the sheriff’s patrol substation was once located. The housing project developer would also build the library but at the site of the city’s corporation yard at the Civic Center. Though no developer has come forth yet, the city manager earlier said some had expressed interest in such a project.
In January, another consultant, Baker Tilly, presented an initial analysis and the council then directed staff to move forward with planning high-density, multi-family housing on O’Hara Avenue, while the next analysis would refine initial assumptions about the total project.
“With that (initial) analysis, we saw some pretty favorable results that could yield to the community a new library, and that would involve new residential development on the O’Hara block where the current senior center and the old sheriff’s substation sits,” City Manager Josh McMurray told the council Tuesday.
McMurray added that the city would need to increase the density allowed in that area “to generate enough residual value that would then cover the cost of the construction of the new public library at the Civic Center campus.”
The initial analysis showed that if the developer were allowed the highest density — 160 units — for developing the O’Hara site and a 20,000 square-fooot library/senior center was chosen, there would be no financing gap for the project.
The current library, housed at the Freedom High School campus and run by the county, is severely inadequate McMurray has said.
The proposal comes 24 years after the Oakley Library located at the Freedom High School campus to share the 6,000-square-foot facility with the school’s library. But in time, it became clear the library had outgrown the space and could no longer accommodate all the books, children’s activities and study areas that advocates say patrons want.
Access has also been hindered by the library’s limited hours of operation because of its school location though it is open at times when the school is closed.
Over the years various ideas have been proposed to create a standalone library elsewhere. In 2012, the Friends of the Oakley Library suggested turning the former CentroMart Building on Main Street into a library but a grocery store later bought the building. In 2016, a city-backed $93 annual parcel tax measure aimed to raise money to build a library failed at the ballot.
By 2019, a new plan suggested using the former Contra Costa County Sheriff Delta Station building on O’Hara Avenue for a library. By 2022, it was determined the building would cost too much to bring up to current code and it was decided to demolish it, but under the agreement, the city was deeded the property from the county with the idea that it would find funding for the construction and ongoing maintenance of the future library building at the site.
The former county substation property is next to city property where the Oakley Senior Center is located, with each parcel measuring 27,000 square feet or together 1.24 acres. Under the new plan, a senior center could move to the Civic Center along with the new library.
Knowing the library parcel tax measure had failed in the past, though, city staff got creative, later adding the homes to the plan, with the idea that it could then pursue a public/private partnership with the developer to help finance the library construction, the cost of which has yet to be determined.
Bay Point is undergoing a similar public/private partnership project for a new library. Pacific West Communities is building a multi-family residential community on what was county-owned property, between State Route 4, Bailey Road, East Leland Road and Ambrose Park. In addition to affordable housing and 11,558 square feet of commercial retail space, the developer will build a 20,000-square-foot library to replace the one now housed at Riverview Middle School and only open during school hours.
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