Cost Now Estimated at $78.9 Million : Delays Inflate Cost of Proposed Library

Times Staff Writer

A new central library will cost the City of San Diego $78.9 million--not including land acquisition, parking and financing costs--if planners can move quickly enough to complete arrangements by 1992, a report forwarded to the City Council this week shows.

The 1992 estimate is $29.7 million more than a 1986 prediction made by the same consulting team, a hefty price increase that is primarily due to inflated construction costs caused by project delays.

"We have been talking for 13 or 14 years about this," said City Librarian William Sannwald. "The costs have just escalated. . . . It just shows that the longer we wait on it, the more expensive it's going to be."

The consultants, HBW Associates Inc. of Dallas and Michael Feerer & Associates of San Diego, predict that each year between 1986 and 1992 will add 6% to the library cost. And that is a conservative estimate, said Richard Waters, principal consultant for HBW.

Waiting Gets Expensive

By 1992, building costs will be $52.2 million, up 42% from the 1986 estimate of $36.8 million. By 1992, furniture, fixtures and equipment will cost $6 million; design work, construction management and fee processing will cost $6 million, and contingency costs will total $7.1 million. Parking costs could add as much as $5.5 million to the price tag.

Basing their latest estimate on the assumption that the library will be located on San Diego Gas & Electric land at 12th and Imperial avenues, the consultants added two new costs: $720,000 for demolition, and $150,000 for soils testing and hazardous waste removal. They also added $5.3 million in overhead for city staff members that was left out of their previous estimate through "an oversight," Waters said.

A new central library has been a political hot potato for years, with various sites around the city surfacing for consideration at different times. In 1986, the city bought the site of the former Hillcrest Sears, Roebuck store as a possible site, but later rejected that idea and Monday authorized negotiations with developers who will turn it into an "urban village" of homes, stores and offices.

With city officials also investigating how and where to construct a new, larger City Hall, planners are focusing efforts on tying the new library into a complex that would include the city offices and possibly other commercial or residential uses, Sannwald said.

In addition to the SDG&E; land, an East Broadway parcel south of San Diego City College and the current city government complex on C Street are also under consideration.

However city officials decide to replace the current library, they should do something and do it quickly, Waters said.

San Diego's the 'Worst'

"I think your building is the worst one in the country (among major cities)," said consultant Waters, who is a librarian. "I would stand before God, flag and anyone else and say that if you look at the 10 major cities in the U.S., San Diego is physically the worst library in the United States."

The consultants, who last May conducted the analysis of a new library's space needs, were asked to prepare the new cost estimate last fall after the Centre City Planning Committee and the Board of Library Commissioners raised new questions about parking, who would use the library, and the possibility of sharing space with other city facilities.

Their report, completed Dec. 10 but not forwarded to the council until this week, shows that 100 staff and 400 public parking spaces will be needed. Each parking space will add $8,500 to the total library cost if the garage is built above ground and $11,000 if it is built underground. Land acquisition costs are not estimated.

Sharing parking with other facilities could cut costs but would not be advisable if it forces library users to compete with others for parking spaces, Waters said.

The consultants predict a 50% jump in library use when a new building replaces the current small, cramped, central library on E Street, with heaviest use between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday to Friday and all day Saturday.

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