Port Votes for More Study of Library Site : Development: Formal consideration of the mayor’s waterfront proposal is put off indefinitely before an overflow crowd of critics and supporters.
In a hotel ballroom packed with both supporters and opponents of a proposed central library at Lane Field, Mayor Maureen O’Connor won tacit approval Tuesday from the San Diego Unified Port District to keep the project alive but nothing more.
O’Connor failed to win even conceptual approval of what she called a “storybook” library, a symbol of the city’s future and the signature by which she hopes to leave office in the latter half of 1992.
With two members absent, the Board of Port Commissioners voted unanimously to study the matter further and recommended that the city do the same. But the board put off formal consideration of the issue until an undetermined date.
Dozens of opponents of what the mayor called a regional cultural complex at the foot of Broadway--at what has come to be known as the Lane Field site--spoke out against infringements on the city’s cruise ship industry and for putting the library elsewhere.
But the mayor was backed loudly and enthusiastically by dozens of other speakers, who filled a ballroom in the Holiday Inn Embarcadero, where the meeting was moved to accommodate an overflow crowd of more than 500.
Calling it “a field to build a dream on,” the mayor and her supporters said the library complex would cost $70 million to $80 million, would be privately financed and could accommodate the cruise ship industry.
But because so many opponents attending were from that industry, and because several commissioners spoke of protecting those needs as well, O’Connor said she was angered by the content and tone of the meeting.
Afterward she told reporters, in a remark aimed at the cruise ship industry: “Just what we need--a big, new warehouse where cruise ship customers can store their Louis Vuitton luggage.”
Later, O’Connor said: “This isn’t a choice between books and where to store luggage for cruise ship passengers. We can do both, we can have both. . . . We so desperately need a balance here. When we talk about the cruise ship industry, we’re talking about tourism.
“And we need that. But, when we talk about books, and a new central library, we’re talking about the future of the city, about the very fabric of the city, and education is a key. If they don’t vote for this , I think I can finally say, where is the vision in this town?”
O’Connor’s supporters included schoolchildren, who spoke of the importance of taking the trolley or a bus to a new library; teachers who talked about a “lighthouse of knowledge,” and architects and design engineers who extolled the virtues of “a statement.”
They compared the Lane Field site to the Sydney Opera House in Australia and addressed the current recession by noting in a video presentation that New Yorkers built the Empire State Building in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash and during the Great Depression.
City Manager Jack McGrory said negotiations are proceeding among the city, the Port District, the Navy and Catellus Development Corp., the developer with rights to 17 acres next to the Santa Fe Depot near the Lane Field site.
McGrory said the proposal for the regional cultural complex is the product of 11 studies in 10 years and was recently approved unanimously by the San Diego City Council.
He then suggested that all parties could be accommodated by spending several million dollars of Port District money to move outdated Navy facilities from Pacific Coast Highway to a new building, while also extending E, F and G streets to the waterfront.
McGrory said the complex, which he described as a mixed-use project incorporating cruise ship facilities, a fisheries center, an amphitheater, restaurants and the library, would contain about 400,000 square feet.
McGrory said the surrounding area could serve as a city park.
But McGrory and O’Connor had plenty of detractors, including merchants, longshoremen and Dick Ryder, one of many area businessmen present, who said O’Connor, like her predecessors, suffered from “an edifice complex” and “the desire of every administration to leave something behind.”
While opponents of the site stood at the lectern making their points, O’Connor sat about 8 feet away, and in a loud voice made numerous comments that sounded at times like mild heckling.
Wayne Raffesberger, the executive director of San Diegans Inc., a downtown business-civic group, spoke against O’Connor’s idea, saying his organization had supported Horton Plaza, the new San Diego Convention Center and the San Diego Trolley.
“Not the trolley!” O’Connor snapped.
Raffesberger complained that the idea of a new central library location--regardless of where it happens to rest--has never been given a full public airing.
“Oh, man!” O’Connor groaned loudly.
Later, he noted that neither Chicago nor San Francisco had chosen to build massive new central libraries on their waterfronts, to which O’Connor said loudly, “Paris did!”
Raffesberger then stopped his presentation, looked behind him and at the ceiling and said, “Must be an echo in here.”
City Manager McGrory said later that he is optimistic about the outcome of the meeting.
“I thought it was real positive to the extent that they gave us a unanimous vote to continue negotiations,” he said. “I would have liked to have had it fixed in concrete, but mainly the port staff was waiting for direction from the port commission before getting fully involved. So, in that sense, it was positive. And we’re going to move forward--real soon.”