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Newport Beach City Council to talk library lecture hall plans, mental health response team

A pedestrian walks past the lawns between Newport Beach City Hall and the public library.
Newport Beach City Council members will discuss conceptual plans in a study session Tuesday for the new library lecture hall.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

In addition to a hearing about the Residences at Newport Center, the Newport Beach City Council will also hear conceptual plans for a new lecture hall in the city’s public library Tuesday.

The city awarded a $638,000 design contract in 2019 for the standalone, 325-seat hall adjacent to the city’s Central Library on 1000 Avocado Ave. The project saw its first steps in October that same year, and initial estimates placed the cost for the project at around $7.6 million — about $7 million for construction and around $623,000 for its design.

Funding would come from a mix of public and privately raised dollars. All key features, officials said, would be improvements over the Friends Room, a smaller space that opened in 1994 with the Central Library.

The Public Works, Library Lecture Hall Design Committee and Library Foundation will be doing a presentation during the study session, which begins at 4 p.m. in council chambers, on current plans and the prospective scheduling and costs for review.

Council is expected to provide direction on the concept designs in addition to a memorandum of understanding between the city and Library Foundation for formal approval and review at a later date.

Additionally as part of its formal meeting, which will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, council members will consider approving a mobile crisis response team to aid residents and transient individuals experiencing mental health crises. A similar effort was made in nearby Huntington Beach, which launched its own mobile response team partnered with Be Well OC, a countywide mental health initiative, earlier this month.

Currently, the city’s fire and police departments respond to around 4,500 calls for service annually in relationship to mental health crises. City staff said that while there has been success in these areas, “It has become apparent that dedicated resources with the skill set to manage mental health issues among the homeless and resident population would be beneficial and more cost effective.”

Newport Beach is expected to partner with Mind OC, the nonprofit that operates Be Well OC.

A staff report prepared for Tuesday’s meeting indicates that the first year for the program is expected to cost around $1.2 million but that a resident anonymously donated the cost of the van and initial set-up costs for the program, reducing the first year’s cost to $1.1 million.

About $717,079 in CARES Act funding will be used for calls for service specifically related to COVID-19 for people of low-to-moderate incomes. The balance of program costs — $376,101 — will be paid for by the city’s general fund.

City staff are expected to pursue grants, donations and other such opportunities to offset future costs.

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