The Costa Mesa City Council unanimously approved plans Tuesday to build a new central library in Lions Park, a proposal they hope will boost the downtown area and the city as a whole.
The 20,000-square-foot, two-story library is expected to cost $34.5 million, a price tag which also includes demolishing the Neighborhood Community Center and renovating the Donald Dungan library branch as a meeting space to replace the community center.
"I believe that the quality of our community will be tremendously enhanced with a project such as this," said Councilwoman Katrina Foley. "It's about transforming an area of our city that is in dire need of an upgrade."
Johnson Favaro, a Culver City-based consultant firm, designed the project to free up about an acre of new open space in the park and also added an additional parking spot, from 295 to 296 spaces.
The approval comes after months of stakeholder outreach by Johnson Favaro, which determined that the community center is only 30% utilitized.
A plan to fund the library is still being finalized, but the council agreed on a conceptual approach that would include taking on at least $25 million in debt with 30 years of annual payments.
Mary Ellen Goddard, president of the Costa Mesa Library Foundation, urged the council to move forward with the project.
"I think somehow we have to decide that we have to bite the bullet and do it," she said. "We have to do it. We can't wait any longer. We diddled and diddled too long."
Goddard and others have argued for a larger central library than the Dungan, built in 1986, which also needs to complete a variety of mechanical, plumbing and electric work, as well as Americans with Disabilities Act compliance measures.
Costa Mesa resident Beth Refakes expressed doubt about the nearly $35-million price tag, saying it was larger than early estimates of the plans.
The library is "nice to have, but I'm not willing to pay a parcel tax or have any increase," Refakes said. "Increasing taxes shouldn't be one of your ways to finance some of these projects."
Righeimer said given Costa Mesa's strong tax base, asking voters to approve a tax increase won't be needed.