News

How will Menlo Park come up with $20 million to rebuild library?

Finance and Audit Committee members have suggestions, but say more information is needed

Now that Menlo Park has accepted John Arrillaga's offer to pay for all but the first $20 million of the cost to build a new main library, how will the city come up with its share?

After pondering that question Tuesday (Aug. 8), the city's Finance and Audit Committee came up with suggestions, but also said more information and public input is needed.

The suggestions were wide-ranging: from selling city assets such as its water company, to issuing bonds for enough to also finance other upcoming projects. The committee also recommended looking at establishing a line of credit that could allow the city to spend some of its reserves on the library with the line of credit providing funds in the case of an emergency until the reserves were built back up.

But committee members said much of the information needed to make an informed decision is missing. "We would like to make sure that there's a little more information available for the public," said committee chair Anne Craib, who also called for "a more robust public comment period around this."

Just what the city's total expected contribution would be isn't clear, committee members said, questioning if the city will have to pay "soft costs" for environmental studies and design, or the costs of furnishing the new building and purchasing new books, on top of the $20 million.

Councilman Peter Ohtaki, who is on the Finance and Audit Committee, said he thinks the city should use the $4.5 million of its reserves that aren't assigned to any specific use for the library, and might think about capping some of its other reserve funds at current levels, freeing up more funds for the project.

If the city decides to borrow part of the $20 million, committee members recommended it do so by issuing a 30-year fixed-rate bond.

Administrative Services Director Nick Pegueros suggested ways the city could increase revenues to pay off bonds, including increasing its utility users tax, hotel tax or business license fees, or asking voters to approve a parcel tax or general obligation bond.

But Mr. Ohtaki said he wanted the city to first "make sure we're sharpening our pencil on our forecast" of expected income, including tax revenues from new hotels coming on line and increases in property tax revenues.

One item the committee did suggest be looked at is the cap on the utility users' tax that limits payments by any one user to $12,000 a year. Committee members wanted to know how many businesses are affected by the cap.

The city now charges a 1 percent tax on gas, water, electric, cable, telephone and wireless bills, but voters approved a tax of up to 3.5 percent on gas, water and electric bills and up to 2.5 percent on cable, telephone and wireless bills. If the maximum amount were charged, annual revenues from the taxes could rise to a total of $3.86 million a year, up from the current $1.26 million, a report from Mr. Pegueros says.

Mr. Arrillaga's offer to pay for all but the first $20 million of the cost of a new main library in Menlo Park took the city by surprise when it was made in July.

At a March study session, council members had heard the results of a space needs study that recommended the library's size be increased from 33,000 square feet to 44,000 square feet, at a cost of at least $32 million. Council members asked the city to first look at how to increase library services in the Belle Haven neighborhood, before expanding the main library.

But Mr. Arrillaga, according to city officials, wants his donation to go specifically to the main library and wants the project to move forward quickly.

On July 18, the council voted to accept Mr. Arrillaga's offer, directing staff members to come back in August with: a plan for the project, ideas on how to change city work plan priorities to free up resources for the library, plus ideas from the Finance and Audit Committee on how to come up with $20 million.

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Comments

53 people like this
Posted by Mark D.
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Aug 10, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Mark D. is a registered user.

I'm no doubt in the minority here but I like the existing main library building (aesthetically and functionally) and don't see the great need for additional space, never mind the city-funded study which found it's required for "studying, tutoring, meetings and perhaps a 'maker space'". And if that 11,000 s.f. comes at the cost of removing trees and paving over more of the lawn area in our community center then I'm actively opposed to any such project. I have never once been at the library when it was (what I might deem) overcrowded, so if private spaces are needed for tutoring, meetings or the like perhaps a smaller interior remodel in one wing might suffice.

Mark


45 people like this
Posted by MP Resident since 1990
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 10, 2017 at 1:06 pm

I agree with Mark D. I see no reason for the city to take on debt for a library remodel when the pressing need is for a Belle Haven branch. Parking can be a problem when there are events going on elsewhere in Burgess Park or the civic center, but crowding at the library is never a problem. If the need is for meeting space, why not remodel the building across from the city offices? That space is underutilized and could be used for meetings and work-space.


4 people like this
Posted by MP Resident since 1979
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Aug 10, 2017 at 2:07 pm

I use the library several times a year personally and now that I have a grandson, I am utilizing it weekly to attend their toddler programs on Thursday. I have read the input of Mark D and I see his viewpoint, but I think a remodeled modern library which invites people in would be a great upgrade to our community. I like the work tables and study carrells and nooks and crannies. I think using some city funds is a good beginning, but getting the Friends of the Library to do a crowd sourcing campaign is also possible. I would be happy to donate and I will bet that many residents would. I don't know about the Belle Haven need for a library, but I certainly support having satellite libraries if there is proof that it would be utilized. Please keep the public informed of your plans.


18 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 10, 2017 at 5:25 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Well run organizations depreciate their capital assets and then fund that depreciation so that they have the funds required to replace those assets when necessary. That can't be done if the organization spends all of its current revenues on current expenses.


33 people like this
Posted by conscience
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 10, 2017 at 5:26 pm

Expanding or building a library at the existing site was not deemed to be one of the City's priorities! The Council deemed that residents in the Belle Haven needed/deserved an upgraded library....at that was the priority for the City until the $25 million offer from Mr. Arrillaga came along. Now, the Council is looking to re-order City priorities (that have had citizen input) to grab the money. Why would the Council consider selling City property? Couldn't that property be better used to address other needs (like BMR housing)? Seems like the City/Council is chasing the money rather than focusing on the real needs and priorities of MP residents. A new library is a "nice" have but not a "must" have.


23 people like this
Posted by anna
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Aug 11, 2017 at 10:45 am

I wish this money could be used towards re-vamping the Belle Haven branch library! There is a great need for a fully accessible branch library on this side of the freeway.


2 people like this
Posted by Mper
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 11, 2017 at 1:25 pm

If the consultants who did the study came up with ~$33mil to buildout to 44k feet, where is Mr. Arrilaga's estimate of $45mil (our 20, his $25 coming from)? Is he including costs that aren't accounted for by the consultants?

Didn't I read that the City is considering a development tax for all of the new development in MP? That would be an excellent way to fund two libraries.

Also, we have a general fund. I think it might include ticket income, including camera tickets, and a lot of other monies. That would be a great place to get funds for city improvements and upgrades. Does anyone know the size of the gf and the sorts of things the city uses it for?


2 people like this
Posted by Mper
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 11, 2017 at 1:28 pm

I'm referring to large business developments, not small residential developments.


13 people like this
Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Aug 11, 2017 at 2:44 pm

My comments, round 1.

Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 11, 2017 at 3:21 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Stu is precisely correct - libraries as we know them are no longer needed.

The City needs to come into the digital age and revisualize the entire community's information needs and the entire community's need for common meeting spaces rather than just building a new and bigger library West of 101.


10 people like this
Posted by horse out of the barn
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 13, 2017 at 5:46 pm

@ MPer "Didn't I read that the City is considering a development tax for all of the new development in MP? That would be an excellent way to fund two libraries."

I don't know what that is. Consultants have pointed out to the city that they COULD impose a tax on development to fund infrastructure improvements but the council has not put any in place. Facebook skates by, Greenheart skates by, and Stanford is about to skate by.

I agree with those concerned about Belle Haven library. It is totally inadequate in size, access, hours open. That needs to be a higher priority. Sometimes a glittering object is a distraction. That shouldn't take the place of planning and priority setting.


2 people like this
Posted by West of 280
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Aug 13, 2017 at 7:15 pm

Short answer: Menlo Park does not have sufficient funds. Don't expect a new library anytime soon


21 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 13, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I am reminded of counsel from a wise friend:

"Sometimes free is too expensive."


7 people like this
Posted by Past bad decision
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Aug 14, 2017 at 1:52 pm

infrastructure costs are usually met when new developments are proposed to a city. In order to have that power to negotiate with developers, our council should have and can in the future keep the developer's right to build at a level at which most will want more. They answer to investors. That's the wiggle room where a city has power to enter into a negotiation with a developer. Our council gave that right away when it drew up the Specific Plan for El Camino Real and the downtown and then did it again when the General Plan was updated. The City hires consultants who either have relationships with developers or are in favor of changing suburbs into urban areas. (More consulting work for them?)

Facebook should have been held to a lower cap for its buildings and a cap for the number of cars it will allow. Stanford is held to such caps by Santa Clara County.

remember, Stanford may not pay anything more in property tax than it has paid in the past. If it fills the office and housing with Stanford affiliated business or employees, the city will lose out. In exchange for this egregious give away, the city should beg (shame) the university to pick up the entire bill for the caltrain undercrossing that will allow the tenants of this 400,000 sf development to access Burgess park. Yes, they can use our park without paying property tax.

Our council needs to take a basic lesson from SF and SJ. It is giving our town away and leaving behind the very people who live her.


4 people like this
Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Aug 14, 2017 at 3:36 pm

Read my update:

Web Link


8 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Aug 15, 2017 at 2:01 pm

Just finished reading “Menlo Park Library Decision Should Be Revisited”. I am confused. Is not a “billionaire” someone who is worth one thousand million dollars? Seems strange that someone like Mr. Arrillaga would not be able to carve out one of his thousand million dollars and rebuild the library on his own. Also, with the leftover, he ought to be able to build or refurnish many other libraries in Menlo Park, Redwood City, and neighboring cities. I wonder why he does not do so?


Like this comment
Posted by JBCHAM
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 15, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Jeff, Are you saying Mr. Arrillaga should build a library in Menlo Park( and other communities) just because he is a billionaire successful businessman and can afford to do so? I believe he has made a very generous offer to the city to assist the city in rebuilding and adding on to the existing library if that is what the city wants to do. It is now up to the city to decide if it wants to accept his offer.


12 people like this
Posted by Fact
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 16, 2017 at 7:46 am

A decision to build a new library where one is NOT needed over one that IS needed in a less well off part of town is racist.

Just the kind of thing Trump would do.

Don't be like Trump, Menlo Park.


6 people like this
Posted by Pot meet Kettle
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 16, 2017 at 10:59 am

Yes, the concept of a library and scope of library services is evolving, and a "library" building needs to evolve accordingly. Thankfully we have professional library staff and volunteers who are ready and willing to take on the challenge of making sure the library provides the right mix of resources and programs (story time, resume workshops, study/meeting spaces) for the community it serves. However, we must provide them the tools and space to do so. IN BOTH BELLE HAVEN AND THE CIVIC CENTER.

On a personal note, any parent of young children (and there are lots of us in Menlo Park) will attest that it is increasingly challenging to limit "screen time", especially on rainy days. A well-appointed space filled with a thoughtfully curated collection of hard copy books is an invaluable, and increasingly scarce resource. Let's preserve and improve the ones we have.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 16, 2017 at 11:05 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"we have professional library staff and volunteers who are ready and willing to take on the challenge of making sure the library provides......."

The problem with that statement is that it begins with the premise that these "library" people know what the broader wants in terms of information resources and places for the community to come together.

Asking their automobile dealers what kind of new cars they wanted did not turn out too well for the Big Three.


2 people like this
Posted by Pot meet Kettle
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 16, 2017 at 12:08 pm

@Peter Carpenter

Same critique applies to "fire" people who thought it would be a good idea to send eminent domain notices to the family who lives next to the Chilco Street fire station.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 16, 2017 at 1:53 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"send eminent domain notices to the family who lives next to the Chilco Street fire station."

No such notices were ever sent - please do your homework before make such false statements.


4 people like this
Posted by Pot meet Kettle
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 16, 2017 at 2:14 pm

@Peter Carpenter

"In mid-February, the fire district sent letters to three residences, including the Hoermanns, at 1457 Chilco St., 321 Terminal Ave. and 351 Terminal, to announce the possibility of acquiring the properties so it can expand a station at 1467 Chilco."

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 16, 2017 at 2:17 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Thank you for proving my point - these were NOT eminent domain notices.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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