Among those steps were to designate the plan as a "priority project"; to work out a written agreement with Facebook ironing out design, construction, financing, operations and maintenance details for the new facility; to establish a process to name the new facility "while reflecting history"; and to identify specific environmental sustainability goals for the project, according to a staff report.
The council also committed to looking for funding for a new pool for the community center. A 2017 evaluation of the existing pool facilities found that they needed upgrades to comply with current health and safety codes, and that the city could either upgrade them to prolong their use for 10 to 15 years or rebuild them so they would last 25 to 30 years.
Facebook has committed to rebuilding the bulk of the facilities at the center but not the pool, though it has said it's willing to work with the city to design around new pool facilities if the city can come up with the money for it.
Fergus O'Shea, Facebook's director of campus development, talked about how the groundwork for this project — city studies informed by community outreach that evaluated how to accommodate the community's library and community center needs — has been years in the works. He's hoping to do six months of community engagement before drawing up and finalizing the plans, potentially starting construction early next year and completing the project within two and a half years.
Architect Eron Ashley, from the architectural firm Hart Howerton, which Facebook has contracted with to develop the plans for the new facilities, explained to the council some of the key ways the community complex could be improved, based on input collected at a community meeting held in Belle Haven on Jan. 11.
The council also agreed to keep working with the architectural consultant firm Noll & Tam based on the firm's expertise in designing library facilities.
One key improvement would be to expand the center's modest fitness room. Ashley talked about how splitting the ground floor of the facility into two areas with a breezeway in the middle might enable different hours of operation on each side, and offer operational efficiencies. For instance, one side might offer pool access, a locker room and a fitness area, and might be open for longer hours than the other side, which might house the senior center and classroom spaces.
The library might be placed on the quieter third floor of the facility, he added.
In keeping with the city's new laws requiring many new buildings to be all-electric, the facility would be designed to be all-electric and comply with other rigorous green building standards, according to the plan.
As in previous meetings, a number of Belle Haven residents expressed continued opposition to renaming the complex, insisting that the city retain the name Onetta Harris Community Center. The center was renamed in honor of Belle Haven resident Onetta Harris in 1983.
Gail Wilkerson, related by marriage to the Harris family, said she grew up in Belle Haven and wants to see Harris' legacy preserved, perhaps with a statue of her at the new facility.
"I can remember when she got the swimming pool over here. We had to trek over here to Burgess Park, and a lot of times, we got turned away. ... She fought and got that center for us. So give her a statue. Don't take her name away," she said.
The next community meeting to get feedback on the project is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 9, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Menlo Park Senior Center at 110 Terminal Ave.
The City Council's next discussion of the project is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 11.
Go to the project page on the city's website at menlopark.org/bellehaven for more information.
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