San Diego Local Community News

Rolando has a wonderful next-generation library. Completed in 2004, it boasts a generous computer lab, large collection of videos, spacious children’s section, large community room and three conference/small meeting rooms. There is on-site parking, with an entrance conveniently located just off Montezuma Road.
What more could one ask?
Unfortunately, there’s one very big ask: a secure future!
Why is our library’s future in question?
The City made a major mistake when constructing this new library. It paid to develop the access road and parking for the library on borrowed land, land which was owned then by the Lutheran Church.
Why would the City do that?
Who knows, perhaps to save money. As we have learned, however, it was a “penny-wise/pound-foolish” decision. In December 2016, the community was shocked to learn that the front access to the library was blocked off, and with it the parking. The church property had been sold, and the City had not exercised its ability to purchase the land. The joint use agreement had been terminated.
With the access blocked and only 15 parking spaces available, the 60-person Community Room was essentially unusable. Library patrons often faced a full parking lot with no nearby parking in sight. The City’s substantial investment in the construction of the library stood at risk. The library looked abandoned from the street, entrance chained and no cars visible in the lot–a sorry sight for one whole year.
It turns out this sight could be the library’s future. The 2018 agreement made with the new owner for reinstated library access is on a month-to- month basis. The city pays $1,100 per month; the owner can cancel the deal with a 30-day notice. The owner has now cleared the remainder of the land, where the Lutheran Church once stood, and is planning to redevelop the property.
What will that development be?
The developer has high ambitions and some challenges. An easy choice would be a mid-density apartment complex, which conforms to the existing underlying zoning. He has, however, come forward with another plan, “How about a hotel franchise?” In 2017, he explained to the College Area
Community Council/Planning Board that nearby hotel space to support San Diego State University visitors is scarce, and this would be a prime location for such development. That was seen as an attractive plan by the immediate neighborhood, and the College Area supported his request for increased density in order to accommodate a hotel franchise.
But the College Area had a concern: “What would happen to library access and parking?” The experience of a library without those features was still fresh in mind– a library crippled and incomplete. “No problem,” said the developer/owner, “We can make a new joint-use agreement.”
As we all learned during the year when library access was blocked, the devil is in the details. Any land-use deal that is not permanent (attached to the deed) is temporary. Fearing a repeat of the 2017 shutdown, the College Area community made clear that an irrevocable deal was needed, to which the owner gave apparent assent.

Fast Forward To Now.

Events have proven that the devil does, indeed, reside in the details. Negotiations for an irrevocable deal have recently opened between the City and the adjacent property owner. It appears they will be difficult, with the city positioned to make a permanent deal and the owner wishing to retain some control over his property. The City needs to act as a good steward of the substantial investments it has already made in the library, and not forget that it holds the library’s future in its hands. We expect the owner to hold to his promises, and we expect the City to come up with the necessary funding to fairly compensate for the City’s secure access to the land.

Will the negotiation have an outcome that satisfies all interests — a hotel on the adjacent property with the promised stability in joint-use access for the library, and an owner who has been fairly compensated? This will happen only if all parties work hard to accomplish it.
Rolando neighbors have a part to play in a successful outcome. We need to urge our councilmember and the mayor to stand firm in the negotiations. Remember, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”, and the city has an overabundance of competing interests vying for attention and resources. We need to speak out on behalf of a permanent solution for our library. Now is the time to stand solidly with our Councilmember Georgette Gomez who is fighting bravely for us.

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