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El Cerrito is once again campaigning for new library

EL CERRITO — The city is reviving its 15-year-old campaign to replace its tiny 69-year-old library after it failed to pass a $30 million bond to pay for a project in November,
The City Council voted to place Measure B on the ballot last fall without identifying a site, a move critics jumped on to characterize the plan as lacking a clear focus.
This time, the city is determined to provide more detailed information to the community about its plans, evaluate more public and privately held sites and work with BART to seek proposals for a joint project with the agency on the parking lot of its El Cerrito Plaza station, according to a resolution passed by the council Tuesday night.
Under Measure B, property owners would have been liable for $31 per $100,000 in assessed valuation per year before a site and design and a date to begin construction had been determined.
The bond received about 63 percent of the vote, less than the two-thirds needed for passage.
The revived process will take at least two to three years to complete given the need to place a new bond on the ballot, City Manager Scott Hanin told the council.
The city has also recognized that land owned by the West Contra Costa school district, including the former site of Portola Middle School at Moeser Lane and Navellier Street, is off-limits, at least in the near future.
The council approved tentative plans to use the Portola site for a new library and community center last year before it discovered that the district wanted to keep it for use as a temporary campus for students at schools it is replacing or rebuilding.
The campaign to build a new library began in 2002 and has been stymied by a variety of funding snafus, including the failure of a statewide library construction bond in 2006 and the dissolution of city and county redevelopment agencies by the state in 2010, according to the city.
El Cerrito has also paid for two so-called needs assessments, studies to determine residents’ priorities for the size and features to be included in a new facility.
In the meantime, six other Bay Area cities close to El Cerrito in population, including Lafayette, Millbrae, Los Gatos, Hercules, Belmont and San Pablo, have built new libraries or have libraries under construction.
Critics have cited the San Pablo library as an example of how a new facility can be built for less than $10 million.
However, San Pablo is saving money by renovating a former Walgreen’s store while El Cerrito wants to build an entirely new structure.

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