Larkspur agrees to match state grant for new library

Larkspur agrees to match state grant
for new library

By Adrian Rodriguez
arodriguez@marinij.com

Larkspur officials have agreed to assist with the funds needed to build a new library.

The City Council unanimously voted Wednesday to match a state grant, the final step in the city’s grant application to the state for library projects. The application, filed March 21, seeks funding for a new $10.4 million library.

“If we get $5.2 million from the state, we will happily proceed with our partner to figure out how to get all that money and build that $10.4 million facility,” City Manager Dan Schwarz said.

The city is working with the Commons Foundation, which as of March 29, had amassed $2.9 million in pledges and donations. Officials will draw from city funds to fill the gap, Schwarz said.

If the application yields a partial award, Schwarz said staff will figure out how much money is available and “build what we can.”

The council is considering a move to the vacant Rose Lane parcel because its 108-year-old City Hall at 400 Magnolia Ave., which houses the library, is in need of a major renovation.

Schwarz said the grant program places heavy emphasis on funding communities of need or underserved communities. Larkspur does not hit the mark there, he said.

However, there is also an emphasis on health and safety.

“And in that respect, we score very high,” Schwarz said. “Our library is open part of the week, you can come in. We feel you’ll be safe, but none of us feel this library is safe for the long haul. We know that it has significant accessibility issues, which is also something that we emphasized quite a bit in this application.”

Community organizers are raising money to build a new city library at the vacant lot at the southeast corner of Doherty Drive and Rose Lane in Larkspur.

The city was limited to requesting funding for an in-kind replacement, meaning the application could not seek funding for a bigger library than the one that exists, Schwarz said.

After an assessment of how much City Hall space is used by the library, staff determined they were seeking funding to replace 6,485 square feet, which is the maximum staff felt they could justify, Schwarz said.

The application also noted that if the city chose a full renovation of City Hall, it would cost about $18 million. Original estimates suggested it would cost about $11 million for a renovation, Schwarz said. The city arrived at the new number after considering unknowns such as inflation, a volatile construction market and the availability of materials.

Previously, staff presented p reliminary estimates for what a 5,000-square-foot library would cost as well as a new City Hall equal in size. Together, staff believed the cost to be around $10 million.

The actual size, design and features of the new library are still unknowns, Schwarz said. Officials wanted to pool funding to determine a project budget before making those decisions.

However, if the grant is awarded, staff will have to fast-track fundraising, planning and approvals because the grant funds have to be spent by March 31, 2026, Schwarz said.

Joe Jennings, president of the Commons Foundation, said the application and the City Council commitment show progress.

“I would like to think that we’re at the beginning of the end of our capital campaign,” he said, noting that organizers need to raise the remaining $2 million quickly.

Jennings said the foundation has $650,000 in matching funds to accelerate the process, “but we can’t be complacent.”

“The state funds are not guaranteed and city priorities could change,” he said.

Councilwoman Catherine Way said she has been involved in planning for a new library since 2013 and has her fingers crossed that the city will receive a grant.

“I think we’re reaching a pinnacle now,” she said. “I see success happening.”

Mayor Dan Hillmer said, “It’s a wonderful opportunity.”

“I’m going to try to keep as many options open for as long as possible so that whatever we have at the time we need to we can make the right decision,” he said.

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