Larkspur hires planning firm to manage library project

By Adrian Rodriguez

Larkspur officials have agreed to hire a firm to manage planning, design and construction oversight for the new city library.

The City Council authorized the city manager on Wednesday to retain Kitchell Capital Expenditure Managers Inc. of Sacramento on a contract not to exceed $1.4 million.

The council also voted Wednesday to add an $11.2 million earmark in its capital improvements program budget to fund the project. That funding includes $6.23 million in state grants and $5 million in private donations raised by the Commons Foundation.

The library itself is expected to cost about $10.4 million, with the rest of the costs involving parking and access improvements.

It remains unclear what will become of City Hall, the 109-year-old building at 400 Magnolia Ave. that houses the existing library. The building is in need of a major renovation, and the council is undecided on whether it should move city offices to the vacant parcel on Rose Lane along with the new library.

The council asked city staff to return with detailed information about the cost associated with relocating city offices, including potentially finding a new site that is different from the library project, City Manager Dan Schwarz said.

“I think it’s a very difficult decision, but they’re doing the right thing and asking for the information they need,” Schwarz said.

“There are construction advantages to doing the projects together,” he said. Adding an administrative building to the library project would add about $5 million to $8 million, where as rehabilitating City Hall has been estimated to cost up to $18 million.

The cost of purchasing or renting a new site for administrative use is unknown, he said.

The council also asked staff to provide examples of what the existing City Hall site could be used for if offices are relocated.City officials have been planning for years to build a new library on the vacant parcel known as “the Commons” on Rose Lane. The project got a major boost last month when the city landed a $5.32 million grant to get the 6,845-square-foot library done.

One consideration, Schwarz said, is that city officials are under a tight schedule to meet the grant deadlines.

If the council wants to add city offices to the library project, it will need to make a preliminary decision by the new year, and a final decision by February, which is when the city plans to advertise for contractors, Schwarz said.

Planning and design would take about year, and construction is anticipated to begin in April 2024. City planners aim to have the library up and running in the fall of 2025.

The city has already completed environmental review of the site in its “community facilities master plan.” The city does not anticipate needing to do additional environmental analysis.

One problem, Schwarz said, is that the city still hasn’t received the grant guidelines from the California State Library program that awarded the funds. Those guidelines will spell out deadlines and how the funds can be spent, he said.

As the library plans press forward, Councilmember Kevin Haroff said he is in favor of also remodeling City Hall, despite high cost estimates.

“I may be in the minority, but I really feel strongly that for maintaining the character of this community that City Hall needs to remain City Hall,” said Haroff, who is running for another term in the Nov. 8 election.

Councilmember Scot Candell had a contrasting view.

“My philosophy is that as a council member, our primary responsibility to our constituents is fiscal responsibility,” Candell said. “It will cost approximately $18 million to refurbish City Hall. I have a hard time justifying that.”

Schwarz said city staff will return to council with another presentation on Nov. 16.

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