Facing pushback from its constituents, the Pleasant Hill City Council has asked Contra Costa County to keep the Pleasant Hill Library open while a new, updated facility is under construction.
The county is building the new library and handing over 5 acres at no cost to the city, but when Pleasant Hill agreed to the plan it was not clear that the existing library would close before the new one is open.
Library users want to avoid a gap in services, but county Supervisor Karen Mitchoff has stated that the “highest and best use” of the property is to put it on the market before a potential economic recession adversely affects its real estate value.
That is the heart of this conflict, which has put the City Council in a tenuous position. Some members are concerned that asking too much from the county could adversely affect its generosity.
Alternative services have been arranged, with a temporary library set up at the nearby senior center, but advocates have been firm in their insistence that the existing Pleasant Hill Library remain open during construction.
Dozens of people have spoken up during public comment segments at meetings of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors and City Council. The city received 70 pages of written comments in recent months.
“Clearly the message is that the current plan to fill the gap … is not acceptable to the public,” Mayor Ken Carlson said.
But all that city officials can do is relay their constituents’ requests to the county.
“No matter what we say in this resolution tonight, it’s not our decision,” Councilman Timothy Flaherty said. “These are not our employees, it is not our library.”
“Again, it is a county service,” Flaherty added. “It is not a city service.”
An alternative motion, to hold off for a few months before taking any official action, did not garner enough votes to pass.
In the end, a resolution “to express (the council’s) desire for the current library facility to remain open during the construction of the new Pleasant Hill Community Library” passed 4-1, with Carlson casting the dissenting vote.
The existing library was scheduled to close this fall, with construction slated to begin in 2021, but that plan has been delayed by environmental review.