Ocean Beach Planning Board Approves City Concept Design for New Library

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By Geoff Page

The future of the Ocean Beach Library was the sole topic of the regular monthly OB Planning Board meeting on Wednesday, September 7. That future came closer when the board voted to approve a specific concept for the future library that will move the design and licensing process along.

The meeting was held at New Break Church on Ebers St. where the City of San Diego gave a presentation titled “Ocean Beach Library Expansion Survey Results”. The survey was conducted to see which of the three conceptual designs for the library expansion and renovation the public preferred. The survey received 44 online results and 120 portable results according to the city. A total of only 164 people attended, which seems a pretty small number for all of Ocean Beach.

Concept #2 received 84 votes as the winner. Concept #1 was second with 54 votes and concept #3 only received 26 votes. That means the voices of just 84 people, in all of OB, decided on the design of the concept. But the result would probably be fine for most people.

The meeting itself was a little weird in some ways, though the end result was pleasant for the most part. For example, the festivities started with our advisor Jennifer Campbell. She was introduced and tied at the front like a comedic emcee just introduced. She actually said “Hi everyone, this is Dr. J, your board member!”

Once the confusion cleared up in this writer’s head, it became apparent that Campbell showed up on the Government Reports portion of the regular meeting agenda that occurs at every meeting. The various reports are usually provided by city, county, and even state officials.

Campbell’s rep was there, but Campbell seemed eager to be in the spotlight, so she made the report herself. His report included two things. The first announced council support for Proposition 1 in the November ballot. This is a reproductive rights bill, a reaction to the recent Supreme Court ruling on abortion. It’s the current wellness bandwagon, guaranteed to get good press.

The second thing Campbell talked about was the vendors ordinance. She just repeated what had been in the news for over a week with nothing new. She looked like she was expecting a big atta girl from the crowd. There was very light applause. But that was only his preliminary, later.

After Campbell gave up the stage, two women came forward to read statements during the off-schedule public comment portion of the meeting. Leigh Eisen, executive vice president and CEO of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) of San Diego spoke first. The second wife was an architect. Both spoke of the same theme, namely that the city’s decision not to hire a professional architect was a mistake and unprecedented.

The architects are very disturbed that the city decided to design the project in-house using a civil engineer. They alleged that this is a highly unusual departure from past practice on city projects. Eisen mentioned several city architects who had designed city libraries in the past. They want the city to reconsider this decision, which was the subject of an OB Rag article on September 7.

With a life spent in the construction industry, what the architect representatives had to say made a lot of sense. This opinion is based on the experience of the cities and their internal design capacities. The idea of ​​doing the design in-house by people who had admittedly never designed a library and who were not architects, seemed like a bad idea.

Until the city started talking about design-build.

Design-Build

When the city explained that it had chosen the “design-build” contract delivery method, the architect’s complaint began to fade. Simply put, design-build involves an entity designing and building a project as opposed to a project that is entirely designed, tendered, and then built by the winner.

In traditional design-bid-build contracts, the contractor and designer contract separately with an owner. A design-build entity consists of a contractor and a designer in partnership. This method has many advantages, the main ones being a much faster and cheaper way of construction.

In order to select a design-builder, an owner must create a “concept” that the design-builders can propose. Concepts generally consist of a minimal plan designed 30% or less of the final design. The concept is created so that the designer-builders have a basis for their proposals.

The design can change a lot, depending on the ideas of the designer-builders, but the main specifics desired by the owner will be included. So the conceptual design is really just a reflection of what the owner, in this case the OB community, wants and may not require an architect’s touch.

The concepts were all exterior designs. There was no discussion of the interior as what we need now is an exterior design that the city can submit to the Coastal Commission for approval – the interior is not yet a problem.

Since the city only needs to provide this basic concept to begin the permitting process, an architect may not be necessary. An architect will step in once the project has been awarded to the design-builder and will then complete the design.

Presentation

After comments from the AIA, the floor was given to the city. Shannon Stoks was the city spokeswoman. She was supported by several other members of the City’s project team. Before starting, she gave the floor to Cory Bruins, president of the city council of OB.

Cory came leaping up, much like Campbell, and took the mic to cheer on the crowd. I felt like I was at a self-help seminar. He gave an enthusiastic speech in favor of the project and congratulated everyone. He was thrilled to know that a “community room” was to be included in the design and he was applauded for it. Even if the interior was not discussed again.

Then the Bruins returned the mic to Campbell.

Campbell got up and started taking all the credit for moving the library project forward, including getting all the money. She said she started working on the library as soon as she took office. She claimed to have received $100,000 and later $500,000 earmarked for the library. This still needs to be verified.

Campbell then took credit for the $4.5 million from the state, saying his close friendship with Toni Atkins made it possible. Also, not checked yet. Then she said she was working on getting another $4.5 million from the feds through Scott Peters, taking credit for herself before the “asking for the money” was actually done.

The project budget is $11.9 million. The current total on hand is $7.5 million, the state contribution and a very generous and anonymous donation of $3 million. The “requested money” would make up the remainder of the $11.9 million. What was glaringly missing was any input from the City of San Diego.

Campbell’s blatant campaign performance was hard to watch – she was a politician at her worst, hijacking a library design meeting to promote her own political career. The lack of shame was, frankly, shameful.

The City’s presentation included a timeline. It all started with a controversial meeting in November 2021, chronicled here in The Rag. https://obrag.org/2021/11/public-input-not-allowed-for-new-ob-library-design-is-ocean-beach-getting-the-shaft-again/

The next step in the timeline was May 2022 when three architectural concepts were presented to OB City Council. This was followed by surveys commenting on these designs collected from May 31 to July 8. It lasted about five and a half weeks.

The timeline read, “Friends of the library and local volunteers participated in community engagement activities (OB Farmer’s Market, Chili Cook-off) to seek feedback from interested parties.”

Last on the schedule was that meeting to get planning board approval “to move forward with the community’s preferred concept.”

Once the OBPB has approved it, it is planned to draw up an application file for a coastal development permit. Once the permit is obtained, the city would then begin to hire a design-builder.

A community member asked when the actual construction could begin and the city responded in the fall of 2024. The time in between will be spent on preliminary design and obtaining the coastal permit and other environmental permits also.

Comments on survey results

The presentation contained comments on various aspects of the proposed project, the first being the landscape options. The survey showed an unsurprising majority favoring drought-tolerant plants. Several investigative comments were reproduced on the slides which Stoks, unfortunately, read verbatim. She did that on all subsequent slides.

There were comments about how the community thought the yard should be used. There were comments on outdoor furniture like chairs and benches. There were some clarifying comments, some of which were interesting.

A commenter demanded that the addition match the old library, and Stoks said it would actually be a violation of historic standards. “Addition should [be] distinct but cohesive and shouldn’t be the star of the show. Another comment about lawn removal was answered saying it couldn’t be done as it would also violate historical standards. That’s right, guys, historic weed.

One of the last slides had ideas that were also read verbatim. These included ideas for many native plants, flooring materials that would reduce noise from library carts, and “ocean or ocean beach” themed decor.

board of directors

After a public debate, the matter was submitted to the board of directors for discussion and vote. It appeared that the general consensus was to approve the design and move the project forward. There were comments on the design but there were no serious objections.

The approval motion essentially stated that the council had approved Concept #2 as the basis for a design-build contract and to be used for Coastal Commission approval.

Once the coastal permit has been initiated, the object will return to the OBPB for approval of the coastal permit. This gives the board a second look at the project.

The vote of approval was unanimous with one abstention from a board member who is employed by one of the project’s consultants.

The city has posted all information about the project at this link https://www.sandiego.gov/OceanBeachLibraryExpansion.

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