Half Moon Bay moves plans for new library forward through public process 

More than a decade after they were first proposed, plans for a new public library in Half Moon Bay are well underway.

The Half Moon Bay City Council voted in February to update the conceptual plans for the library first developed in 2004, and San Mateo County has agreed to match 50 percent of the total cost of the project.

Half Moon Bay City Councilman Rick Kowalczyk said the recent support from local elected leaders and community members indicate that it’s time for the plans to finally move forward.

“We are in a unique and fortunate position to develop a much-needed new library in Half Moon Bay,” Kowalczyk said. “The new Half Moon Bay Library project is experiencing overwhelming support and comes with a ton of momentum at the moment.”

Because the Half Moon Bay Library serves the city as well as the entire Coastside community, and as stipulated in the San Mateo County Library Joint Powers Authority agreement, funding for a new library in the city is split 50-50 between the city of Half Moon Bay and San Mateo County, library Branch Manager Annie Malley said.

The update on a needs assessment for the new library will be presented to the City Council at its July 15 meeting.

“We are leading a super-open and collaborative process to a decision point about how the city should proceed,” Kowalczyk said. “That process has been a blessing, with various groups coming together to discuss and challenge ideas, but ultimately agreeing to work together to move the project forward.”

The city is joined in spearheading the project by the Friends of the Half Moon Bay Library, the San Mateo County Library System and San Mateo County.

“We just wrapped up phase two of the community input meetings and over the course of the first two phases we have received input from over 1,600 people,” said Friends of the Half Moon Bay Library Co-President Hope Atmore.

The final round of the community vision process to gather public feedback will take place with an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. and a community meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday at the Half Moon Bay Library, 620 Correas St. Events are also scheduled on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at New Leaf Community Market and 1 to 4 p.m. at BrazzleBerry in Strawflower Village.

Friends of the Half Moon Bay Library has reached out to many different subsets of the community to make them aware of the community meetings and other opportunities to give input, Atmore said.

Community members expressed excitement at the prospect of a new library and a willingness to offer feedback at meetings, Malley said.

“Residents love the idea of a new and expanded library and are eager to offer ideas on how to make it an even better place for everyone,” she said.

The series of meetings, open houses and survey kiosk stations scheduled from April to June has proved to be very informative, Malley said. Abundant access to computers and technology in the latest formats, expanded spaces for children and teens, and increased community gathering spaces are some of the key suggestions presented during the public process, she noted.

Built more than 40 years ago, the Half Moon Bay Library is considered by many to be outdated and too small for serving the entire community.

“The new library will be an exciting community facility created in direct response to the desires and suggestions of Half Moon Bay and Coastside residents,” Malley said.

Support for the new library began in the late 1990s, but the project has long faced obstacles. In 2004, after city officials and supporters drafted plans for an $18.6 million building, the application was overlooked for state funding.

Today, detailed estimates are not yet developed, but preliminary estimates indicate a potential total cost of $22 to $25 million, Kowalczyk said.

Councilwoman Marina Fraser, a champion of the library project for years, believes the estimated costs could possibly be reduced by $7 million if the city comes up with new plans for parking.

“We reached out to the Cabrillo Unified School District and are collaborating to potentially share the adjacent school parking lot in a way that it can be effectively used for the library and the school,” Kowalczyk said.

Still, the question remains on how the city of Half Moon Bay will foot the bill for half of the project.

“A strategy that we are working on, but have not yet finalized, is to potentially fund the new library with existing city revenues and savings,” Kowalczyk said.

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