Los Altos official proposes parcel tax to renovate or rebuild library

Daily Post Staff Writer

In 2012, the city of Los Altos pulled the plug on plans to rebuild the civic center and police station after a poll found less than enthusiastic support. In 2015, voters overwhelmingly rejected a $65 million bond measure for a new Hillview Community Center.

Despite that history, a Los Altos leader is calling for a parcel tax to renovate or rebuild the 53-year-old main library.

Mayor Pro Tem Jean Mordo introduced the idea of a parcel tax measure to renovate or rebuild the library, which is currently located at 13 S. San Antonio Road, Library Commission Chair Ibrahim Bashir told the Post.

The Library Commission has been widely supportive of the idea, Bashir said.

“Previous measures to fund civic improvements in our community have failed because we didn’t get very specific about what we were trying to do,” Bashir said.

With the blessing of Los Altos and Los Altos Hills’ city councils, the commission would hire consultants to assess needs for the library.

The 28,050-square-foot library has a kids area, a teen room with a wall of windows overlooking an orchard and special book collections in 13 languages.

More room

A program room at the library has a maximum capacity of 100. In 2008, a needs assessment showed that the library needed 11,000 to 12,000 more square feet of space to meet community demand. Bashir said even the library commission has trouble booking time in the community room at the library.

In 2012, City Council dropped plans for a new civic center, Hillview Community Center and police station after a poll found it wouldn’t pass at the polls.

In 2015, voters rejected Measure A, a $65 million bond issue for just a new Hillview Community Center. The measure was only supported by 28% of voters. It needed 66.7% to pass.

A new Hillview project is set to break ground in December 2018 at a more modest budget of $25 million, which Mordo has endorsed raising to $35 million.

Economy of scale

Mordo reasons that by rebuilding Hillview and renovating or rebuilding the nearby library in one go, the city can achieve an economy of scale in projects like landscaping and redoing the parking lot, Bashir said.

A parcel tax could cost in the ballpark of $57 for a $13 million financing. Another $2 million in the Los Altos Library Endowment’s building fund could help to fund a $15 million remodel and expansion.

Or, the city could knock down and rebuild the library to be about 40,000 square feet for more than $40 million, funded with a $176 parcel tax.

The library is part of the Santa Clara County Library District. In 1975, voters passed bonds to expand the library and construct the Woodland branch at 1975 Grant Road.

In 1985, voters passed a five-year tax to restore library services after previous reductions. In 1990, voters renewed the 1985 tax and voted to expand the main library.