Library project may include new City Council chambers

Menlo Park's City Council chambers. Photo from city website
Menlo Park's City Council chambers. Photo from city website

BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

The proposed new library at Burgess Park in Menlo Park may also contain new council chambers.

Billionaire John Arrillaga, who has offered to fund the majority of the estimated $58 million new library, said he would be open to adding to the construction cost in order to add a multipurpose room where the council could conduct business, City Manager Alex McIntyre said.

The city would have to come up with $20 million of the cost of the library.

“Our council chambers sits empty all the time, and it’s a waste of real estate,” McIntyre said yesterday, pointing out that it’s primarily used every other Monday for the city’s planning commission and on Tuesdays for council.

At council’s meeting on Tuesday (May 22), when the library project was discussed, architect Chris Noll said if the council chambers at 701 Laurel St. was demolished, the site could be used for a park where farmers markets and other events could be held.

The council was supposed to decide whether the library should be replaced at its current site at 800 Alma St. or be relocated next to the council chambers, but the decision was delayed due to the late hour of the meeting.

A discussion of where the Burgess Park library should go, its funding, the city’s next steps and an assessment of what should be included in a new Belle Haven library will be discussed at a meeting likely to be held in July.

1 Comment

  1. In the race to the bottom (and it’s pretty fierce) over which city council is the most ineffective in the Bay Area, Menlo Park may have just taken the lead.
    They actually had chance to make a decision on this issue, which has been kicking around since the Flood that covered the earth in Biblical times. They took the bull by the horns,looked it in the eye–and deferred discussing it until July. No wonder nothing gets done.
    Even Dave Price can’t figure out why John Arrillaga insists on replacing a library that was renovated recently, rather than another library like the one in the mostly minority neighborhood of Belle Haven, which could use one. It’s no mystery to me; he wants his name on the most prominent real estate in town as a symbol of his generosity and good will, even if the voters of Menlo Park will have to foot the bill for their part of construction costs, not to mention ongoing maintenance.
    As a real estate developer, John Arrillaga knows the value of location, location, location, and he has the dinero to pay for it. If that means throwing in a room for city council meetings, so be it. John Arrillaga must have read our President’s Art of the Deal book.
    For this go-round John Arrillaga has a co-conspirator, Alex McIntyre, the city manager. who framed the issue in real estate terms. “Our council chambers sits empty all the time, and it’s a waste of real estate,” McIntyre said yesterday, according to the story. Such a deal, Arrillaga and McIntyre agree. We can tear down the old library and, as the story puts it, “the site could be used for a park where farmers markets and other events could be held.” Terrific! The town gets a new library that it doesn’t need AND new city council chambers AND a site for a farmers’ market for 558 mil from John Arrilaga, and the citizens are on the hook for $20 mil for their share of construction. I don’t even want to talk about maintenance of the new library or the cost of tearing down the old one. Ask the brainiacs at the Stanford Business School (John Arrillaga built its new building, and I can testify that it has a terrific auditorium) to explain the “value proposition” of that deal. Or maybe you can do it yourself on the back of an envelope. Sounds like a good deal for John Arrillaga, and the citizens of Belle Haven can hope that another John Arrillaga will finance a library for them. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.
    This deal is the kind of thinking that made Menlo Park what it is today.

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