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Council approves revamp funding for Glendale's Central Library

Nixes higher taxes for library construction, will draw from reserve fund.

July 17, 2013|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • Renovations at the Glendale Central Library include moving a staircase, changing the main entrance to face Harvard Street and a new elevator, photographed on Tuesday, July 9, 2013.
Renovations at the Glendale Central Library include… (Roger Wilson / Staff…)

Opting to avoid taxing property owners, the City Council on Tuesday decided to borrow $5 million from Glendale's reserves to pay for the increased costs of the Central Library revamp.

The cost of the renovations — which include moving the library entrance, relocating a staircase, seismic repairs and other improvements — has ballooned from $10 million to $15 million, not including the roughly $900,000 the city paid for design work.

The City Council approved the additional funding on a 3-2 vote.

"I don't like the idea of going to the public and asking them for money. I don't think we need to do that," said Councilman Frank Quintero.

The two dissenters, Mayor Dave Weaver and Councilman Ara Najarian, said they preferred to hold off on the project until the city could secure other funding or reduce the scope of the project.

But city officials said delays could further increase construction costs and the scope of the project couldn't be whittled back down to $10 million because each component was linked.

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"Many of these elements work together, so if you take out one, it's almost like a house of cards," said Philip Lanzafame, Glendale's officer for economic development and asset management.

The council, though, did have the option of reducing the project to just $2.75 million in seismic improvements, according to a city report.

The design of the project must still be approved by the Design Review Board before it moves forward, but includes moving the library's entrance to Harvard Street, adding steps along the new entryway, moving a staircase and adding a new elevator.

Officials envision the library acting as an anchor to nearby retail and entertainment corridors, with a paseo connecting to the proposed Museum of Neon Art on Brand Boulevard across from the Americana at Brand.

The renovated interior would increase communal spaces as the library's role transforms from a book repository to a gathering spot.

The proposed tax to help pay for it all could have been as high as $114 per parcel.

The City Council plans to repay the $5 million drawdown in reserves when state officials release millions in bonds that were frozen as part of the dissolution of local redevelopment. If that doesn't happen, the city can still work out a plan with the state to receive more property taxes to pay back the General Fund reserve, which is currently at $59.5 million.

Meanwhile, city officials plan to discuss charging developers higher impact fees, which would funnel more money into accounts set up to improve parks and libraries. It's an option that roughly six years ago council members criticized as potentially scaring away developers, but with a glut of new construction hitting Glendale, on Tuesday they said they'd be open to the idea.

"It's a different day," Weaver said.

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Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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