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City Council Draws Closer to Considering $195 Million Bond Measure for Central Library Renovation

Proposal aims to fund seismic retrofitting, fire safety upgrades and infrastructure repairs to the nearly century-old historic landmark

Published on Monday, June 10, 2024 | 4:00 am

The Pasadena City Council will decide in July whether to place a $195 million bond measure on the November 2024 ballot to fund a major renovation of the City’s historic Central Library, according to a report issued by the Department of Public Works.

If approved for the election by the Council and if then approved by two-thirds of voters, the bond would provide funding for seismic retrofitting, fire safety upgrades and infrastructure repairs to the 97-year-old library, which has been closed due to seismic safety concerns. Designed by noted architect Myron Hunt and completed in 1927, the library is listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.

The City has already secured $9 million in targeted California state grants to fully fund the environmental review and design phase of the project. 

The Public Works report presented two options for the renovation: a “minimum scope” that would cost an estimated $152.3 million, and a “recommended scope” with a price tag of $195.9 million. 

The latter option includes replacement of the building’s original mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, technology upgrades, and tenant improvements to enhance programming and services.

If the City decides to defer the recommended scope repairs for five years after the library’s reopening, the additional cost of $43.6 million would increase to approximately $94.4 million. Public Works Director Tony Olmos said City staff will continue to pursue grant opportunities and outside funding, although the project timeline may limit this effort.

“The Pasadena Central Library serves as an important City institution that continuously delivers on equity,” the report stated, citing a recent survey that found three-quarters of Pasadena residents agree the City’s libraries provide services and programs for people like themselves. 

Nine in 10 Pasadena residents agree that the Central Library is an important community asset, an important part of the City’s history, and an important architectural building, according to the survey.

A survey conducted by FM3 Research in April found that 69% of voters would support a $195 million bond measure, with 44% saying they would “definitely” vote yes. Support for a $153 million bond measure was slightly lower, at 63%.

If the City Council decides to place the measure on the November ballot, the proposed project milestones include completion of 100% construction documents, plan check, and bid and construction contract award in 2025. 

Construction could begin in Fall 2025 with completion anticipated in Fall 2028. 

The specific design and subsequent improvements to the Central Library will be subject to appropriate project-level environmental review when each is proposed for the first discretionary action.

Public Works staff will report on the two options and the next steps by the City during Monday’s City Council meeting. 

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