Aug 2 2012

Piedmont Avenue Library May Be in Temporary Unit by September

A Temporary Replacement Library that’s Smaller, Less Eco-friendly, More Expensive, Less Convenient, Less Accessible, with Fewer Books-

Beginning sometime in September, the Piedmont Avenue Branch Library will temporarily move into an old modular unit surrounded by high chain link fencing on an obscure side street.  The current location of the library at 160 41st Street with a convenient parking lot across the street was considered an asset by the proprietors of shops and services surrounding it in the heart of Piedmont Avenue.

For elderly users of the current library building, the new location may seem inaccessible, hidden at the back corner of the Piedmont Avenue Elementary School playground on Echo Avenue:  they will either have to walk through the whole length of the playground, dodging children’s games, or climb a concrete staircase from Echo Avenue.  The only wheelchair access appears to be through the playground, as well.

The old modular unit has been an Oakland Unified School District (OSUD) classroom for some years and it shows the wear and tear.  But $200,000 is intended to fix that.  According to the contract, the modular is leased to the City in “as-is condition”  without “representation or warranty as to the suitability.”

The current library building has many operable windows, providing natural light and fresh breezes.  With its low ceiling and few windows, the modular unit will tend to overheat, necessitating air conditioning which several Oakland neighbors objected to on ecological grounds at a 2011 neighborhood meeting.  Other current library users have complained that there will be no available parking at the new Echo Avenue location.

Higher Cost of Temporary Library 

The total expense of moving, improving, and renting the temporary modular will be 37% greater than the cost of renting the current library building:   $70,000 per year compared to $51,000 per year under a multi-year contract at the present location. 

The modular unit will be rented for $2500 per month or $30,000 per year –  $150,000 for the term of the five-year lease agreement.  According to the lease contract, it commences as of “February 1, 2012 or when the modular has been delivered to the City.”  Utility expenses will be estimated by the OUSD and paid by the City of Oakland.  The terms of this agreement with the OUSD were recommended for approval by OPL staff, Oakland’s Life Enrichment Committee and approved by the Oakland City Council.

The rent will be paid from Measure Q fund 2241, the Oakland library parcel tax approved by 77.2% of Oakland voters.  The $200,000 for the cost of the move and tenant improvements to the modular unit will come from Library Trust Fund 7540.

The library will be in the modular unit for five years or less, according to Oakland Public Library staff.  Thus outfitting and improvements to the modular costing $200,000 can be amortized over no more than five years.   Adding $40,000 to the $30,000 rent equals $70,000 per year in cost – an amount greater than the annual amount of $51,000 for a multi-year lease of the current library building – or a 37% cost increase.  

When Citibank offered to sell the library building to the City of Oakland in 2008 and 2009, Oakland declined.  Citibank then required the private purchaser of the adjacent bank building to buy the library building and library building lot as a condition of the purchase of the bank building and its lot.  For an entire year the new owner privately subsidized the library by providing it with free rent.  Since the City remained uninterested in buying the library building, the new owner offered a long-term 10-year lease at $4250 per month and, subsequently, several shorter multi-year leases.

The City agreed to only a one-year lease at $4250 per month with an option to renew for an additional year.  However, at the end of the first year, Oakland chose not to renew at $4250 per month, preferring a month-to-month lease at $4900 per month beginning November 1, 2011.  Had Oakland agreed to a five-year or ten-year lease, the annual rental costs would have been $51,000 instead of $70,000.

A Smaller Library with Fewer Books

Although it will cost more, the modular unit is smaller (approximately 1600 square feet compared with the current 1700 square foot library building) and will have less capacity for books because of the space occupied by a bathroom.

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