Saturday, April 19, 2014

How Big a Library for Sunnyvale?

1. Summary:  Sunnyvale's library is 60,000 sq. ft.  Residents want and should have more library space like their neighbors.  To get there, the current 60,000 sq. ft. needs to become 113,000 sq. ft. if there is no growth and 160,000 to 200,000 if there is population growth.  The proposed commercial development of 14 acres of the Civic Center in exchange for a few buildings will provide totally inadequate library space even if there is no population growth in Sunnyvale.  The only way to get adequate library space is to go to the voters with a better proposal for renovation and addition to the existing library, and conversion of park buildings to branch libraries.  Joint school-city library use should be explored as well.

2.  How much Space?
To see how large a library Sunnyvale residents would like to have we can't look at the California state average because Sunnyvale library space is almost exactly the state average (less than 1% smaller).

Sunnyvale Library Space = 0.4309 (sq. ft. / person)
CA Average Space = 0.4344 (sq. ft. / person)

 For the same reason we can't look at comparably sized cities because only about 10% to 20% of cities near Sunnyvale's population have much more library space.

We have to look at what Sunnyvale residents compare their library facilities to.  Those would be the neighboring cities like Mountain View, Santa Clara and others on the peninsula.  There we have library space (in square feet/person = SF/capita), for populations as seen below (click to enlarge):

(Note: Santa Clara's library space includes the 80,000 sq. ft. Central Park main library and the 7,000 sq. ft. Mission Library and Family Reading Center - the latter is closed Friday-Sunday as of this writing ).

The libraries shown above are in the top tier in sq. ft. per person in the state, but they are the standards by which people in Sunnyvale judge their own library.  These are presented in bar chart form below.  The red bar shows Sunnyvale, the purple shows the CA state average (click to enlarge).

Sunnyvale residents have  very high educational level, and thus have high expectations for their library relative to most Californians.  Most people in CA are served by very large city and county systems with a much smaller SF per person ratio, typically 0.29 to 0.37, roughly 3/4 that of Sunnyvale's - see below (click to enlarge):

At the lower end we have Santa Clara with 0.74 SF/person and at the upper end, several towns with 1.0 SF/person.  So choose the town you want to emulate, and multiply Sunnyvale's population by the SF/person number to get the library space Sunnyvale should have to get there.

To emulate:
Alameda or Santa Clara, 0.74 * 141,000 = 104,340 SF = 44,000 additional SF
Mtn View 0.8 * 141,000 = 112,800 SF = 52,800 additional SF
San Mateo, Redwood City, San Leandro = 1.0 * 141,000 = 141,000 SF = 79,000 additional SF

3. What About Population Growth?
But, Sunnyvale will gain population.  Mayor Griffith said during the 2013 LoWV forum that he felt Sunnyvale should have 200,000 people to accommodate all the office space and jobs currently in Sunnyvale, so more people could live near work.  If we want to plan for the future using that number, then:

To emulate:
Alameda or Santa Clara, 0.74 * 200,000 = 148,000 SF = 88,000 additional SF
Mtn View 0.8 * 200,000 = 160,000 SF = 100,000 additional SF
San Mateo, Redwood City, San Leandro = 1.0 * 200,000 = 200,000 SF = 140,000 additional SF

The proposed "public-private partnership" that would exchange about 14 acres of City-owned land in the Civic Center for a library would tear down the existing 60,000 square foot library and replace it with an 80,000 sq. ft. library.  This would raise Sunnyvale's library space to 0.567 sq. ft. per person.  Not even close to that of either Mountain View or Santa Clara and far below that of neighbors like San Mateo and Redwood City.  It is even more inadequate if you are expecting any growth in the Sunnyvale's population.
(The figure 14 acres was mentioned in the July 2012 presentation and is verified here: )

4. Conclusion:
In summary, the proposal to let 14 acres of the Civic Center be developed in exchange for a negligible improvement in library space makes no sense.  It also sets a terrible precedent that the City Council can spend anything it wants on anything at all without needing to go to the voters, by transferring city assets to private developers using vague phrases like "public-private partnership" to hide the reality.

In 2007 Sunnyvale voted on a library bond measure to tear down the old library (of 60,000 sq. ft.) and erect a new library of about 100,000 sq. ft.  This would have raised the sq. ft. per person ratio to 0.709 sq. ft. per person, still short of the library space of neighboring cities but a 40% increase.  The vote in favor garnered 59% but proposition 13 requires a 2/3 majority to approve new bond measures so it fell short by about 7%.

Some of those opposed felt there was a greater need for branch libraries, others felt a renovation would have been more cost effective, some because it wasn't explained very well, still others because there were no drawings or models of what the new library would look like.

Sunnyvale can get far more library for far less by asking the public to vote on a combination of renovation and addition to the existing library facilities, and by converting some park buildings to branch libraries.

4. Links to other aspects:
C.f., for an example of a beautiful library renovation and expansion for very little money look at:

Other cities trying to get an expansion of a library or a new library or branch create detailed plans and artists drawings with cost estimates.

Other cities renovate and expand like Pasadena, using buildings like our park buildings to create branch libraries, or some combination of the above.  To see, how other cities create large library space see:

Still other towns share school libraries lowering costs for both schools and cities.  See:

And virtually everyone does it much cheaper than the $1,000/sq. ft. of Sunnyvale's 2007 bond proposal. See avg. costs for library construction in CA (about $445/SF) here:

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