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  • Future Library and Civic Center Facility Options

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Future Library and Civic Center Facility Options

Last Update: September 5, 2014 

Since 2012, staff has not made significant advancements on the Civic Center project due to:  competing demands for staff resources; the pending retirement of City Manager Luebbers (who felt that a project of this scope and magnitude deserved consistent leadership from start to finish); and, a change in the make-up of the City Council. These circumstances, and the amount of time that had passed since Council’s July, 2012 action, prompted City Manager Deanna Santana to ensure that the current Council had an opportunity to affirm past Council direction. On September 2, 2014, during a Strategic Workshop conducted at the Heritage Museum, Council reviewed related issues and provided new direction to staff. That new direction calls for a comprehensive community engagement effort to precede any Council decision regarding the future of the Civic Center campus. Staff plans to return to Council in the near future with a proposal for commencing that community engagement effort.


Read the "Condition of Civic Center Campus Facilities - Information Only" report included on City Council's December 18, 2012 agenda.

On July 31, 2012, City Council held a special  joint session with the Board of Library Trustees to study “Future Library and Civic Center Facility Options."

Staff made an introductory presentation, explaining that the intent was to review future options relative to the City’s main Library, the concept of a possible branch library and the remainder of the Civic Center complex (including City Hall, City Hall annex buildings, Public Safety and the Sunnyvale Office Center). Staff indicated it was not seeking formal Council action (hence the study session format), but that it did desire clear direction with regard to “next steps”.

Reference Document:
Summary Minutes from the July 31, 2012 City Council Joint Study Session with the Board of Library Trustees

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Library Branch Consideration

Visit the Branch Library Concept Pages.

 Staff indicated that from its perspective, the concept of a branch library was very attractive due to three factors:
  1. an identified service need in the north end of town; 
  2. the identification of an ideal location (Lakewood Park/School, with no loss of park open space as the library would replace the swimming pool closed by Council budget action) with a window of opportunity to partner with the Sunnyvale School District; 
  3. and an identified funding source for capital costs (proceeds from the sale of the Raynor Activity Center which Council recently directed staff to sell). 
Staff indicated that its preliminary cost estimates were based on a 12,500 square-foot facility (capital costs -- including design, construction and start-up -- estimated at 11.6 million; annual operating costs estimated at $250,000 to $350,000), but that the size of the facility could be increased or decreased depending on the actual proceeds eventually received from the Raynor Activity Center. Staff indicated that if Council were interested in further exploring this concept, next steps would include pursuit of an agreement with the Sunnyvale School District, community outreach and input, environmental review and a preliminary design.

New Library Facility Option

Next staff reviewed the need for a new main library, citing current problems associated with the existing building’s 1960s design (not a flexible or adaptable facility); size/space constraints regarding collections programs and services, particularly for children and seniors; and feedback from library patrons. Staff indicated a new main library could be built at either the existing Civic Center campus (a 90,000 square-foot building located where the Sunnyvale Office Center now sits, at an estimated cost of $73 million) or at the Community Center Campus (two options were reviewed, both 80,000 square-foot facilities but with different parking scenarios and with costs ranging from $66 million to $74 million). Staff explained that the reduced size of the Community Center options as compared to the Civic Center option was the result of efficiencies that could be gained by the Library’s use of other facilities on the Community Center campus for public meetings and other generic needs. Staff indicated that if Council wanted to further explore the concept of a new main library, it should first identify a preferred location.

New Civic Center Facilities

(including City Hall, City Hall annex buildings, Public Safety and the Sunnyvale Office Center)

Lastly, staff reviewed future options relative to the remainder of the existing 24-acre Civic Center Campus. Council’s last direction, provided in June of 2011, had indicated a preference to relocate City Hall downtown. Should that not be feasible, Council’s preference was to rebuild the existing civic center campus via public and private partnerships. Failing that, Council’s preference would be to rebuild the existing campus via debt financing. Staff noted that the make-up of the Council had changed this past year and requested that the current Council confirm its preference. Staff noted that the option of relocating City Hall downtown still existed, but that economic trends made this a long shot. Staff reviewed the potential for redevelopment of the current campus via a public and private partnership (including private residential and commercial development to help defray the expense of a new public civic center), noting that the existing floor-area-ratio of the site (.187) allowed for significant development.


Staff closed its presentation by reminding Council that several related studies had been undertaken over the past decade, and that necessary repairs to the aging civic center buildings had been deferred for many years. As a result, staff was not in favor of additional lengthy studies, but rather a decision as to whether Council preferred simply rehabilitating and restoring the existing library and Civic Center campus buildings, or whether it preferred relocation to redevelopment of the campus or both.

Council asked questions about: possible alternative sites for a branch library; the need for a parking structure at the Community Center were the main library to be relocated there; water and soil conditions at the Community Center; the benefit of posting staff’s presentation slides online; and the possibility of funding a new library via cuts to existing staff salaries.

Members of the public commented on a variety of issues, some challenging the need for a new library or a new Civic Center campus; others queried the basis for staff’s cost estimates and the difference between these estimates and previous staff estimates. Questions were also posed about whether or not a branch library could be provided by renting commercial space; the impact of a library on parking availability at the Community Center; the possibility of using park dedication fees to fund a branch library; traffic impacts; and whether staff had used Santa Clara’s library as a model.


Councilmember Moylan moved to explore a branch library at the Lakewood School and Park site in partnership with the Sunnyvale School District, with capital costs to be covered by the proceeds from the eventual sale of the Raynor Activity Center. Councilmember Davis seconded the motion, expressing strong support for it. Councilmember Meyering said he remained opposed to selling the Raynor Activity Center, suggesting that instead reductions to staff salaries could be imposed to achieve an $11.8 million dollar savings to fund the branch library. Vice Mayor Whittum asked that the motion be amended to include consideration of the sale of other City properties to fund the branch (i,.e., not single out the Raynor Activity Center), but the motion failed for lack of a second. Vote: 5-2, Whittum and Meyering dissenting.

Councilmember Moylan moved to explore redevelopment of the existing Civic Center Campus buildings at the existing Civic Center site via a public/private partnership model, with the main library relocated to the Community Center campus. The motion was seconded by Councilmember Davis, and passed on a vote of 5-2, Councilmembers Whittum and Meyering dissenting.


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