With Some Of The Most Outdated Libraries In The State, Hayward May Look To Voters To Fund $50M Project

Mockup of the proposed 58,000 sq. ft.
Downtown Hayward library.

HAYWARD CITY COUNCIL | Hayward’s public libraries are some of the most outdated in the entire state, according to a staff report this week, and the City Council believes residents are willing to pay out of pocket next year for a new main library.

The estimated cost building a new three-floor 58,000 sq. ft. downtown library is $50.8 million, according to a presentation given Tuesday to the Hayward City Council. However, the only identifiable funds for the project currently are a $10 million gift from Calpine in 2011. The energy producer is building a natural gas-fired plant on the Hayward Shoreline. The city, though, wants to be prepared when and if additional funds become available.

“Pending the day we find funding for this we are more ready to build the building,” said City Manager Fran David. “But, in the meantime, we want to proceed forward and make sure the project does not lag behind just because we can’t find the funding at the moment.”

The project dubbed the “21st Century Library and Community Learning Center” would feature literacy training, after school programs, tutoring and multimedia rooms, said Sean Reinhart, Hayward’s director of library and community services. A digitally-equipped conference holding up to 200 people is also included in the project, along with several smaller meeting rooms. The building would also come equipped with 18,000 sq. ft of rooftop solar panels, which could eventually attain zero net energy output, meaning it produces enough energy to power the entire building at no cost.

Hayward’s libraries already rank as some of the smallest not only in the Bay Area, but the entire state, said Reinhart. The average Bay Area public library has a square feet per capita in the range of .75 sq. ft. Hayward’s is just .25 sq. ft. of library for every resident. Despite the need and the current condition of the school district, nearly every city leader realizes Hayward’s slowly recovering economy does not have the cash to fund the remaining $40 million needed to fund the library project.

“It’s going to cost $50 million and we’ve got 10,” said Councilmember Al Mendall. “I don’t see a source of money that we’re going to stumble upon in the next couple of years. The city is not flush with cash.” Mendall said he once had reservations whether the city should invest in a single, large-scale library or several smaller venues, but Tuesday’s report helped him come to the conclusion both are needed. “We’re so behind and so under served in terms of libraries that in the long term,” he said, “we’re probably talking about a couple of decades here, we should strive to do both.”

Mendall, like nearly every council member Tuesday night, advocated for placing a potential tax measure on the 2014 ballot. “I will do everything in my power for this to get built,” added Councilmember Francisco Zermeno, who has already officially declared his intention to run for mayor next year. In recent years, Hayward voters have twice easily approved tax measures for its under performing schools.

Councilmember Mark Salinas, however, went a step further, not only advocating for a potential tax measure voters to fund the new library, but floating the possibility of expanding its scope to include new buildings for the Hayward Police and Fire Departments. He added, the potential new library should be bigger and thereby send a message to the region Hayward, with a university, community college and numerous other types of educational campuses, is a hub of learning in the Bay Area. A grand new library could also offset the loss of Cal State East Bay’s iconic Warren Hall, slated to be torn down next month, said Salinas. “This library could send a very powerful message throughout the region that is a educational city.”