The City of San Diego announced Thursday that $20 million from the state budget will fund the construction of a brand new public library in Oak Park, following years of community advocacy.
The state budget includes $68.5 million for the city to support libraries, parks, cultural projects, green jobs and public safety. The Oak Park Library receives most of the funding.
“That’s what the government is supposed to do – listen carefully to the community, put their request to work and bring the resources home,” Mayor Todd Gloria said at a press conference outside the library alongside the Senate Speaker Pro Tem Toni Atkins, Congresswoman Akilah Weber and other officials.
The Oak Park Library is one of the smallest libraries of the city‘s 36 branches. Katie Brasco, a Friends of Oak Park library volunteer, said the community is largely made up of low-income working families. Brasco said Oak Park’s population has grown and its needs are not being met by the current facility.
“Our community has always been excluded from a lot of funding from the city, and now that the city is taking an equity-based approach, we’re finally starting to see that happen,” Brasco said.
The city will now begin the design phase with input from the community.
The new library will be located near the north side of Chollas Lake Park. It is expected to be 20,000 square feet with a 16,000 square foot parking lot.
Congresswoman Weber grew up a few blocks from the library, which has served her and others for 53 years now. She said the project will provide the community with a “state-of-the-art” library with computers and a learning center. Gloria said they would also build a community center in the library named after Atkins.
Oak Park Community Council President Elida Chavez said advocates have been asking the city council to fund the library for years.
Chavez said she wanted the library to be a resource center for low-income families. Beyond computer access, she wants the new library to be a place where parents find job opportunities, where families can learn about health programs and services available to them, and a place to guide children towards higher education.
“It’s more than happiness, it’s more than excitement,” Chavez said. “It’s the spirit of community, it’s the spirit of collaboration.”