By Steven Choi
When the Huntington Beach Library, Information and Cultural Resource Center was dedicated on April 5, 1975, the City Council declared in the program brochure, “Where There is No Vision, People Perish.” The motto fits perfectly with the spirit of my writing: “Irvine has a Vision for a Metropolitan Library.”
Irvine has been served by the Orange County library system since the city’s inception, with three branches totaling 43,611 square feet. Calculating the total space to the current population of 250,000, the space ratio is 0.18 square foot per capita. Neighboring cities’ library space, however, is about 1 square foot per capita.
The time has come to build a metropolitan library at the O.C. Great Park Cultural Terrace. I call it a “Golden Opportunity.”
The land for this project is available for free at the Great Park, and Irvine is expected to have $450 million to $750 million available in 12 years – money not yet designated. Irvine itself already has a Library Special Tax Set-Aside Fund authorized by our county supervisors, the total amount projected at about $20 million in 7 years. The Irvine Library Foundation will also raise a third of the total cost, up to $50 million.
Further, Irvine and the O.C. Fire Authority reached an agreement to “reimburse” the city for overpaid taxes in 2013, although this agreement is being challenged at this time by the county. If the court rules in our favor, the OCFA reimbursement would range between $200 to $300 million, depending on property valuation in the next 12-15 years.
The state of California also has agreed to pay Irvine $292 million over the next 12 years as a settlement over the redevelopment funds at the Great Park.
The Irvine Library Ad Hoc Committee, commissioned by the city in 2006, recommended that Irvine increase its library space, and a Library Needs Assessment Study from that same year found “the deficiencies in library service in Irvine as almost entirely a function of the square feet of library service.”