The article below originally appeared in the Half Moon Bay Review and is being reprinted with permission.
A large joint-use facility — housing a new local library, a permanent Coastside community college campus and various San Mateo County satellite offices — could be built in the coming years in the greater Half Moon Bay area, if preliminary plans being discussed by several agencies come to fruition.
Through more than a dozen meetings, an array of county agencies based over the hill have been investigating the idea of pooling resources to construct a shared building as a one-stop hub to meet the needs of the Coastside public.
So far, the partnership includes the San Mateo County Community College District, the Peninsula Library System, and various county government departments – groups that have long sought to increase their presence on the Coastside but have lacked the funding to do so independently.
Current discussion of uses for the new building included a larger library with more space for books and an expanded computer lab. The community college district would gain several classrooms that could be shared with other public groups. And finally the county would gain new spaces for some of its departments, reportedly including offices for the sheriff, planning, recreation, housing, health and public works.
Planners say they remain open to including other groups in the project, such as the city of Half Moon Bay, the Cabrillo Unified School District or local nonprofits.
Early estimates peg the cost of the building around $80 million, which would make the facility the most expensive ever attempted on the Coastside. Planners say funding for the project would need to come from a countywide bond measure, possibly as part of a larger package to upgrade the community college infrastructure.
Under their current arrangements, all the involved parties have a significant stake in a new building on the coast. Most county departments are based over the hill, and the few that have local branch offices are operating out of about 10,000 square feet of rented space. The College of San Mateo began holding classes at a satellite Coastside branch three years ago by leasing classroom space at the Shoreline Station. Last year, the college couldn’t afford the $100,000 annual rent, so it began leasing classrooms from Half Moon Bay High School.
Perhaps most in need of a new facility is the local library, which has been lacking space and resources in its 40-year-old building. For years, local library directors have been trying to collect funding for a new branch, but their efforts had fallen short of the estimated $19 million cost.
“It’s a perfect partnership,” said library manager Annie Malley. “There’s a lot of natural links as far as community education and services.”
Discussions for the joint-use building so far are “exploratory,” but all the involved parties are very enthusiastic, said Jim Keller, executive vice president of the community college district.
“Everyone knows there’s a need on the Coastside,” he said. “It’s like drinking water from a fire hose right now – people are really interested in keeping dialogue going on this project.”
Keller discussed a possible local facility last week with members of the Friends of Half Moon Bay Library. Lacking any open area at the outsized library, Keller led the discussion standing in front of the magazine racks, while about 30 local citizens packed into the library’s fiction section to listen.
The biggest hurdle was obviously financial, Keller explained. Peninsula agencies wouldn’t likely be able to put forward large funding for a Coastside joint-use building out of their regular budgets. Many officials believe the best opportunity to collect enough funding would be through a bond primarily benefiting the community college district.
The college district has already been considering a bond measure to help fund more than $600 million in unfunded improvement projects at its three main campuses. Most of that work consists of seismic retrofitting needed for the older buildings.
Officials involved in the project say the idea of joint facility between a public library and college has been successful before, most recently in San Ramon as part of the Diablo Valley Community College.
Keller said he would suggest including bond funding for a Coastside building next week when the college board of trustees meets for a planning retreat.
If accepted by the college trustees, a bond measure could be put to a countywide vote as soon as June. Per state guidelines, a bond measure would require approval from 55 percent of voters.
Numerous attendees at the Half Moon Bay meeting asked whether the shared facility could include some kind of recreation space – something the Coastside has long lacked despite repeated efforts and fundraising.
More than 10 years ago, the Boys & Girls Club of the Coastside planned to build a 27,000-square-foot gymnasium and activity center at the Wavecrest property, a spot that was later placed under a conservation easement. Since then, the youth organization still has more than $1 million in funds specially intended for a recreation facility.
Community college officials have discussed the idea of partnering with the Boys & Girls Club, but no formal agreement has been put in place. In concept, such a partnership sounded “very exciting,” said David Cline, president of the Boys & Girls Club.
“We’re supportive of this project whether they build it with us or not,” he said. “If the great powers that be indicate they’d like to incorporate what we’ve been trying to build, we’d certainly be open to it.”