Mayor Chuck Reed’s budget messagedirects the city manager to find ways in thebudget to open Seven Trees, Bascom, Educational Park and Calabazas libraries and the Bascom Community Center. The mayor further directed the city manager to, if at all possible, open the Bascom Community Center before July 1 so residents can enjoy summer programs.
San Jose City Council members gave a general nod to the mayor’s suggestion to open the facilities at the Tuesday, March 13, meeting, but the public hearing and vote on the budget message will be on Tuesday, March 20. Details of how the city will staff the facilities and hours of operation will be determined as the budget takes shape.
“We’re excited,” said District 6 resident Teresa Faz, a member of Friends of Bascom Library and Community Center, a group that has been working since last summer to get the Bascom library and center open. “At one time, we heard it would be five years.”
Councilman Pete Constant also offered support at the council meeting.
“I’m very happy we’re going to see some libraries open,” said Constant, whose constituents have been able to use only the West Valley Library in his District 1 while Calabazas Library was rebuilt.
During public testimony, however, District 3 resident Emily Gatfield said she was disappointed that new libraries would be open while existing branch libraries are open only 4.5 days a week, a result of last year’s budget cuts.
“Libraries provide so many services to residents beyond just books,” she said, listing Internet access and safe places for children to go in their neighborhoods as “vitally important.”
“I would ask that you use some of the surplus money to restore hours at existing libraries before opening new facilities.”
The Bascom Community Center had been targeted for reuse, which means a private service provider, often a nonprofit organization, would lease the center and offer services that were provided by city staff. The services are limited to what the private operator can provide and based on input from residents. It is unclear if the plan will go forward.
A new police substation in South San Jose also has remained closed because of budget cuts, and the mayor’s budget message recommends continuing to delay its opening and, instead, sped $2.4 million on gang prevention efforts.
District 2 Councilman Ash Kalra agreed that the city needs to put more money into gang prevention, but also questioned that if opening the facility and relocating officers there in the future might lead to cost savings.”
District 4 Councilman Kansen Chu suggested the city conduct a study to determine if increasing hours at existing branches would be wiser than opening new libraries.
“With the uncertainty of our future funding sources, I don’t want to open up new libraries just to close them the next year, and I do want to increase hours at current libraries,” he said.
Funded by a bond measure approved by voters , the facilities built in underserved neighborhoods have been surrounded by security fencing while passers-by could look in but only imagine checking out a book or using brand new exercise equipment.
The Branch Library Bond Measure allotted $212 million over 10 years for construction of six new and 14 expanded branch libraries. San Jose property owners pay a tax to repay the bond. Nineteen projects have been completed, and a site for a new 12,000-square-foot Southeast Branch Library is being purchased at Evergreen Village Center. Construction is expected to start .
View San Jose Community Center/Libraries in a larger map
- Seven Trees Community Center and Branch Library, 3590 Cas Drive, in San Jose Council District 7. The 60,000-square-foot building opened in October, but the 20,000-sqaure-foot, second-floor library remained closed. It will provide reading areas, a learning center, computer labs and Internet café. The community center provides a banquet room, fitness center, gym, kitchen, basketball and tennis courts and outdoor projection screen. Cost: $12.4 million
- The Bascom Community Center and Library is a 40,000-square-foot, two-story building at 1000 South Bascom Avenue, with a community room, multi-purpose room with kitchen, gymnasium, game room, fitness center, youth center, tech center, Internet cafe, children and adult collection spaces, various reading areas, learning center and outdoor area for community events including and movies. Cost: $13.2 million.
- Calabazas Branch Library, 10,420 square foot at 1230 S Blaney Ave.
- Educational Park Branch Library, 18,000 square feet at 1772 Educational Park Drive