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Pleasant Hill Library supporters lose fight to keep facility open past June

Pleasant Hill resident Dick Offerman, of Keep Our Library Open (KOLO), shows his support for preserving the existing library until its replacement is built. The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors feels differently, and is sticking with its plan to close the facility in June. (Photo by Sam Richards/Bay City News Foundation)

Pleasant Hill’s existing library, the oldest and busiest in Contra Costa County, will close in June, the county Board of Supervisors has decided, two years before a new library is scheduled to open nearby.

Supervisors voted 5-0 on March 10 to stick with a longstanding plan to demolish the old library, on Oak Road west of Interstate 680, in part because it is part of a four-way plan to transfer county library land to the city of Pleasant Hill, and to build 34 two-story houses on the land where the old library now sits.

County officials estimate that, by closing the existing library in June, the county will save between $800,000 and $1 million in operating costs.

And keeping it open, supervisors said, would disrupt the schedule for building the houses and for improvements to nearby Monticello Avenue and Oak Park Boulevard, which will be shared by the county, the city of Pleasant Hill and the Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District.

“If we were to backtrack now, a new environmental impact report would be needed, and (would) delay the new library,” Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville said.

The board’s approval of the old library’s closure was opposed by members of the citizens group Keep Our Library Open, whose members have been campaigning since 2017 to keep the old library open until the new one is built.

Yard signs saying “Keep Our Library Open” grace a number of Pleasant Hill front yards. And right up until the board’s vote, its members said plans to turn part of the Pleasant Hill Senior Center into a temporary library, with about 10,000 books plus computers and other amenities, is wholly inadequate.

Teresa LaCombe of Pleasant Hill said the senior center and its parking lot is overcrowded now, before any library traffic sets foot inside.

“The value of our library cannot be measured by any dollar amount,” said LaCombe, a Keep Our Library Open member. “It’s so much more valuable than that.”

While Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Concord acknowledged the “human impacts” of closing the old library in June, she countered that fiscal responsibility is important, and that keeping the old facility open for two more years would be costly.

“I’ve long said the short-term pain is worth the long-term gain,” Mitchoff said. “And we just don’t have a pot of money.”

Andersen pointed to the new library in San Ramon, which opened in 2017. While it was closed, San Ramon residents went either to a small satellite library in that city, or to the Danville library, while the San Ramon library underwent a $6.5 million makeover. “And they made do,” she said.