Campaign for a permanent home – where we are

The Friends of PAL have been actively campaigning for a permanent home for the Piedmont Avenue Branch, which for over a decade has been housed in a portable building at 80 Echo Avenue. Since 2019 our efforts have focused on the vacant building next door at 86 Echo–the former Child Development Center (CDC) which like the current branch is part of the Piedmont Avenue Elementary School grounds. (For more details about the campaign history, see below.)

In 2023 the Oakland Public Library (OPL) and Public Works (OPW) departments selected HY Architects to conduct a feasibility study of how to adapt the former CDC site for a new branch library to better meet current and future needs. At in-person and on-line meetings on January 23, 2024 they presented an overview of the following milestones planned for the feasibility study:

    • January 23: in-person and zoom meetings to collect community ideas on requirements for the new branch.
    • March community meetings to review preliminary design options based on community input: Wednesday March 13 in-person or Thursday March 14 online – 6-7:30PM both days, details and preregistration here.
    • August 1: submit revised design options to Oakland’s Library and Public Works departments for approval.
    • November 1, 2024: submit approved design options to OUSD, as required by Joint Use Lease Agreement.

About 50 attendees at the January in-person meeting brainstormed wishes and ideas for a future branch–highlights reported to the group included:

    • Enough space so whole classes from Piedmont Ave. Elementary School can visit regularly, to make up for not having a working library within the school.
    • Different areas where readers, computer users, teens and other library users can gather.
    • Flexible spaces that can allow for small groups working together or open up for large programs or meetings.
    • Outdoor spaces that can be used year-round for programs or activities.
    • Good disabled access (ADA compliance) throughout the facility.
    • Dedicated off-street parking spots for disabled users and also for staff.
    • Partnerships or sponsorships with Kaiser and local businesses for funding, special materials such as board games, etc.

Attendees included Library Director Jamie Turbak and other staff from OPL and OPW, and our elected District 1 representatives Sam Davis from the Board of Education and Dan Kalb from City Council.

The architects plan a third pair of community meetings in May for feedback on proposed design concepts (Wednesday May 1 in-person or Thursday May 2 online – details here). Until then, community members can still share their ideas for the library site in 2 ways: 

    1. Complete a survey which can include uploading files for video, audio or documents (requires login with a Google account).
    2. Call in your comments to (510) 761-5708.

Next Steps

    1.  The feasibility study aims to provide:
      1. Schematic plans that fit the needs of OPL to serve the neighborhood and school community,
      2. Cost estimates to support decision-making among design options and requests for future funding, and
      3. Suggestions for possible funding sources.
    1. Getting construction funding will be a major challenge, especially since the lease agreement includes an “opt-out” provision if the city does not guarantee funding by November 2024. Ideally project cost estimates would be ready to propose as part of the city’s mid-cycle budget process starting in spring 2024, but it’s extremely unlikely that the budget for Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) would support significant costs for remodeling, and both OPL and Friends are seeking outside funding.
    2. If the project secures enough funding, the next step would be to prepare detailed plans and specifications to be the basis for contracting and construction. Because the property will still be owned by the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), plans would also be reviewed by the state for compliance with school requirements.
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The lease agreement is written for 50 years with possible renewals;  read full text. It states that no rent will be paid on the CDC until 2026 or a certificate of occupancy is issued for the library to move to the renovated building. In the meantime, the branch library will continue in the existing portable building at 86 Echo Ave. 

Oakland’s CIP budget process evaluates projects according to multiple prioritization factors, described here. The main funding source is voter-approved bonds, from which allocations are predetermined for various departments including libraries, public works (streets, sidewalks and park facilities), etc.

How you can help

  • Contact us
  • Sign up to receive our monthly email newsletter and alerts about important developments.
  • Volunteer at one of our events: periodic clean-ups around the CDC, and outreach tabling in the Piedmont Ave. neighborhood.
  • Volunteer to help with grant research, posting library news on social media, speaking to neighbors or groups that you know, making contacts with prospective donors – or whatever other skills and interests you’d like to bring to the campaign.

History

1932: Piedmont Avenue Branch library moves to 100 41st Street from a previous location on Piedmont Avenue.

1971: New Piedmont “Children’s’ Center” (later renamed CDC to reflect an increased emphasis on preschool education) opens at 86 Echo Avenue.

2009-12: OPL and Friends of PAL begin searching for another branch location because of massive rent increases by the new owner of the building at 41st St. They determine the best outcome for cost and location is leasing the portable building at 80 Echo, where it can provide library access for the elementary students since the school no longer has a staff librarian.

2010: Piedmont CDC is closed due to state budget cuts to early childhood education programs

OUSD Property Information sheet for Piedmont CDC.

2019-21: Concerned by a suggestion from OUSD that the portable building lease might not be renewed in the future, Friends of PAL begins its campaign for a new home and starts looking at the former CDC building. In 2019 OUSD forms a “7-11 Committee” to evaluate possible re-uses of 5 properties including the Piedmont CDC, in a way that complies with regulations in the State Education Code. Friends of PAL conducts community surveys and rallies supporters to contact the 7-11 Committee and OUSD Board in support of a library use.

Information packet to OUSD Board April 2021

2022: After issuing a Request for Proposals to make the CDC a library, OUSD accepts OPL’s proposal and finalizes a long-term lease agreement with the City. Meanwhile, the Oakland City Council has approved Fiscal Year 22-23 funding for a feasibility study on converting the CDC to be a library.

Updated information packet for City Council

FAQs for Statements of Support November 2022 

By Arleen Feng, Secretary and member of Friends of PAL Board of Directors