Redevelpmont Fund Battle Halts Opening of Santa Clara Library

Supporters of a $19.2 million library project in the city of Santa  Clara are upset the city has halted construction after Santa Clara County won  a court order freezing the city's former redevelopment assets.

Santa Clara's planned Northside Library, at 695 Moreland Way, is  "99.9 percent completed" and was to open Dec. 6, said Maria Daane, executive  director of the nonprofit Santa Clara City Library Foundation and Friends.

Construction began on the 15,000-square-foot building in July 2012  and so far the foundation, which was developing it with the city, has spent  $11 million of $19.2 million the city set aside for it, Daane said.

But the library stands empty and invoices are starting to come in  for the 50,000 books, DVDs and other items the group wants in order to  prepare for what would be the city's third public library, Daane said.

City residents she has talked to "are furious with the county and  state for interfering with the process at this time," Daane said.

"We think it's terrible," Daane said. "We think it's an example of  really bad government." 

On Monday, Santa Clara City Manager Julio Fuentes sent Daane a  letter stating "it is the city's desire to put a halt on the library project"  and he has directed city staff to stop working on it with the foundation.

Fuentes wrote that he ordered the work stoppage "out of an  abundance of caution" after a Superior Court judge in Sacramento last month  granted a preliminary injunction to block the city from spending its former  redevelopment funds.

On July 26, Sacramento County Judge Allen Sumner ruled in favor of  the county, which asked him to compel the city to hold more than $300 million  in cash, property and other one-time redevelopment assets in a reserve  account.
A state law that went into effect in 2011 ended city Redevelopment  Agencies in California and required cities to transfer most RDA assets to  local Successor Agencies that would dole out the funds to school districts  and other public services.
But the city of Santa Clara in early 2011 began instead to  transfer its RDA assets to city coffers and is still spending the money,  county officials claim.

In its motion filed with Sumner on July 3, county officials  claimed the city "has been on a construction and spending spree, depleting  more than $89.45 million" in former RDA funds, including on the new library.

County officials maintain that the city caused its own problems by  spending the RDA assets on itself instead of obeying state law and sending it  to the Successor Agency assigned to the city, deputy county counsel Lizanne  Reynolds said.

"The library is tying to blame the county," Reynolds said."It's unfortunate if there's fallout experienced by other parties,  but I don't know any way out of this," Reynolds said.

"There has to be a remedy and we are seeking a remedy," she said.  "The remedy is to have all the money returned to the Successor Agency."

Under the state's allocation system, about 40 percent of the  city's former RDA assets would be directed to the Santa Clara Unified School  District, Reynolds said.

In the meantime, no one knows what is to become of the nearly  complete library, city spokesman Dan Beerman said.

 "Who takes over the library?" Beerman said. "Does the county take  over the library, does the city take over the library? We just want this  library back and to run it, but now it's all up in the air."

The library foundation plans to hold a rally in favor of resuming  construction on the library at the site of the project at 11 a.m. on Sunday,  Daane said.

On Aug. 16, the group wants supporters to meet outside Santa Clara  City Hall prior to the 1:30 p.m. meeting of the seven-member oversight board  of the Successor Agency to the City of Santa Clara Redevelopment Agency,  Daane said.
Library backers will then attend the board meeting and speak out  in favor of getting the library back on track, Daane said.  

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