Larkspur City Council takes big steps in funding the new Larkspur Library and Community Center


Alyssa McCadden

The Larkspur City Council unanimously passed two resolutions on Sept. 19 that will significantly help the vision of a new Larkspur library and community center come to life. Both resolutions, which include a request for design proposals and a future ballot measure for a tax bond, will help move the funding and planning processes forward.

The existing Larkspur Library, housed in City Hall, was founded in 1913 and is only 3,500 square feet. According to Joe Jennings, president of the Larkspur Library and Community Center Foundation (LLCCF), it should be between 10 and 12 thousand square feet, based on a library consultant’s recommendation. Because the library is located in a historic building, it is not suited for expansion and is not seismic or fire safe. The new library will be located on the corner of Rose Lane and Doherty Drive.

Walking and biking, students pass by the land designated for the future library and community center.

The plans for the new Larkspur Library include shared spaces and community rooms for people of all ages. The city and foundation also plan to increase parking, give the public easier access to library materials and technology and create outdoor spaces for people to enjoy year-round. 

The project has been named “The Commons at Larkspur,” and Jennings hopes the new facility will invite people to gather, explore and collaborate.

“The reason we landed on this concept, The Commons, is that great cities have town squares. It’s the heart of the town, and we don’t have that. [It will not be] just a library and community center, but a town square where people can go,” Jennings said.

Additionally, the library will strive to create a new system for checking out books. According to Jennings, approximately 85 percent of library visitors never browse the shelves. They only enter the library to pick up a book they have pre-ordered or skim the new release section. Advanced technology will enable the public to order a book online and have it available for pickup in the library within a few hours, allowing floor space in the libraries to be freed up and repurposed as meeting rooms and community spaces. Once implemented, the system will allow the public to access the 10 million library books kept in libraries and a shared storage space in Marin County more efficiently. 

According to the LLCCF, in order to make the library and community center possible, the foundation must fundraise $5 million, and the city must contribute an additional $7.5 million. At the meeting on Sept. 19, the City Council agreed to look into the idea of a bond measure to fund the city’s portion of the project. In order to do so, a taxpayer vote will need to be solicited.

According to Dan Schwarz, the Larkspur City Manager, Larkspur is exploring three different construction designs, including a stand-alone library and a shared complex with housing development.

On Oct. 9, the City Council released the Request for Proposals, which invites architects and developers to submit their design ideas. The City Council’s next step for the project will be to analyze the proposals in January and February of 2020. The LLCCF, on their part, will commence their major donor commitment program, which will help pay for their portion of funding.

Marilyn Wronsky, who has worked for the Corte Madera Library for over 40 years, believes that once the project comes to life, it will directly impact people from all over Marin County. 

“I think [Larkspur residents and students] are the two groups that will benefit [from] day one,” Wronsky said. 

Causing overflow to park on the main street and residential side streets, the current library only has three public parking spaces.

Students from Hall Middle School and Redwood will be able to take advantage of the facility after school because it is within walking distance. The library will also have more space than the original building for students to study, tutor and work on group projects.

For the greater community, the common spaces will foster collaboration and social connection. According to Jennings, his goal is to create a community gathering place similar to the piazzas and city centers in small European towns.

“My aspiration is to create a center for Corte Madera, Larkspur, Greenbrae, Kentfield and Ross, where regardless of your age or your interests, there is something for you there and it’s something that you’re proud of,” Jennings said.