The letters from donors who’ve made pledges to support a new downtown library won’t be made public next week, when the city must respond to the state librarian to keep a $20 million grant for construction of the building.

The state had requested the donor agreement letters or “similar documents” in February, saying it was concerned about the viability of funds committed to the project.

But Mel Katz of the San Diego Public Library Foundation said yesterday he’s hopeful the state won’t even need to see the letters because of the progress made so far, which includes a vote by the San Diego Unified school board in favor of signing a nonbinding letter of intent to spend $20 million in school bond money to lease space in the library for a charter school.

The proposal cleared another hurdle at a City Council meeting yesterday and is expected to go to a full council vote next month.

Katz told council members yesterday that an attorney has reviewed the letters from 18 donors and determined they are “enforceable” either through the donors or their heirs. The foundation has reported receiving commitments of $27.5 million for construction of the building and $10 million to defray the increased operating costs for five years.

But Katz said the donors want to remain anonymous until the project is bid, a guaranteed price is determined and the City Council signs off on construction. If the state librarian insists on seeing proof, Katz said library boosters will work with them, perhaps by obtaining an accountant’s verification of the pledges to avoid revealing the donors’ names. A spokeswoman for Mayor Jerry Sanders said last week that the city was largely staying out of the matter, leaving it to the foundation and the state, which have been exploring ways to satisfy the state’s requirements without revealing names.

The foundation still has to raise to raise $37.5 million, assuming the price of the building has remained at the $185 million last estimated in 2005. Many believe it’s increased significantly, but Katz believes it will remain the same, citing the opinion of the library’s construction manager.

If it’s increased, Councilman Kevin Faulconer said yesterday, the project would be in serious trouble. And Katz said boosters would have to sit down at the table with city officials in the case of a price hike.

“We’re going to have to talk because at a certain level, we’re not going to be able to raise private funds,” he said.


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