In a letter sent to acting state Librarian Stacey Aldrich today, the city of San Diego revised the cost of the downtown main library. It will now cost $194.5 million.

That’s $10 million more than the last official estimate that pegged the cost at roughly $185 million in 2005. A higher price tag had been widely expected, considering the increase in building costs since then.

But as recently as July 7, when the City Council voted to sign a letter of intent to lease two floors of the building to San Diego Unified for construction of a charter school, officials used the $185 million figure to determine revenue requirements for the project.

The current funding plan calls for the project to receive $80 million in downtown redevelopment money, $20 million from the SDUSD lease, a pending $20 million state grant, and $63.5 million in private donations raised by the Library Foundation.

The $10 million hike now raises questions about where the money will come from to pay for it, especially as the city and library boosters have received criticism for moving forward with it as the city faces severe structural budget deficits.

Some members of the council and the state librarian’s office, whose $20 million grant is critical for the project, have previously expressed concern over whether the private donations would be available to fund the project. The foundation says it has already raised $27.5 million for construction, and would raise the additional $36 million by the time of the building’s scheduled completion in 2013.

The foundation has refused to divulge the names of the private donors who have pledged that money.

But at the July 7 City Council meeting, Library Foundation board Vice Chairman Mel Katz told council members the foundation would be willing to enter into a binding agreement with the city to guarantee that money. But given the new numbers, that plan would still leave the project $10 million short.

In other schoobrary-related news, local activist Ian Trowbridge today threatened to sue the city for refusing to turn over private donor documents that he believes are in the city’s possession.

In order to satisfy the state librarian’s concerns over the availability of those funds, mayoral spokeswoman Rachel Laing said, the city told the state that it had received evidence in the form of certified letters that the pledges were backed by money.

Trowbridge has been trying to get a hold of those letters through public records requests, but has been told by the Mayor’s Office that the city never received the letters, but was rather presented with them.

“I never said that we were given the letters. I said that we were presented letters,” Laing said. “If we had the letters, we would have to turn them over.”


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