It took an improbable last-minute miracle to resuscitate the long-planned downtown library last year when the school district pledged $20 million to convert the top two floors into a charter school.

Now, City Councilman Kevin Faulconer said last night, it took a leap of faith for the City Council to give the final go-ahead on the schoobrary project.

“I’m prepared to do that,” he said.

A majority of his colleagues were too. The council, by a 6-2 vote, gave final approval to the project and cleared the way for construction to begin as soon as July.

The victory for library boosters was the culmination of more than a decade of work on what oftentimes looked like a dead project, dogged by fundraising challenges and rising costs. But the project’s champions kept the price tag at $185 million and scraped together the funds to get started.

That leap of faith Faulconer was referring to: The Library Foundation is still $32.5 million short of its fundraising goal and the city could be on the hook if it doesn’t close that gap by 2012, and there remain concerns that operating a new central library will further strain existing branch libraries that have already taken a budget beating.

Those concerns were enough for Council members Sherri Lightner and Carl DeMaio, who opposed the project.

In other news:

• It was a bad day for DeMaio all around. The City Clerk’s Office said a preliminary count showed he and his allies failed to get enough signatures to put a measure on the ballot that would overhaul city outsourcing and contracting rules.

But the consultant who’s running the campaign says a closer count will show that the measure qualifies for the ballot.

If the measure does make it to the November ballot, it there will be one heck of a fight over it between labor allies and those who think outsourcing and banning project labor agreements will be a boon for the financially strapped city. It was shaping up already to be the big ballot battle in San Diego in the fall.

• “On the eve of the Mercado project’s planned renaissance, the city of San Diego remains locked in a dispute with its former developer of choice over the basic question of who owns the Barrio Logan land.”

Now wait just a minute. Aren’t there documents and such things that say who owns a piece of property? You might assume so. But there have been a flurry of court cases that still haven’t clearly resolved things.

Supporters of the project had hoped today’s vote to award the project to a new developer would signal a new day in Mercado’s long history, but the scuffle over the land hints that they will have to await for at least one more court intervention.

• Tonight, the San Diego school board will consider approving a contract with interim Superintendent Bill Kowba, who’s poised to become permanent. He’ll make a bit less than the previous schools chief and won’t get performance bonuses. Check our story to get details about an unusual clause that has to do with security for the top boss and his family.

Also in education: incumbent board member Katherine Nakamura is officially out of the running in the primary election: she’s too far behind to catch up to second place and make it into the runoff.

• Which schoolkids are most likely to report things like drugs and weapons on campus? The head honcho at Crime Stoppers says middle school students call in with more tips than high schoolers. Is she right? The Fact Check verdict is in.

Elsewhere:

• A judge backed the city in another pension-related lawsuit, the U-T reported, meaning that San Diego “continues to score court victories related to pension benefits and slowly chip away at a $2 billion-plus debt that threatens to overwhelm the city budget.”

• The U-T has an extensive story on the state’s investigation of a possible cancer cluster — an unusually high number of cancer cases — around a Carlsbad elementary school. The verdict: no cluster. While a community group reported 300 cases, the state could only confirm 159. The rest included “duplications, old cases already logged in the state registry, patients first diagnosed when they lived outside of California, reports lacking details needed for a full analysis or incidents involving animals instead of humans.”

• Uptown News presses representatives of a Hillcrest-area parking management group that came under heavy fire from the county grand jury for allegedly mismanaging funds by not using enough money from parking meter proceeds for new projects. (The group spent $3.2 million on salaries since 1999; a representative says 40 new parking spaces have appeared, with more on the way but not for at least a couple years.) One interesting tidbit: new parking spaces appear to cost $12,000 each.

• On Saturday’s Weekend Report, I  wrote about an upcoming Lifetime TV show to be set in San Diego. Trivia time! Besides “Simon & Simon” and the 1970s David Janssen detective show “Harry O,” can you think of any other TV shows set here? If so, drop me a line and I’ll follow up tomorrow. (While they were filmed here, “Silk Stalkings” and “Veronica Mars” don’t count because they took place elsewhere.)

• Finally, CityBeat takes a look at the vandalism of cactuses at Balboa Park’s cactus garden. Yes, vandalism: people carve their initials into the cactuses, and the park’s horticulturist says it’s a longtime problem: “there’s a tendency for people to hang out in the garden and cause trouble for us.”

The cactus end up with wounds that workers cover with green paint, Play Doh and putty.

Two words: Cactuses, attack!

 — RANDY DOTINGA

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.