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The San Diego City Council backed the long-planned downtown library and school by a 6-2 vote today in front of a crowd that largely favored the library plan and included philanthropists, parents and a group of downtown schoolchildren.

Council members Sherri Lightner and Carl DeMaio cast the opposing votes, saying it wasn’t prudent to back a new library while the city was reducing hours at existing ones.

The nearly $185 million project had long struggled to gain support and was believed to be dead two years ago. It includes two floors leased to the San Diego Unified School District for a charter school, one key part of its funding, and will also rely on $32.5 million that the Library Foundation must still raise from donors by January 2012.

“You have to take a leap of faith to do this project as a City Council,” said Councilman Kevin Faulconer, adding, “I’m prepared to do that.”

Construction is supposed to start in July because a crucial state grant requires the city to start building by the beginning of August at the Park Boulevard and J Street site.

We’ll have more details shortly. Stay tuned.

— EMILY ALPERT

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