Monday, April 15, 2024

Council to Solicit Public Input on Potential Winn Room Expansion

The Coronado Public Library Winn Room as seen from the corner of Sixth and Orange, Dec. 12, 2023. (The Coronado Times)

It’s been 50 years since the Winn Room at the Coronado Public Library has been updated, and the city is weighing its options: expand the meeting space, or simply refresh it?

At a special workshop of the Coronado City Council on Dec. 12, city staff presented four remodel options ranging from $3.28 million (a refresh) to $9.72 million (a large expansion).

A fifth option is to upgrade the Grand Room at the Spreckels Center for $1.72 million, and then find ways to coordinate its use with library events.

The council has not made any decisions yet, and said it wishes to solicit more public opinion before doing so.

“We all want a better Winn Room, but what can we afford?” said Councilmember Casey Tanaka. “How many trees do we want to give up? And what is the trade off? If we make the park a little smaller (for an expanded event space), is that a good trade off?”

Tanaka sat on a subcommittee that yielded the remodel and expansion options, along with Councilmember Carrie Downey and former Councilmember Marvin Heinze. The city has been planning for a potential Winn Room expansion since 2020.

Supporters of expansion say the Winn Room – and library in general – needs to adapt as times change. The use of screens during events, whether for presentations or media, has become ubiquitous, and the room’s low ceiling does not allow for sufficient screen visibility, while its audiovisual systems are outdated and finicky.

Libraries are less about lending books these days and have become “vital social hubs and learning centers,” said Shaun Briley, the library’s director, noting that the library’s needs in 1970 were vastly different than they are today.

Today, the Winn Room hosts community events that are free to the public, including literary readings, musical performances, and more. It hosted about 420 events with 15,000 total attendees between May 1, 2022 and April 30, 2023. Briley said he supports the expansion options so that the room could better accommodate community events and host more people.

“We’re looking for something that will safeguard the future viability of the public,” Briley said. Carl Luna, president of the Friends of the Library, also spoke in support of the fourth option.

But expansion is expensive and land is a finite resource, so a Winn Room expansion would detract from community green space. Community members flocked to public comment, some to support the expansion of the Winn Room, others to protest the trees that would be lost if the room were expanded.

The grassy, tree-filled park area to the north of the Winn Room. (The Coronado Times)

Under one expansion option, one Canary Island pine tree would need to be removed, while the full expansion would require the loss of five trees. The two refresh options would yield no tree loss.

Samantha Bey, a Coronado resident, spoke in support of the library’s green space, saying her children call it the magical forest. She also questioned the cost and feasibility of the expansion.

“A venue holding more than 200 people that does not provide parking is problematic for nearby neighborhoods and residential streets,” Bey said. “How many millions of dollars are we spending to add approximately 70 seats?”

The four options are outlined below:

Option 1:

This option would provide a “bare minimum” renovation, updating the room’s audiovisual system, fixing a leaking roof, updating the HVAC system, and cosmetic fixes, for a cost of $3.28 million. Each subsequent option includes these fixes, with that base cost.

Under this plan, the room could support 135 seats maximum, and 35% of the screen would be visible from the back row.

Option 2:

This option would not expand the footprint of the Winn Room or its seating capacity, but it would raise the ceiling height, which would solve the problem of visibility: By raising the screen height, 90% of the screen would be visible from the back row. This option carries an estimated cost of $4.15 million.

Option 3:

This small expansion would not protrude into the northern section of the park, but would come at the cost of one tree. Under this plan, seating capacity would increase to 180, and 95% of the screen would be visible from the back row, for an estimated cost of $6.44 million.

Option 4:

The largest expansion option would include a foyer and optional desk space that would allow for outdoor performances. This would require the loss of five trees, and would increase seating capacity to 208, for the price of $9.72 million.

The entire council questioned whether a less costly option could be utilized while still supporting increased event space, including expanding Spreckels Center event space and sharing it with the library.

Although city staff analyzed other public meeting spaces and found that they were not sufficient alternate locations for Winn Room events, either because they were already being used or because of the short-notice nature of certain literary events, but the entire council questioned whether they could become adequate under different management.

“One of my biggest questions is if there’s an unused asset that we could use better, even if it’s under different managers (than the library),” Councilmember John Duncan said.

One issue with the Spreckels Center is that it does not have staff on site for as many hours as the library does, Councilmember Carrie Downey said, and even though Briley in the past had suggested the library offer joint scheduling, she was told that was not an option as the city cannot commingle parks and recreation staff with library staff. Downey questioned if that could change.

Although public comment was split between support of expansion and support of trees, both sides said they wanted to have more input in the process, and City Council agreed. Tanaka said that the subcommittee had not publicized its meetings yet because it hoped to develop a baseline of options from which to solicit public opinion.

“This process over the last two or three years could have been more open to the public, and I was the one who didn’t want it to be until this point,” Tanaka said, adding that bringing 100 voices in to an initial discussion would be overwhelming. “I’m not trying to exclude the public indefinitely, but I wanted to get a little groundwork in first.”

Now, with this base, Tanaka said – and the rest of the council agreed – that the city can solicit feedback before reaching a decision.

 



Megan Kitt
Megan Kitt
Megan has worked as a reporter for more than 15 years, and her work in both print and digital journalism has been published in more than 25 publications worldwide. She is also an award-winning photographer. She holds BA degrees in journalism, English literature and creative writing and an MA degree in creative writing and literature. She believes a quality news publication's purpose is to strengthen a community through informative and connective reporting.Megan is also a mother of three and a Navy spouse. After living around the world both as a journalist and as a military spouse, she immediately fell in love with San Diego and Coronado for her family's long-term home.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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