SANTA CLARA -- A few dozen orange-clad Santa Clara residents took to City Hall on Friday afternoon to push for the completion of Northside Library, chanting "Save our library" and waving hand-drawn orange and white signs.

In a town where residents aren't known for causing a ruckus, this is the second rally on behalf of the library. The first was held last weekend.

The Northside library project has a long history with the city of Santa Clara, with the land dedicated more than a decade ago. Construction began in July 2012, and today, the library is complete except for books and furniture. The project was to have been finished in December, but the library remains closed.

"Libraries are an integral part of the new generation -- students," said Raj Chahal of Santa Clara. "Something like a library, the foundation of our schools -- I think that the state and county should make it work."

At the center of the dispute is how the city wants to use money that once belonged to its Redevelopment Agency.

Friday's rally quickly moved inside City Hall, where protesters confronted members of the Oversight Board for the Successor Agency to the city of Santa Clara Redevelopment Agency.

The library project was halted after the state dissolved California's more than 400 Redevelopment Agencies. In the RDA aftermath, the Santa Clara City Council transferred more than $300 million dollars in assets from the RDA to the city; but the state ordered that the RDA assets transferred to the city be handed back to them.


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"We fully support the idea of building this library," said Gary Ameling, Santa Clara's director of finance. "The city's position is that the RDA money should be ruled by the court to be spent for this purpose. Right now we've got a lawsuit and a judge telling us to stop spending it."

The preliminary injunction preventing further construction is not meant to single out either the library or Santa Clara, according to James Williams, an official with Santa Clara County, which is a member of the oversight board.

"It's not an injunction against construction; the court case isn't a case against the library," he said. "There is no prohibition on finishing the library ... what the court case does say is the city cannot use redevelopment money for that."

Ameling, who is also a member of the Oversight Board for the Successor Agency, is hopeful that the library will open but not before some wrangling in the courts.

"There's this legal process, which the county has started whereby they are going to sue the city and all its entities to stop spending (RDA) money," he said. "This money was set aside years ago and was intended for this library, which is a communal and regional asset. Whether it's a short-term delay or a long-term issue is yet to be seen."

For some, the Northside library saga is part of a longtime lack of support for communities in Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and San Jose north of Highway 101.

"This has been going on forever. The Northside has been seriously underserved," said Claire Callejon, of Santa Clara. "For years, there wasn't even a supermarket north of 101!"

For others, the project is a nothing more than a failure of all agencies to see what is important to their constituents. Vicky Fairchild, of Santa Clara, lamented that no one wins in the library's current state.

"It's the most painful thing in the world to see an empty library," she said.

Contact Edward Ngai at 408-920-5064