Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 22, 2021

I’m here to remind you

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:13 am

That the Carnegie Library sits vacant and unused and Alameda has an opportunity to use once in a lifetime funding to do what the private sector has been unable to do: rehabilitate and put the building to use.

I’m pretty sure I’ve written about the nearly perfect placement of the Carnegie Library to services, retail, and transit which would make it ideal to providing much needed accommodations for our unhoused population.

And before you say that Carnegie libraries shouldn’t be used for residential purposes I’ll stop you right there and point to a library in Scotland which was converted into “social housing.”

This building is a lot bigger than Alameda’s Carnegie but it just shows that if a city is willing, the work can be done.

From Urban Realm:

A B-listed former Carnegie Library in Coatbridgehas been transformed into 12 affordable flats following the completion of conversion works by Mast Architects on behalf of Clyde Valley Housing Association.

The prominent ‘Beaux Arts’ style building had lain vacant since 2010, deteriorating to such an extent that it latterly languished on the ‘Buildings at Risk’ register before falling into the hands of the local housing association.

Working within the limitations of the original design Mast have successfully created a mix of flats by inserting new floor levels into the structure and removing rear book stacks to allow formation of an external amenity space.

And a video which has some glimpses of the interior:


  1. What is the expected capacity of the library? How many beds, how much water & sewer capacity, etc?

    Comment by dave — July 22, 2021 @ 6:26 am

  2. The Carnegie Library has been identified as a Centerpiece in the Draft General Plan:

    “Preserve the City Hall, Carnegie Library, Veterans Memorial Building, and Elks Club buildings as centerpieces of the Civic Center district”.

    If not this building, there are other properties that can be identified east of Grand Street to include on the list.

    Comment by Karen Bey — July 22, 2021 @ 8:57 am

  3. This building is going to require a LOT of immediate up front costs just to stabilize it before anything can be done. I know a number of people who at one time or another were interested in buying or leasing the building only to find that that bare-minimum to make it safe is something like 1-1.5 Million dollars. The building has been sitting unused for over 20 years and will need a ton of work just to address the effects of being abandoned that long. It doesn’t seem like an ideal building for making into apartments: The whole interior is more or less one giant room and thus you would have to literally build a building within a building. My personal opinion is that the city should take over and restore it.

    A far cheaper and more practical solution for housing is readily available: The tons and tons of empty barrack housing units on the navy base. More people could be housed and renovation of those units would be far easier than trying to shoe-horn something into an old library.

    Comment by john doe — July 22, 2021 @ 9:09 am

    • Given the age and questionable building quality of the housing at the Navy base it won’t be cheaper or easier.

      Comment by Lauren Do — July 22, 2021 @ 9:25 am

      • This would have, and should have, worked: beds, showers, kitchen & dining, heat & air con, storage, security, highly walkable to many services, and it was all ready to go. But no…..

        Comment by Sigh — July 22, 2021 @ 10:13 am

      • Actually, the quality of construction of the buildings on the base are above average. I know this firsthand: Ever gone into any of the more recently opened buildings and hangers on the base? I have, and in fact went on a tour of a few several years ago. Almost all of those buildings use heavy, old growth redwood framing. And what you will also find is that most are in the same physical configuration, because they are already robust enough to meet earthquake standards. Go to any of the breweries and look at both the walls and the ceilings and their exposed framing. All 100% original. Because basically the military built the things literally like tanks.

        The biggest costs would probably be toxic material remediation such as asbestos, lead paint and so on. And given that we’re talking 100’s of units, seems to be a better use for public housing. I cannot fathom the old Library being at all practical as a housing unit. If it were instead turned over for retail, the taxes collected from it would be better used for public housing projects.

        Comment by john doe — July 22, 2021 @ 10:13 am

        • Are hangers the same as residential buildings? Have you been in any of those or talked to people who live in the ones that were of acceptable quality to allow people to live in? Have you asked about the numerous issues regarding water and sewage that, perhaps, interferes with the livability of those units?

          Comment by Lauren Do — July 22, 2021 @ 10:26 am

        • john doe’s visits to breweries suddenly makes him an expert on homeless housing.

          This same conversation came up before about the old Navy housing east of Main Street, repurposing 100 units to make way for homeless housing. It turned out that it’s a lot more cost-effective to tear them down and rebuild with more density, 400 units, with modern housing standards and amenities, than to try and bring them up to standard today. This is the same logic that’s driving the RESHAP project out on the base as well, the overhead cost has been terrible trying to maintain 400 units that are spread out on poor infrastructure, even though those home still have good bones. They’re getting a modern housing complex sometime soon to reduce long-term cost.

          Comment by Faction Brewing Housing Expert — July 22, 2021 @ 11:34 am

        • Wait a minute… hold up a minute… So, you are seriously asking me how hangers would make for good housing options when this initial post was about turning a library into housing? Are we seriously going to hash semantics because if we’re going to get down to brass tacks about preferential building structures and uses the pray- tell all of us eager readers how a library, that is more or less one giant room, a better alternative to some of the buildings and hangers around the base? And before I continue, The smartass “brewery person”? If you work for Faction your beer sort of sucks, Its too sweet.

          But I digress… its going to take at least 1 million dollars just to retrofit the old library to make it even safe to walk into. And then after that? Somehow constructing a small amount of housing units inside will cost another 1-2 million and for what? Like 10 units? Do the math. That makes no sense.

          Comment by john doe — July 22, 2021 @ 11:55 am

        • Both definitional & qualitative differences between “hangar” (which ends in “ar”) and barracks, which was your original word choice. Please have a glance at the dictionary and tell us which you mean.

          If you meant the barracks, which were living quarters for people rather than airplanes, it’s highly doubtful you’ve ever looked inside them. If you had, you know they are extremely dilapidated, including having had most of their copper stripped out, among other problems.

          Your point about the suitability of the library has a bit of merit. It will take a lot of $$ to fix up and that value is suspect, to be sure. Posting without knowing, however, really strips away at credibility.

          Comment by dave — July 22, 2021 @ 12:13 pm

        • Ah, more smart asses responding. Such a nice place to hang out. No Dave, I don’t need a dictionary, so you can keep your curt little comments.
          Yes- I indeed meant Barrack as WELL as hangers. And why not? If we’re going to have the amazingly impractical discussion about somehow turning a small library building into a few housing units then how is having a discussion about navy housing units out of line? Like I said- you look at the construction of the those barracks, those hangers and they are more akin to industrial construction. For both the old library and whatever buildings on the base are concerned, both would require essentially a total gutting. So the plumbing is gone? So what. It would have needed to be replaced anyway. In both instances we would have to start with more or less shells of the buildings.

          Seems to me that with all of the new housing already located there that clearly modern and updated water and electrical utility connections are already nearby, hence solving the concerns over that, right? Either way, I expect more catty comments. So bring em’

          Comment by john doe — July 22, 2021 @ 12:35 pm

        • John Doe – okay, I’ll do the math. You said $1M plus $2M for construction to make 10 units. That’s… $300K per unit. In a place where the very cheapest homes go for $600K. That’s pretty good. In Los Angeles, average cost per unit for homeless housing is $530K. Not the gold standard by any means, but clearly you could do a lot worse.

          Comment by Faction Brewing Housing Expert — July 22, 2021 @ 12:47 pm

        • What I mentioned above was just the costs of getting the existing building safe enough to walk inside. That doesn’t include the cost of then repairing and restoring the building, retrofitting the building into units and then the addition of the units. I have no clue how much that would cost but its certainly going to add significantly to the overall cost. Either way I’m done. We’re having a hypothetical discussion and this site seems to be the same as always, with people bickering. Have fun at the next council meeting… sure sounds like a real blast…

          Comment by john doe — July 22, 2021 @ 12:59 pm

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