Objections to Encinitas Library renaming

“I hope our city is not for sale. Find another way to make money."

Encinitas Library
  • Encinitas Library
  • from KPBS.org

Steve Mizel, a wealthy investor and a philanthropist, wants to have the name of the Encinitas Library changed to honor his wife. He’s offered $2 million to the city to change the library’s name to the “Pat Mizel Encinitas Library.”

As city staff and the Mizels are negotiating a memorandum of understanding, former mayor Sheila Cameron and others have a problem with that. Cameron spoke out at the May 11 meeting of the city council.

Cameron says the issue was originally brought up late in the evening at a council meeting in January, when few members of the public were in the audience. Councilman Tony Kranz reminded the audience that the item was on the agenda and properly noticed.

“We spent $20 million to build the ‘Encinitas Library.’ Now we want to give that away for just 10 percent?” she asked the council.

The state-of-the-art library was built on the Cornish Drive site in 2008, overlooking downtown with a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean, in a hotly contested election to determine its location. Cameron believes since residents voted for the library, they should have the right to vote on the name change.

In January, the Mizels requested the mayor bring it to the council. As the plan stands as of now, $1.5 million will go directly to the city; the other $500,000 will go to the Friends of the Library group, in which Mrs. Mizel is active.

“The process and transparency got lost,” Cameron testified.

Marie Dardanian of Cardiff asked the council, “Are we going to allow renaming of any city site?” She reminded the council that taxpayers paid $44 million for the new Encinitas Park, a 42-acre dog park, playground, sports, and skateboard complex. “I hope our city is not for sale. Find another way to make money, maybe spend less,” she admonished the council.

City attorney Glenn Sabine advised the council that the issue should be back before the council again in a few weeks and the public will have an opportunity to comment at that time. Cameron said after the council meeting that when the memorandum of understanding is presented it is probably too late. “Everything will have already been negotiated,” she said.

In 2003, one woman in Cardiff by the Sea paid the majority of the cost for the building of the new Cardiff Library. “She didn’t ask for her name on it,” said Cameron.

Since 2007, the Mizels, through their family foundation, started matching (dollar-for-dollar) the city’s Community Grant Program issued to the arts, youth organizations, and community and service groups. In 2015, the city gave away $150,000, of which the Mizels donated $75,000.

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While I sympathize with the residents who oppose this move, it is not unprecedented. Universities "sell" the names of buildings all the time; public universities do it just as much as do the private ones. Once upon a time there was an unofficial rule that buildings, bridges, etc. not be named for living people. A wait of a decade or two after the death of the person was in place to insure that no embarrassing things surface that would tarnish the name of the structure.

In more recent years various philanthropists have been buying their names onto all sorts of things. Locally we have "Jacobs" at UCSD, "Rady" there and on Children's Hospital, and a number of others. The "golden rule" is is supplanting the former naming rules, in that he who has the gold makes the rules. Billionaires get whatever they want, usually.

But we should keep in mind that the state named a freeway overpass for Richard Silberman, due to his efforts when a state transportation official. That was prior to his conviction for money-laundering; the name has since been deleted. Let's just hope that Encinitas isn't embarrassed by this name in the future. Unlikely, but nothing is impossible.

Why should the Mizels and the city stop with the library naming? Move down the hill a few feet and rename the buildings there the Pat Mizel Encinitas City Hall.

Good point!

Especially since most of the money is not going to the library but to bail out the city council's irresponsible spending!

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