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Pleasanton Library eliminates daily fines for overdue materials

Also: Council talks state legislation, city widening railroad corridor trail

The Pleasanton Public Library has eliminated daily fines for overdue items, with the City Council on Tuesday approving the shift to a model that city officials hope will focus more on materials recovery and positive interactions with library-users.

The Library Commission and city staff brought forward the proposal, arguing that daily fines have not necessarily been effective and present a major barrier to access, especially for lower-income residents. They also pointed out neighbors like Livermore, Alameda County and Contra Costa County recently stopped daily fines.

"Given the fact that you feel you can absorb the loss of income from the fines and deliver ultimately better services to our community, why wouldn't we try this? I think this is pretty straightforward," Councilwoman Kathy Narum said to city staff Tuesday night at the Pleasanton Civic Center.

Overhauling the previous library fine system (25-cents-per-day fine, with account frozen when bill exceed $20), the new program for un-returned materials would charge borrowers a replacement fee equal to the retail price of the item and a $5 processing fee, as well as suspends their library account. But as soon as the overdue item is returned, in good condition, the charges are canceled and the account reopened.

Heidi Murphy, city library and recreation director, told the council she sees the new program as a positive shift that will increase access, circulation of library materials and recovery of items.

Under the new program, library-users should have ample time to finish using the checked-out book, movie or CD -- up to 123 days total, if the item is not already on hold for another member -- before a replacement fee would be triggered and the account blocked, according to Murphy.

She said eliminating the daily fines will cost the library about $40,000 in annual revenue, which will be offset by holding off on new temporary staffing and minor adjustments to other program expenditures. The move will also allow staff to shift from daily fine oversight to other library duties.

The council voted 4-1 to approve the proposal. Vice Mayor Karla Brown, who requested the item be pulled off the consent calendar for full discussion, cast the lone dissenting vote, saying she supported the daily fines as punitive motivation to return materials on time.

The new system took effect on Wednesday -- and with it, existing daily overdue fines were waived from all accounts, though still-unpaid fees for lost or damaged materials remain intact.

To learn more, visit the library at 400 Old Bernal Ave. or call 931-3400.

In other business

* The council spent nearly an hour receiving an update on state legislation particularly relevant to the city and discussing taking official positions on a handful of housing bills as well as other, non-housing bills.

Pleasanton works with the four other Tri-Valley municipalities and consultant firm Townsend Public Affairs to engage with state representatives and advocate for or against certain legislation.

This legislative cycle, the groups have been closely watching housing legislation -- though some proposals of concern, such as Sen. Scott Wiener's Senate Bill 50, have shifted to two-year bills that won't be discussed again until January.

The council on Tuesday opted to take formal positions on certain bills or amend their previous stance on evolving bills, as recommended by city staff and the council's Legislative Subcommittee.

That list included opposition to Assembly Bill 1483 on housing data collection and reporting, support SB 5 on a new affordable housing and community development investment program, oppose unless amended for AB 68 on removing land-use regulations for accessory dwelling units, and support for AB 1350 (youth transit pass pilot program) and SB 152 (active transportation program).

* During non-agenda comment, the council heard from three resident speakers -- plus another 150, via petition signatures -- criticizing the council's decision June 18 regarding the new trail being installed as part of redesigning the municipal parking lot on part of the old railroad corridor downtown.

The council had voted 4-1 in favor of a plan to maximize new parking on the narrow lot between Bernal Avenue and Abbie Street but directing city staff to tweak the design to guarantee the new public trail would be a minimum of 9 feet wide -- still lower than cycling advocates' 12-foot preference.

City staff provided a brief update on their progress as of Tuesday, telling the council that they're on track to amend designs to widen the trail to a minimum of 11 feet without losing any parking spots.

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