When preliminary plans for a $1.3-million public library in Atwater were revealed last October, residents of the small, tightly knit community in northeast Los Angeles were excited. They had been waiting for about 30 years for a permanent library building to replace a crowded storefront library, the smallest of the 62 branches in the city.
But the city's Board of Library Commissioners recently asked for a change in architect Barton Choy's design, particularly its entrance, and local activists say they are now more upset than excited.
The Friends of the Atwater Library, the group that spearheaded the campaign for a permanent building, are angry over the board's request that the front entrance of the new library be moved from Glendale Boulevard to Revere Avenue around the corner to afford better access to a proposed parking lot. Such a change, according to a written statement given to the commissioners at a meeting Tuesday, would mean that their "dream would be turned toward a side street."
They want the library to be highly visible, with an entrance among the shops on the boulevard. Under the proposed change, they said, the entrance would face the work yard of a pest control company.
Of particular concern, according to the statement, is that library patrons would be more vulnerable to street crime on the side street than on busy Glendale Boulevard.
The commissioners, who did not comment on the issue at the meeting, promised to review the protest statement before making a final decision. The board expects to have both plans available for review at a public meeting in February.
In the original plans, the parking lot, which is expected to provide space for a dozen cars, is on Revere Avenue and would require those who park there to walk around the corner to enter the library.
Bob Reagan, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Public Library, said the change was suggested by the board after it viewed Choy's preliminary sketches in December and became concerned that the walk from the parking lot to the entrance was too far and could present a danger to those that would park there.
But the Friends' group says that most of the library patrons arrive on foot, by bus or on bicycle. They say it does not make sense to change the whole design for the sake of 12 parking spaces.
"The community needs to be able to see its library," Barbara Lass, the group's coordinator, said outside of Tuesday's meeting. "To hide the entrance on a side street makes no sense at all."
The new library is expected to be three times the size of the current library and include public restrooms, water fountains and a community meeting room.
The present library, situated in rented quarters at 3229 Glendale Blvd., has none of these amenities and no parking lot. The 17,000 books are packed into two small rooms at the front of a drab one-story building with a small apartment attached in the back. The Los Feliz Branch Library and Atwater are the only such storefront operations in the library system.