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Redondo Vote Is One for the Books: Build a New Library : Civic structures: Report says current library is inadequate. Construction of $11.9-million replacement would depend on winning a state grant.

October 04, 1990|SHAWN HUBLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Based on a consultant's report that called the 60-year-old Redondo Beach library overcrowded and woefully inadequate, the City Council has voted to build an $11.9-million main library next door to City Hall.

Its construction, however, depends on the city winning a state grant that would cover most of the project's estimated cost, and Shari Petresky, director of library and media services for the city, said such a grant may be hard to get.

The new building would be almost four times the size of the old library and would be built on a vacant lot the city already owns and the adjacent site of a Pep Boy's auto parts shop, which the city is acquiring.

Petresky said the money would come from funds authorized by the voters in 1988 under Proposition 85, the California State Library Construction Bond Act Program. The act authorizes $75 million in bonds to be issued for public library construction.

But a preliminary survey of cities interested in the funds turned up more than $400 million worth of proposed library improvements statewide, from 96 jurisdictions, Petresky said.

"Competition is very fierce for this money," Petresky warned.

If the council does receive a grant, the city would have to come up with about $3 million of its own money, she said. The city funds would pay for acquisition of the Pep Boys site and for the city's share of matching grant funds.

The council's decision Tuesday was based on a needs assessment by Charles Walton Associates of Glendale, which looked at the city's library needs and at the existing library services.

Of particular note was the city's venerable main library, which overlooks the ocean in Veterans Park, and which was built in 1930 as a sailors' reading room.

The structure, the consultants noted, was built of unreinforced masonry before the state enacted earthquake codes, and this year had to be shut down for seismic retrofitting. Even before the shutdown, however, residents had complained that the library fell far short of the city's needs.

In almost every category, the consultants found, Redondo Beach's library ranked below the systems of cities of comparable size. The building, the report showed, is all but inaccessible to the handicapped--there are no automatic doors, the aisles in some places are only 18 inches wide, and the single public restroom has no handicapped access.

Elsewhere in the library, the report said, "overcrowding has taken on epidemic proportions." Book stacks are groaning with too many books, and much of the city's collection is in storage because there is no room for it at the main library. Some books are damaged because the book stacks are warped and the building has no central temperature control.

Patrons sitting near the checkout counter can't concentrate because that, too, is overflowing with people. There is no room for study carrels. There is no automated system to warn library employees when books are being stolen from the building, and lighting is so poor that vandalism often goes undetected, the study said.

"The main library . . . is no longer suitable for use as a library," the report concluded. "Extensive and costly repair and reconstruction work would be necessary to make this building suitable for any use."

Councilman Stevan Colin and Councilwoman Barbara Doerr expressed disappointment that the charming old library building would have to be converted to some other use.

The council also balked at the notion of spending so much money on a new building in light of the impending recession.

"I'm not sure we're going to have that kind of money down the line," Colin said.

But Petresky said the council would be ineligible for the state grant money if they approved too small an improvement in their library system. She said top priority would go to large-scale projects.

"If we don't get this grant, we're looking at a whole different scenario," Mayor Brad Parton said. Without the state money the community might have to settle for a drastically scaled-down library or no new library at all.

Under the bond act program, the city must submit an outline of its library proposal to the state librarian by Nov. 21. If the librarian finds the city's plan to be competitive and eligible for funding, the city will be invited to submit a formal application by Feb. 15, 1991.

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