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Tenant Will Be Sought for Library : Architecture: The Washington Irving branch won't move until someone can be found to take over the historic building.

June 07, 1991|JOHN L. MITCHELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the spirit of compromise, the Los Angeles Public Library Commission has decided not to move its Washington Irving branch from its historic Mid-City home of 65 years until a new tenant can be found to take over the building.

The commission's 5-0 vote Thursday was applauded by many residents who have argued for the preservation of the 3,918-square-foot stucco-and-brick building named for the 19th-Century author of "Rip van Winkle." The building was named to the city's list of historic monuments in 1986.

Residents had feared that the library would be closed and the building left vacant.

"Everyone knows if you vacate a building and don't have an alternative tenant it is the same as destroying it," said Commissioner Douglas Ring, who came up with the compromise. "That's not what anyone wants."

The commission decided last year to close the Irving branch--a historic Romanesque Revival-style building--because it does not meet earthquake safety standards. Funds for the new branch will come from a $53.4-million bond measure approved by voters in 1989.

The compromise vote does not guarantee that the Arlington Avenue building will remain a library, but it does mean a new occupant will be found before the branch moves to a new site 13 blocks west on Washington Boulevard.

Several speakers at Thursday's meeting said the commission's guarantee was enough to satisfy their fears about the fate of the building.

"This goes a long way to answer many of our concerns," said Jean Frost, vice president of the West Adams Heritage Assn., an organization that promotes the preservation of the vintage Victorian and Craftsman-era architecture in the Mid-City community.

But not all were pleased with the commission's decision, which spares the building but not the library.

"This decision moves the library west into another neighborhood," said Sebie Brown, a member of the Friends of the Washington Irving Library. "What happens now to the children and senior citizens who live east of Arlington? Where will they go?"

Commission board president Sanford R. Paris said the Library Department will investigate the use of van pools and buses for those inconvenienced by the move.

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