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Officials Offer Update on Library Project

The existing library will be demolished for construction of a nearly $23-million, two-story library. Project officials outline cost, design details as some residents raise concerns.

The new library in Manhattan Beach could come to be seen as the "living room of the city," Miguel Acosta, assistant to county librarian Margaret Todd, told residents Tuesday night at a community meeting held to update them on the multimillion-dollar project's status.

With construction set to begin in early 2013, city officials say the project is on pace.

“The library will become a vital and active part of community life in this city,” Acosta said. “It will be a meeting place for civic engagement and community gathering.”

The new library, which will cost nearly $23 million, will not be funded by the city, but rather by Los Angeles County property tax revenue allocated specifically for library facility improvement.

The meeting, at which facts on the current library's use were presented, along with information on the new library's design, building costs and other issues, raised some dissent from community members concerned with the fiscal impact of the project.

“I heard triple the use of the library,” said 25-year resident Gerry O’Connor. “I know that some technology is going to bring down our incremental costs, but based on use, our operational costs are going to skyrocket.”

Meeting presenters included Public Works Director Jim Arndt, Todd and Johnson-Favaro architect Jim Favaro, who gave in-depth explanations of the project, including possible building designs, as well as planned programming for the new library.

Said Todd, “We’re leaning towards the community and city to decide the look of the building, what the color palettes are, what the furniture will be, what the feel of the inside really is. We really feel that the look and feel of the building is the community’s decision.”

The library project gained unanimous support from the Manhattan Beach City Council in early August. The 21,000-square-foot structure will be twice the size of the current library, which will be cleared to make way for the new library facility.

Library consultant Linda Demmers presented a statistical report demonstrating the extent of the use of the current Manhattan Beach library, which has increased significantly over the years.

In 2000, the current library received 43,155 visits, equaling almost 100 percent use, according to Demmers’ report. In 2005, the library amassed 142,600 visits, and last year, the library counted 178,784 visits, triple the amount it received a decade ago.

According to Demmers’ report, program attendance and the level of education among users have increased over the past decade as well, increasing library activity.

Demmers and Acosta presented an idea of the programs and services to be offered in the new library. The popular children’s story time programs will continue, and several technological advances, such as self-checkout and bending laptop kiosks, will be added.

“Children will need technological skills to succeed in the 21st century,” Acosta said. “Children of the youngest age in Manhattan Beach will have the opportunity to utilize these resources.”

The current prospectus, as outlined Tuesday, is a compact, two-story library facility that will allow more land space for possible future projects. The library will include areas for children, teens and adults, as well as community and public meeting rooms.

Architect Favaro presented what he and city officials believe to be a fitting building design, which would incorporate a transparent structure in order to emphasize outside lighting and the community.

“It’s really about exposing what’s going on inside the building to the street, therefore integrating what’s going on in the street,” Favaro said.

“We chose the two main reasons why people like to be here: the geographic setting and the community,” Favaro said of the proposed design. “You really want to choose something that authentically reflects who you are and where you are.”

Manhattan Beach resident Charles Kahn asked city officials what provisions residents would receive during the construction of the structure, as the library would officially be out of commission, to which Arndt answered, “Very minimal.”

O’Connor also voiced his opinion regarding the design of the building having reached its current state without a community meeting taking place.

“We’re here now at the first kickoff community meeting, and the basic build parameters are already cast in stone,” O’Connor said. “To me, that’s problematic.”

“It’s a great project,” he added. "Who’s not in favor of having a wonderful new library? But how you do it is what’s key.”

Gerry O'Connor September 14, 2011 at 06:53 PM
At the risk of sounding like a broken record to any Council and staff members that may be paying attention, I ask again: when oh when will our City (and in this case, County) staff ever learn Project Management 101?!? EVERY project presentation (and certainly capital improvement projects on the order of $23M) must center on two crtitical items: the budget (including funding sources and spending plan) and the timeline (including key milestones and critical paths). This presentation included not a word of either. Even when directly asked during what should have been a community dialogue, but was instead a mere registering of unanswered questions from those members of the public who were able and willing to stay well past the scheduled meeting end time, absolutely no specific budget or timeline information was made available. This meeting was indeed welcome and informative, but it was long overdue, included no advance information, provided no effective opportunity for meaningful public dialogue, and even failed to define a date specific for the next, hopefully much improved community meeting. Our City Council's appointed subcommittee for this library project, Wayne Powell and David Lesser, have a lot of recovery work to do. Sitting silently in the audience during inadequate presentations like this simply won't get that job done. On the contrary, such public inaction by the only elected officials in the room sends the exact wrong message. We deserve better!
Phil Reimert September 15, 2011 at 02:38 PM
I visit the library at least once a week (usually Fridays to escape a sweeper ticket on my street) and I have never observed it being anywhere full, so I question the validity of Ms Demmer's report. The way the county came by the surplus they are using as seed money to start the project is they were taxing us for two libraries--including the one formerly across from Poliwog Park which hasn't been a library for a number of years. They never reduced the taxes (suprise, suprise) to reflect that. Now the ethical thing to do would be to admit their mistake and refund the excess tax money to us, or give us a credit on future taxes. But no, they chose to spend it to "improve the existing library." Initially the plan was a two story extention facing Higland Ave. with a new entrance from Highland at street level. Then Johnson-Favaro got into he act and the whole thing spun up out of control until now their talking about a brand new edifico to the tune of $23,000,000 (plus the usual construction delays, over-runs, change orders, etc. which could well double this based on past experience) to be funded by not only our taxes, but new bonded indebtedness (added to our tax bills). In the two years estimated to build the new library we will have no library what so ever! (Well maybe a mobile book-mobile sort of thing or some other nebulous scheme.) We have been screwed and manipulated again, folks.

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